Latest News

Via Spector and serendipity, the harpsichord invaded pop 


On Jan. 24, ALLISON — mezzo-soprano Allison Messier and harpsichordist Paul Cienniwa — performs at Quincy’s Thomas Crane Public Library. The duo’s raison d’être, re-interpreting rock and popular repertoire with Baroque sensibility, puts an old spin on newer music, but also a new spin on a less-old but rich tradition: pop music borrowing classical trappings. The harpsichord’s pop history, in particular, is a diverting tangle of aesthetics…

Read more

Tribute to Sandy Hook victims set to Obama’s words 


By Stratford Star on December 14, 2015


Former Newtown resident Eleanor Miller composed a piece to pay tribute to the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings on Dec. 14, 2012.  It uses text extracted and edited from remarks delivered by President Barack Obama at Newtown High School on Dec. 16, 2012.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy has directed U.S. and Connecticut flags to fly at half-staff on Monday, Dec. 14, from sunrise to sunset in honor of the 20 children and six adults who were killed three years ago at…

Read more

"By Heart" reviewed in The Diapason 

By Heart: The Art of Memorizing Music, by Paul Cienniwa, reviewed December 2015, The Diapason

"...the skills and techniques [the author] describes in memorizing are important for all performers, regardless of their instrument. Cienniwa writes in a direct, conversational style. This book...will serve as a guide to thoughtful performers, whether they play from memory or a score."--Sarah Mahler Kraaz, The Diapason
 Read more

Warming up the choir 

This photo was taken from the pre-concert warmup for Mendelssohn's Elijah with the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra in October 2015.

A rather funny review 

In his review, "NEW BEDFORD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: Choral Societies augment Mendelssohn's last oratorio," critic Benjamin Dunham writes:
  Together with Teresa Coffman, Paul Cienniwa shared the duty of preparing the combined choruses, whose singing, whether in tutti or in assignments for women’s and men’s voices, provided a rich tapestry of vocal moods. Cienniwa also played Zeiterion’s theater organ in an accompanying role. If anyone could make this organ, so appropriate for silent movies, sound right in a workRead more

Review: NBSO offers a well-balanced 'Elijah' 

New Bedford Standard-Times

By Keith Powers
Contributing writer
Posted Oct. 19, 2015 at 2:55 PM 
Choosing balance over power, maestro David MacKenzie and the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra continued the ensemble’s centenary anniversary season Sunday afternoon at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.
Mendelssohn’s sweeping oratorio “Elijah” offers the choice. With extensive instrumentation, a vast chorus — in this case, combined choristers from Rhode Island College, Greater New Bedford Choral Society, and
Read more

Music at First Church in Boston 

In Gibbons’s ‘Cries,’ a social portrait, and a subtle warning

By Matthew Guerrieri Boston GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  


"Any Kitchen Stuff.”

Today, First Church in Boston offers a special service marking Boston Charter Day (which was officially celebrated on Sept. 7), commemorating the 1630 formal creation of what was then the town of Boston. The service’s music re-creates something of what Boston’s first English settlers left behind, by means of works by a who’s…

Read more

A most excellent book review! 

Paul Cienniwa. By Heart: The Art of Memorizing Music. Reviewed by Mark Kroll
EMAg, The Magazine of Early Music America


Playing from memory can be the elephant in the room, the “Waterloo” for many performers. I’ve used more than enough clichéd, I’ll ask a few questions. Who is to blame for starting a practice that is now standard, at least among pianists? And memorization is so difficult and potentially traumatic, why do it at all? Perhaps more important: if we must play from memory, how do you learn to do…

Read more

French ornamentation 

Yesterday I received an email from someone who shared the same piano teacher when I was an undergraduate. She wrote, "Could you recommend a book on musical ornamentation in Rameau and Couperin?"

I replied:
  Although quite a few books have been published on this, there's never has been much need to. Both Couperin and Rameau followed D'Anglebert's ornamentation table--and that's the same one that Bach followed.   Rameau's table fits onto one page. (See p. 20 here (i.e., p. 6 in the PDF): http://burrito.whatboRead more

By Heart (book review) 

Memorizing Music (blog), Caroline Wright, August 15, 2015

Earlier this year, I received a copy of “By Heart: the Art of Memorising Music” by harpsichordist and blogger Paul Cienniwa. Published in 2014, this little gem is exactly the kind of book I had been searching for when I started this blog back at the start of 2013!

The book provides some clear guidance as to how to approach the daunting task of memorising a piece, from nothing to performance. Cienniwa’s personal perspective on this topic is…

Read more

First Church Awarded 2015 Gian Lyman Silbiger Grant 

Beacon Hill Times, August 14, 2015

Through the collaboration of violist da Gamba Carol Lewis and music director Dr. Paul Cienniwa, First Church in Boston, located at 66 Marlborough St., has been awarded the 2015 Gian Lyman Silbiger Grant of the Viola da Gamba Society of New England ( The award fosters the performance of music for viols and voices around New England and encourages further exploration of the viol and its music.

As recipient of the award, First Church in Boston will present…

Read more

New folk duo's debut show set at Westport Point 

SouthCoast Today, July 24, 2015

On Thursday, July 30 at 6:30pm at the Paquachuck Inn (2056 Main Rd., Westport, MA), mezzo-soprano Allison Messier and harpsichordist Paul Cienniwa will give their debut concert as ALLISON, a new ensemble dedicated to the art of the contemporary folk song.

Messier says, “Last month we gave a recital at St. Andrews by-the-Sea in Little Compton. For that program, we performed a lot of music by people like Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, and Harry Chapin, but I never expected such…

Read more

In memoriam: Roger Goodman 

Over the weekend, I learned that my first harpsichord teacher, Roger Goodman, died from AIDS-related renal failure. I studied with Roger in Chicago from 1991 till I left Chicago for Boston in 1995.

Roger was a controversial figure in his approach to spirituality and sexuality, and those two elements were strongly apparent in his marvelous music making. As a 19-year-old trying to find my place in the world and in the world of music, I came to Roger as a discouraged pianist, wary of the ego-driven repertoire…Read more

'From Popular Songs to Art Songs' concert at St. Andrews-by-the-Sea 

The Herald News, Posted May. 21, 2015 at 12:21 PM

LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. — On Saturday, June 13 at 6:30 at St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, mezzo-soprano Allison Messier and harpsichordist Paul Cienniwa will collaborate on a program that elevates many of today’s folk and pop classics to the art songs of the Elizabethan era. From Popular Songs to Art Songs will feature music of singer/songwriters Harry Chapin, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and Neil Young interspersed with 17th century
Read more
©2015 Paul Cienniwa