The Listing – The Baroque Room
- 275 East 4th Street, #280
- Saint Paul, MN 55101
- January 2011
- 1,600 square feet, capacity is 49.
- All seated
- Lite food and drink options dependent on the show
- Metered street parking all around
Like a pearl tucked in the clam, The Baroque room sits inside a fairly nondescript building in Lowertown. Started in 2011 by Tami Morse and Marc Levine, the venue is an inclusive movement to provide an affordable performance venue for chamber musicians.
The idea was to create a diverse and stable early music scene (Renaissance, Classical, Baroque, Chamber) in the Twin Cities. From the very beginning, Tami and Marc were welcomed into the building with a loan to convert the office space into a performance area.
The Baroque Room was created with support from the Lowertown Future Fund, St. Paul Cultural STAR, and private donations. Their collaboration with Studio Z, across the hall, has remained strong over the years. The two spaces share shows if their calendar is full. The continued goal of The Baroque Room is to have a space where smaller crowds can feel close and hear a performance, note for note.
Cocooned on the second floor, suite 280 holds a truly rare performance space. A venue where microphones, mixers, speakers, special lighting, and all the technical elements are gone, but where the music is the direct focus.
Designed to have an especially resonant acoustic sound, with minimal wall treatments, the space feels immediately intimate upon walking in. The walls are mostly bare except for the local Lowertown art hung on the sides.
Tiny hung Neumann SKM184 microphones hang above to record performances. There’s a large side counter that is used for drinks and food, a case holding facsimiles of letters from The Schubert Club Museum, and chairs portioned out in easy rows. The minimalist style draws you to the front, where harpsichords, pianos, and organs are showcased.
For many venues, the room is an element that needs to be controlled for the music. The sound engineer is expected to adapt the music for the space. At The Baroque Room, the room is another instrument that naturally enhances the music. Whispers can be heard from across the room and every nuance of the voice is exposed. It’s this design and intention that makes the space different from every other in the Twin Cities. Sonically, it’s a listeners paradise.
The importance of early music is often times missed. Musicians who study chamber music develop enhanced skills to listen and hear every detail of the music. Most early music does not have a conductor, so musicians have a larger responsibility to know their parts and how to fit it within the overall musical idea of the piece. Without a leader, they must keep their own tempo and move together as an organic unit. As you can imagine, it sharpens musical abilities and creates an experience that brings everyone together. The importance of this music is also found in the audience. Performances are not hidden behind sound systems, effects, special lights, or the ears of a sound engineer. Seeing and hearing the talent and skill of the musicians is on display. Witnessing a performance like this opens your eyes and ears to a different level.
We live in such a connected world with technology, our devices, and distractions. Everything needs to be #tagged, shared, and staged. Walking into The Baroque Room, we’re reminded of the history of music and how much the performance matters. We’re reminded of musicianship and the hard work put into learning such complicated music. Stripped down of our devices and distractions, the room gives you a space to indulge in tones, reverb, and shut down those barriers. Seeing musicians play off each other, to dynamically swell together, is cathartic. It’s an oasis amongst all other venues in the Twin Cities.
Tami Morse, Co-owner
Tami and Marc manage The Baroque Room with the pure goal of helping musicians. As a rental space, they provide all of the back production for the show, including advertising, brochures, a recording of the performance, programs, and running the venue for during the show. This approach gives musicians an affordable way to create their own show, and have support from the venue.
The Baroque Room houses a William Dowd double-manual Franco-Flemish harpsichord, Klinkhamer single-manual Iberian harpsichord, Flentrop Chamber Organ plus a Stein forte piano and a Mason & Hamlin grand piano, generously on loan from The Schubert Club and Dorothy Horns, respectively. Having these instruments onsite for musicians is huge.
Tami states the positive of having concerts here is that “it’s classical music but without the normal barrier that is there. It’s not up on a stage, concerts are shorter, and you’re like 10 feet away.” During intermissions you can chat with the musicians, ask questions, and have an authentic experience. It’s much more of an interactive environment than at a traditional music venue.
Marc and Tami also produce various concerts and events including the International Artist Series, Twin Cities Baroque Instrumental Program, and Saint Paul Classical Music Crawl. Tami shares the Saint Paul Classical Music Crawl is a fun day that encourages people to roam throughout Lowertown catching short performances from musicians. You’re able to hear a ton of music and different styles in a very short time.
When heading to The Baroque Room, give yourself time to find and pay for parking. Lowertown can be a difficult place to park, and CHS Stadium is only a block away. Also pay close attention when walking into the building, as the venue is on the second floor and located down a few twisted hallways.
I highly recommend catching a Friday Lunchtime Concert concert. It’s a great way to expose yourself to new music for free. When attending, be prepared to listen and turn off your devices. Immerse yourself in the experience and you can’t go wrong.
The Guest Room
Valerie Little from the Mill City Quartet
I first encountered The Baroque Room through freelancing connections with Marc Levine. As we looked for a more permanent collaboration with a St. Paul venue, The Baroque Room came up in conversation right away. I had attended a Lyra concert, as well as a few early music recitals there and thought the space would be ideal for our quartet concerts due to the clear and warm sound of the room. The space is quite well suited for string playing and it feels comfortable to play in a very natural way without needing to push or restrain our sound. Marc is a very communicative and generous host and he was immediately interested in collaborating with us, despite us not being an early music ensemble. We feel extremely welcome there and it certainly contributes to us performing with ease and to the best of our abilities.
The room has such a unique level of intimacy since the audience is close to you and can sit along the side of the room at tables as well. We prefer venues where the fourth wall can be broken down, so The Baroque Room is perfect for us. It allows us to connect with the audience both as we play and talk about the music. It is easy to facilitate lively and interesting post-concert discussions where everyone feels heard and included. We have received many comments from audience members about how they appreciate and enjoy the up-close look at us while we are performing and our audience there continues to grow to almost capacity. There is definitely a culture of sophisticated and enthusiastic music lovers at Baroque Room concerts and we look forward each time to seeing many of the same listeners.
Full schedule can be found here. A few immediate highlights include:
7/29- 8/4 – Twin Cities Baroque Instrumental Program –
The Twin Cities Baroque Instrumental Program offers advanced students and young professionals unique opportunities to study and perform with some of the world’s most respected international artists in early music. Held at The Saint Paul Conservatory of Music, this program provides world-class instruction in an engaging environment.
This year’s course will consist of concentrations in harpsichord, fortepiano, cello, viola da gamba, traverso, violin, and harpsichord maintenance, led by faculty Jacques Ogg, Jaap ter Linden, Pedro Gandía, Kathie Stewart, and Ton Amir.
Music venues are the lifeblood of our community. By providing musicians the opportunity to showcase, collaborate, and experiment with their craft, venues are essential in their development. This series will continue to promote and support our local venues across Minnesota. Please see the previous articles below and go support local music. Our hope is these articles show the importance of supporting venues and places where creativity can thrive.