Mission & History
Embarking upon its seventh full concert season, the Austin Baroque Orchestra & Chorus is a Central Texas-based ensemble that presents historically informed performances of music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries using replicas of instruments from the 16th, 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.
Through innovative and carefully curated programming, the ensemble’s mission is to promote early music in Central Texas, particularly in Austin and San Antonio. Each season features a series of five diverse concerts of orchestral, choral-orchestral, and chamber works. These programs consist of a varied repertoire, from a cappella Renaissance motets to large-scale Baroque cantatas, and from Classic-era chamber music to larger orchestral works such as symphonies and concerti. A particular specialization for the ensemble is the music of colonial Latin America. Preceding each concert is an informal and informative talk about the music led by founder and artistic director, Billy Traylor.
Highlights of the ensemble’s recent seasons include “Native Tongues,” a concert of sacred music from 16th- and 17th-century Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and Spain, with texts mostly in indigenous or Creole languages. This performance, at San Antonio’s historic Mission Concepción, was the ensemble’s fifth performance at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In March 2017, the ensemble mounted its first performance of Bach’s monumental St. John Passion, and in 2015 the ensemble performed the first known Texas performance of the larger, 1732 version of Handel’s first oratorio, Esther.
ABO has been invited to perform at a number of conferences and meetings, most notably a 2012 performance in Mexico at the Cathedral-Basilica of Durango as part of the third annual Festival of Viceregal Music; that concert consisted of works composed for the cathedral in the eighteenth century and currently preserved in its archives. Other similar performances include the upcoming Lozano Long Conference (University of Texas at Austin, 2018) and the International Conference on Historical Linguistics (University of Texas at San Antonio, 2017), as well as the American Choral Directors’ Association Second Symposium on Latin American Music (Austin, 2015), and the American Guild of Organists Regional Conference (Austin, 2013).
ABO began in May, 2011, as a chamber ensemble called Ensemble Settecento. Today, the combined orchestra and choir is made up of over thirty musicians with advanced training in historically informed performance who perform using period instruments and historic diction.