The main focus of the Scroll Ensemble lies in ensemble improvisation within early music.
Improvisation was one of the most fundamental activities of musicians in the period known as ‘early music’, both in a musician’s education and in performance. Even so called ‘written’ music was intended more as a memory aid, and something that the performer would take an active creative part in.
It is widely accepted that the scores of the baroque and earlier leave much to the performer – dynamics, nuance, ornaments, continuo parts and instrumentation- all of which come under the realm of improvisation. However, the Scroll Ensemble takes one step further, led by the conviction that communication- with the audience and within the ensemble- is a vital aspect of performance, perhaps the most important aspect, and an aspect all too often lost behind the concept of ”the work “ and the physical presence of scores. Taking away the score, memorising works and bass lines, and pursuing research in historical sources, goes together with a playful approach to exploring the possibilities and discovering the boundaries of styles.
Various specialists have helped us along the way, such as Patrick Ayrton, Christina Pluhar (Lʼarpeggiata), Martin Erhardt (Leipzig) and Charles Toet (Den Haag). However, few have attempted to improvise more than one part simultaneously. This lends a conversational aspect to our performance, which audiences find exciting.
Focus on improvisation is not to deny the great composers of the past their rightful place, but rather to present them within the context of the living breathing aural tradition in which they flourished. Our programmes therefore combine ‘serious’ early music with lively improvisation.
We also believe that improvisation as a holistic approach to learning is an important and often neglected aspect within a musicians’ education; and therefore, in addition to performing in regular concert venues, we are planning improvisation courses and workshops, baroque dance sessions, and early music improvisation jam sessions in bars.
Finally, although the Scroll Ensemble is primarily an early music ensemble, its flexibility enables us to develop special projects with dancers, theatre, jazz musicians and composers/contemporary improvisers. Gaps between different styles, cultures and approaches are bridged with open minded improvisatory practises. In this way, we hope to get away from “museum culture” still so often prevalent in modern musical thought and bring early music into the 21st Century.