Basically, they make beautiful music together

KATHARINE SCHROEDER  PHOTO| Basically Baroque keyboardist Linda Betjeman (from left), flutist Bill Packard, violinist Dan Skabeikis and cellist Jeannie Woelker rehearsed last week at the Southold home of friend and former group member Ginger Jones.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO| Basically Baroque keyboardist Linda Betjeman (from left), flutist Bill Packard, violinist Dan Skabeikis and cellist Jeannie Woelker rehearsed last week at the Southold home of friend and former group member Ginger Jones.

A cello, a flute, a violin and a keyboard are the only instruments the members of Basically Baroque need to fill a room with the beautifully sweeping melodies of sonatas like “Tri-Sonate,” a piece by 18th-century German composer Johann Joachim Quantz.

Last Thursday, the quartet did exactly that as they rehearsed at the Southold home of friend Ginger Jones for their performance at the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church on Sunday, March 8 at 3 p.m. Aside from music by Quantz, the concert will feature composers Joseph Haydn, John Loeillet and Georg Phillip Telemann.

But Basically Baroque isn’t just about music — although that’s obviously very important, cellist Jeannie Woelker of Cutchogue said.

“We’re friends,” she said.

For the most part, Ms. Woelker and the group’s other members — flutist Bill Packard and keyboard player Linda Betjeman, both Islanders, and violinist Dan Skabeikis of Southold — have had years to cultivate relationships with one another.

Exactly two decades ago, Basically Baroque made its debut performance at Mattituck Presbyterian Church. Since then, the quartet has played four concerts a year and performed at weddings and private parties.

“I think it’s beautiful,” Mr. Packard said of what attracted him to the genre. The term “baroque” refers to a style of classical music composed from approximately 1600 to 1750. Famous period composers include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and Antonio Vivaldi.

It has an interesting history too, he added.

“Back in the Baroque days, music wasn’t always written for specific instruments,” he said. “Sometimes the flute, violin and oboe were interchangeable because they’re all treble instruments.”

The idea for the group took shape as far back as 1986, when Mr. Packard was studying flute with former Greenport resident Arthur Swan at what is now the East End Council of the Arts School.

“A lot of the music we were playing with our teacher was Baroque music because that was a very fertile period for the flute,” he said.

It wasn’t until 1994, however, that the two decided to officially form Basically Baroque with Ms. Woelker and Ms. Jones.

Mr. Swan, who recently moved to Europe, left the group in the early 2000s. Ms. Jones, who used to play keyboard, stopped performing publicly in 2013 but still rehearses with the quartet sometimes. Mr. Skabeikis joined the group in 2000 and Ms. Betjeman replaced Ms. Jones in 2013.

“I didn’t foresee the changes in the members,” Mr. Packard said. “I thought we’d be together forever, but I guess nothing’s forever.”

Other changes have been far easier to endure. Musically, Basically Baroque has improved over the years, Ms. Woelker said. “Our performance has gotten better.”

Ultimately, Mr. Packard said, Basically Baroque has been a very important and constant part of his life.

“It’s a social gathering, but I think it all boils down to music,” Ms. Woelker added.

The other members nodded their heads in agreement.

Basically Baroque will perform at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 8 at the Presbyterian Church. For more information, call 749-0805. The concert is free; donations are appreciated.

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