Mission & History

In the midst of its eighth full concert season, the Austin Baroque Orchestra & Chorus seeks to immerse its audiences in the sound world of the past by performing high-quality music from the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries using replicas of period instruments and historically-informed performance techniques.

Through innovative and carefully curated programming and thoughtful, approachable program notes, ABO hopes to educate those in Central Texas about the music of the Renaissance and the Baroque and Classic eras through an annual season of five diverse presentations of orchestral, choral-orchestral, and chamber works. These programs consist of repertoire from 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, repertoire that is performed annually and typically consists of one or more Texas, US, and/or modern world premieres. 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 most 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 American Musicological Society (San Antonio, 2018), the Lozano Long Conference for Latin American Studies (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).

Ensemble Settecento following its first concert in October of 2011.

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.

Introductory Video