Piffaro announces new members, Héloïse Degrugillier and Sian Ricketts

Philadelphia – Piffaro is delighted to announce the addition of Héloïse Degrugillier and Sian Ricketts to its core band after a two-year search to replace retiring founders Joan Kimball and Bob Wiemken, who played dozens of instruments in the ensemble.

“No one in this field is a carbon copy of anyone else,” says artistic director Priscilal Herreid, describing the particular challenges of filling the ranks of a Renaissance ensemble. “We have a variety of skills with different instruments, experiences, and backgrounds. When Joan and Bob retired in 2022,  we couldn’t directly ‘replace’ them. I needed to take the time to bring in many guests, give them different tasks, and push them out of their comfort zone. I want Piffaro to be a group of really stellar musicians, the whole package: people who have a background in Renaissance instruments, musicological interest in this repertoire, who understand how to play it…and who are unflappable.”

The task was a tall order. “Beyond technical ability, they need to be willing to try instruments that are new to them. Rather than thinking, ‘I’ve only had this instrument in my hands for a week, I’m an imposter,’” notes Herreid, “they should think: ‘I know the language of this music so well, and now I have a new tool to express it.’ This is an authentic approach to performance: in the Renaissance, musicians specialized on certain sizes of  instruments (shawms or recorders, for example), but they also doubled on other instruments (much like jazz musicians today).”

This search led to Degrugillier and Ricketts who, Herreid reports, “fit like fingers in a glove. Both are incredible team players: musicians who give everything to support the ensemble. They do not falter when they are playing an unfamiliar instrument – they do their homework and are as well-prepared as they can be. They both have incredible ears and have really adapted to the way that we play. While the decision was mine to make, it was important to me that the core band had input, and I’m happy to report that they were unanimously overjoyed. Everyone in the ensemble, now including Sian and Heloise, is ready to sink their teeth into the repertoire we have before us in the 2024/2025 season.”

Degrugillier writes, “The very first concert I attended when I came to America was a Piffaro concert. How fitting and what an honor to be joining those wonderful musicians. I have been playing the recorder since I was 5 years old – it is time for me to learn new instruments, play the music I love, surrounded by amazing people. I can’t wait!”

For Ricketts, “playing with Piffaro is truly a dream come true. There are few opportunities to play 16th-century consort repertoire in this country, and even fewer with these incredible players. I’m so honored and excited to get the chance to delve deeper both into repertoire that I love and that I have yet to know; to learn new instruments; and to know that when I put away the shawms after each concert, I will certainly get the chance to play them again soon.”

Press photos

2024/2025 Season

Degrugillier and Ricketts officially join Piffaro for the 2024/2025 season. In October, Piffaro will honor the 650th anniversary of Petrarch’s death in its biggest program of the season, featuring “wonders of the New York music world” (Arts Journal) TENET Vocal Artists and gorgeous image projections by designer Camilla Tassi. Related educational events will be hosted at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. December brings GRAMMY-nominated New York Polyphony, “singers of superb musicianship and vocal allure” (The New Yorker. ), in a program of (mostly) medieval English music for the Christmas season. In March, Piffaro examines one of the most potent examples of musical migration in 16th century Europe: the Bassanos, an Italian (and likely Jewish) family of wind players and instrument builders who were brought to England by Henry VIII. The season wraps up in May with bird songs, love songs, and May dances highlighting Piffaro’s rich and varied collection of over 40 period instruments.

Artist Bios

About Héloïse Degrugillier

Héloïse Degrugillier has worked extensively as both a recorder and traverso performer, and teacher throughout Europe and the United States. She has performed with leading period ensembles, including Handel and Haydn, the Boston Camerata, Boston Early Music Festival, Aston Magna and Tempesta di Mare. Heloise also enjoys an active teaching career. She teaches at Tufts university and Rhode Island College. She is the president and music director of the Boston Recorder Society. She has completed her studies in the Alexander Technique and has a Master’s in Music from the Utrecht Conservatory in the Netherlands.

About Sian Ricketts

Sian Ricketts enjoys a multi-faceted career as a period woodwinds specialist, singer, and medieval pedagogue. She performs and records with Makaris, Trobár, Apollo’s Fire, Bach Collegium Fort Wayne, and Forgotten Clefs.  As a co-managing director and performer with Alkemie she has appeared on series including Arizona Early Music, Capitol Early Music, the Five Boroughs Music Festival, Music Before 1800, and the San Francisco Early Music Society concert season; she co-produced and performed with Alkemie on the soundtrack for the BAFTA award-winning game Pentiment by Obsidian Entertainment. Sian holds a DMA in historical performance practice from Case Western Reserve University with concentrations in voice and baroque oboe, and is currently on faculty at Fordham University and the Amherst Early Music Festival.

About Piffaro

Piffaro, the Renaissance band has delighted audiences around the world since its founding in 1980 by Joan Kimball and Bob Wiemken. Under the artistic direction of Priscilla Herreid, the ensemble recreates the rustic music of the peasantry and the elegant sounds of the official wind bands of the late medieval and Renaissance periods. They bring the sounds of the Renaissance to life with an ever-expanding instrumentarium of shawms, dulcians, sackbuts, recorders, krumhorns, bagpipes, lutes, guitars, harps, and a variety of percussion – all careful reconstructions of instruments from the period and the only professional collection of its kind in North America. Piffaro has received two Early Music America awards and the American Recorder Society’s Distinguished Artist Award. For more information, visit piffaro.org.

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