IN MEMORIAM: Rachel Elisa Blanton (1974-2014)

0455_bourbonbaroque-3922Rachel Elisa Blanton, 40, passed away on December 25, 2014. She was a talented musician who taught at Sacred Heart Academy where she taught for 15 years and recently developed the program at Montessori School of Louisville. She was instrumental in the formation of Abbey Road on the River.

Louisville’s music community has been forever touched and will deeply miss the quiet and peaceful nature of one of its most diversely talented musicians. Rachel Blanton was born on September 11, 1974 and was raised in New Albany, Indiana. At the age of 7 she began playing violin in her school orchestra at Silver Street Elementary School. She continued her love of music throughout her education and completed her Bachelors and Masters Degrees at the University of Louisville’s School of Music under Peter McHugh. During this time she developed her passion for many varieties of music ranging from Irish fiddle to Baroque violin and everything in between. And so her many contributions began…

As a teacher, Rachel has influenced so many young musicians in the area, having developed the string program at Sacred Heart School for the Arts where she has taught for nearly 15 years as well as recently developing the program at the Montessori School of Louisville which will be starting a scholarship fund in her name.

Over the years Rachel has performed with countless groups; it would be nearly impossible to list them all. Throughout Kentucky and Indiana, Rachel was always willing to help and collaborate with her fellow musicians. Her giving nature meant she was constantly on her way to or from a gig, but she expressed pure joy in her endeavors. In this way, so many people’s lives have been touched by her music in live performances ranging from backyards and bars to the largest venues and festivals in the area including Headliners, Forecastle, and more. She has performed and recorded with The Porch Possums, My Darling Asleep, The Pennies, The Commonwealth, JD Michaels, Dust Radio, and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. For as many lives as she touched, each experience meant so much to Rachel as well. With photos of friends and family filling her violin case, she kept and added to these memories because it made her smile each time she took up her violin.

Her long-time work with Abbey Road on the River made her an asset to their musical family, having performed and arranged string and horn parts from the festival’s beginning and going on to organizing tours with groups such as The Newbees. In 2014 Rachel contributed greatly by helping to plan a Northeast tour of a Beatles tribute concert. The twenty-something musicians that traveled together formed a special bond, forever influenced by Rachel’s kind and graceful presence. Recently, she helped to organize a set of performances in Miami, FL. The upcoming performances will surely be meaningful and heartfelt in her memory. In memory, the main stage for Abbey Road on the River has been renamed the “Rachel Blanton Stage” forever more as well as a scholarship, award, and/or tribute of some type in Rachel’s name and honor is also being organized.

Rachel served as a founding member of Bourbon Baroque: Louisville’s Period Instrument Ensemble since its inception in 2007 under artistic directors John Austin Clark and Nicolas Fortin. She played an active role in its success both on stage and behind the scenes, accepting the position as treasurer on the Executive Team of the Board of Directors in 2013. Outside of Bourbon Baroque, Rachel performed in countless musical theater productions, including most recently JCC Center Stage’s “Sweeney Todd,” Sacred Heart Academy’s “The Wiz,” and Silver Creek High School’s “The Last Five Years.” Her ability to adapt and succeed in so many styles made every experience performing with her so much fun for those around and according to Austin Clark “These musical rendezvous are what I will remember most and keep closest to my heart.”

Rachel’s contributions are many and will live on in those that enjoyed performing and collaborating with her as well as those that simply enjoyed listening. The list of musicians and bands she has played with is almost as countless as the lives she has touched with her music. Many musicians are revisiting their work with Rachel and commenting on the beauty of her playing and her sweet nature, and how much that contributed to their music. It is this joy of music and spirit of collaboration and peace that she brought with her to every task that perhaps can best celebrate her lasting memory.

She is preceded in death by her grandparents, Robert and Thelma Blanton, Sr. and Gracie M. Urbano.

She is survived by her parents, Robert and Maria Blanton, Jr.; sister, Jessica Blanton; brother, Charlie (Anna) Blanton; companion, John D’Amato; John’s daughter, Anne Marie; grandfather, Jesse C. Urbano and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

Visitation will be Thursday, January 1, 2015, from 2pm-8pm at Newcomer Funeral Home (10304 Dixie Highway. A Celebration of Rachel’s life will be Friday, January 2, 2015, beginning at 2pm at Newcomer Funeral Home.

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Bourbon Baroque 2007-2014 Archives

Past Seasons



Music of the German Baroque

Music of the German Baroque

October 12, 2007





B Minor Mass | J.S. Bach

Mass in B Minor with Choral Arts Society

November 2, 2007




St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church

Noëls of the French Baroque | Evensong Recital at St. Francis in the Fields

December 2, 2007



Baroque à la française

Baroque à la française

February 29, 2008




Barocco Italiano!

Barocco Italiano! – Boccherini Stabat mater (Louisville premiere)

April 12, 2008





Thunder and Dance

Thunder and Dance - Megan Hart, soprano | Caroline Copeland, baroque dance

September 20, 2008




Kentucky Opera Showcase of Baroque Opera | Telemann Don Quichotte auf der Hochzeit des Comachos

November 14 & 15, 2008

Concert(o)Concerto Concert

January 17, 2009



Locust Grove

Music of the English Baroque | Chamber Music at Locust Grove

February 15, 2009


Louisville Youth Choir

Purcell Come, Ye Sons of Art

March 1, 2009



St. Matthew Passion

J.S. Bach | St. Matthew Passion with Choral Arts Society

April 5, 2009




Music for Holy Week 2009

Music for Holy Week | Boccherini Stabat Mater

April 10, 2009





Baroque in the Barn 2009Baroque in the Barn at Yew Dell Gardens 2009
Baroque Bird Music with Alison Melville, recorder/traverso | July 16, 2009
French Cantatas Al Fresco with Teresa Wakim, soprano | August 20, 2009


A German in Paris A German in Paris | Susie Napper, viola da gamba & Bruce Haynes, author/historian

October 9, 2009


Something Old, Something New Something Old, Something New | Moving Collective

February 6, 2010


Mostly MyslivecekMostly Myslivecek | Musica Toscana

April 11, 2010


Alcina 2010

Händel’s Alcina

May 6-8, 2010





Baroque in the Barn 2010Baroque in the Barn at Yew Dell Gardens 2010
A Baroque Wedding July 15, 2010
Trios August 19, 2010


Pièces de résistance


Pièces de résistance | Music of the French Baroque

November 12, 2010




St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church

Rick Albrink, recorder | Evensong Recital at St. Francis in the Fields

December 5, 2010



Something Olde, Something New IISomething Olde, Something New II | Moving Collective

February 12, 2011


Music for Holy Week 2011

Music for Holy Week | Kristen Leich, mezzo-soprano

J.S. Bach Ich Habe Genug and Domenico Corri sonatas

April 16, 2011





Baroque in the Barn 2011Baroque in the Barn at Yew Dell Gardens 2011

The Three Germans July 21, 2011

Summer Storms August 18, 2011




The Bard's TownMargaret Little, viola da gamba

September 18, 2011





MagnificatJ.S. Bach | Magnificat with Choral Arts Society

November 6, 2011




First Friday Trolley HopFirst Friday Trolley Hop Cantata Series

January 2012-November 2012


Les Sauvages 2012Les Savuages J.-P. Rameau | Squallis Puppeteers

February 24 & 25, 2012



Music for Holy Week 2012Music for Holy Week | Boccherini Stabat Mater

March 24, 2012





David Walker, luteHillbilly Tea Series | David Walker, lute

July 19, 2012





Lara Turner, viola da gambaHillbilly Tea Series | Lara Turner, viola da gamba

August 16, 2012




House of Ruth House of Ruth 20th Anniversary | Music of the English Baroque

September 16, 2012



Christmas OratorioJ.S. Bach | Christmas Oratorio with Choral Arts Society

November 25, 2012




Buster vs. Charlie | Louisville Film SocietyBuster vs. Charlie | Louisville Film Society

February 8-10, 2013






Charpentier Te DeumCharpentier Te Deum

April 27-28, 2013






Händel's MessiahHändel’s Messiah

November 30-December 1, 2013




Coffee CantatasCoffee Cantatas

January 12, 2014


RAMEAU | Les Sauvages | March 21-23, 2014Les Sauvages J.-P. Rameau | Squallis Puppeteers

March 21-23, 2014




Impromptu Summer 2014Impromptu in Willow Park

July 16, 2014


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Bourbon Baroque a finalist at the 2014 Louisville Music Awards in Classical Music

Louisville Music Awards


Bourbon Baroque, Inc. has the great honor of being selected as a finalist in the 2nd Annual Louisville Music Awards in the newly created Classical Music category. 1/3 of the vote is decided by YOU the public. Voting opens on Monday August 25! So please spread the word and vote. Thank you LOUISVILLE for continuing to support Bourbon Baroque: Louisville’s HIPpest period instrument ensemble!


CLICK HERE to view the entire list of nominees:

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Bourbon Baroque Aims High With Collaborative Eighth Season” by Erin Keane (Louisville Public Media)

Bourbon Baroque: Louisville's Period Instrument EnsembleBourbon Baroque knows how to party like it’s 1699. The classical chamber ensemble devoted to musical works of the Baroque period (roughly 1600-1750) is known for staging works in unexpected venues and forging innovative partnerships, like their wildly popular collaboration with Squallis Puppeteers adapting Jean-Phillipe Rameau’s opera “Les Sauvages” into a kid-friendly yet sophisticated zoomorphic romp. The group just released details of their eighth season, with several intriguing collaborations in the works.

Bourbon Baroque's 2014-2015 Season“I am huge believer in the understanding that the more collaborative we make our performances, the further our music will reach,” said co-artistic director John Austin Clark. “We can’t assume the Louisville audience will just get our music because we, the musicians, do.”

“It’s grouping these amazing people together that fuels my desire to pursue Bourbon Baroque every year,” he added. “Bourbon Baroque needs to serve as an avenue for great artistry, not just a chamber group that plays Pachelbel’s Canon in a stylized way.” Bach's Wine: music to your lips

The first performance is a guided tour through Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 on September 15 with baroque flute player Leela Breithaupt and Louisville-based Baroque expert Dean Karns, a retired professor of music theory and harpsichordist who will discuss how Bach utilized French Baroque dance rhythms in his orchestral suites. An assortment of Bach’s other works will also be performed.

In search of a venue for the Bach evening, Clark, who leads the ensemble with Nicolas Fortin, stumbled across a fortuitous bottle, which led him to schedule the event at Old 502 Winery (120 S. 10th St).

“This particular wine was a dessert wine labeled ‘Bach’s Wine,’” he said. “Needless to say: instant score.”

The venue for their holiday performance of Handel’s “Messiah” (Nov. 29-30) is a bit more traditional, but Clark says St. Brigid’s Catholic Church on Hepburn Avenue was “so hospitable” for last year’s concert that they’re returning. Also, he notes, it’s all about location, location, location.Handel's Messiah

“Where else could you perform the Messiah in a beautiful acoustic directly across from an ale house by the name of Holy Grale? A match made in (ahem) Heaven,” he said. Click Here for a sample from last year’s show.

The holiday production features an instrumental orchestra of 17 and vocals by soloists Emily Albrink Katz (soprano), Audrey Walstrom (mezzo soprano), Steven Paul Spears (tenor) and Jim Rittenouse (baritone) as well as the Youth Performing Arts School Chamber Choir, under the direction of Jacob Cook.

In the spring, the group moves to the big stage with an ambitious production of Henry Purcell’s English Baroque opera “Dido and Aeneas” in the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts’ Bomhard Theatre (March 14). Clark admits that it was daunting to dream up a production that would be a fit for the venue.

“I first thought a small orchestral recital featuring a singer, but then I woke up one morning and thought, go big or go home,” he said. “Opera is big, so we went with Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas,’ a very audience friendly-opera.”

“Dido and Aeneas” is the love story between Dido, Queen of Carthage, and the Trojan hero Aeneas. Purcell takes the audience on a journey through witches, enchantresses, sorceresses, spirits, and sailors of the sea with Dido and her best friend Belinda, as they both deal with Aeneas’ fickle nature.Purcell's Dido and Aeneas

Both shows feature movement. Director Sarah Edgar, who serves as associate director of the New York Baroque Dance Company, will dance the Telemann suite and choreograph a trio of contemporary dancers as the Greek Chorus (Tamara Begley, Ami McCullen and Amber Marquez) who will perform with pantomime actors en masque Abigail Bailey Maupin (Dido) and Gregory Maupin (Aeneas), both of the late Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble and this year’s Kentucky Shakespeare acting company.

Clark says part of his job as an artistic director is to constantly keep track of what other performing arts groups are doing, and to “steal great ideas and use them.”

“Our ‘Dido’ is the result of seeing performances that moved me. The Maupins’ training is classically-based, which lends itself for many different styles. Their breadth of theatrical knowledge will be such a huge asset. Having Tamara, Ami, and Amber dance in a modern fashion to Purcell’s music will be fascinating to watch,” he said.

The roles of Dido and Aeneas will be sung by Kristine Hurst and Chad Sloan, with Marie-France Duclos appearing as Belinda and Lindsey Adams Frank as the sorceress. Again, the YPAS Chamber Choir under Cook’s direction will round out the stage.

“Dido and Aeneas” is a three-act opera, but the run time is only an hour. To round out the evening, the company also presents what Clark calls “a cinematic short” by German Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann, “La Putain.”

“Yes, it is what you are thinking – an entire orchestral suite bidding homage to our beloved ladies of the oldest profession,” he said.

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Old Music, New Artistic Visions: 17 Questions for John Austin Clark and Nicolas Fortin

Nic Fortin

Nicolas Fortin, Bourbon Baroque


By Brian Walker

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Brian Walker. All rights reserved

John Austin Clark and Nicolas Fortin are the co-artistic directors of Louisville’s Bourbon Baroque, founded in 2007. It’s an instrument ensemble which performs music from the Baroque period in various locations around the city and has a special affinity for good bourbon. They thrive on collaboration and have partnered with a long list of local organizations for various events including Squallis Puppeteers, Kentucky Opera and Louisville Youth Choir. They open a performance of Handel’s Messiah at St. Brigid Catholic Church on November 30th.

Brian Walker:  You’d be my first musicians for 17 Questions, if you’d both be willing?

John Austin Clark/Nicolas Fortin:  We’d love to, thanks for thinking of us!

BW:  Great.  Here we go-Number 1.  For folks not familiar with it, how would you describe the mission of Bourbon Baroque?

JAC/NF:  Bourbon Baroque, Louisville, Kentucky’s period instrument ensemble, performs the music of the 17th and 18th centuries for the promotion of public interest in the arts, culture, and lifestyle of the Baroque through collaboration and strategic partnerships. In fewer words: we play Baroque music on old instruments.

BW:  Number 2.  Was there an inciting incident that inspired you to start the company?

JAC:  My time at Oberlin set the pendulum swinging for the genesis of Bourbon Baroque. I began taking private harpsichord lessons and realized that my interests expanded to include the responsibility of “impresario,” producing and bringing together talent so that great musical moments could be made particularly here in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

NF:  I have been in love with the early music performance practice since I was 12. During my graduate studies at McGill University in Montreal, I met Austin who talked me into bringing this music practice to Louisville. The idea was crazy enough for me to jump on the opportunity and get the chance to discover a new part of the world in music.

BW:  Number 3.  What’s been the performance (so far) you’ve been the most proud of?

JAC:  I am most proud of the projects that highlight our efforts to collaborate with other like-minded arts groups. (Like-minded in their desire to broaden artistic horizons and fuse together talent.) One such project we are actually mounting again this season: Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Les Sauvages, a one act opera with Squallis Puppeteers serving as the on stage action slated for March 21-23, 2014.

NF:  Each and every one of them; I get to meet wonderful artists who become my friends during each project. Friendship is your best ally in music making.

BW:  Number 4.  You’re prepping for a performance of Handel’s Messiah, what’s the biggest challenge for tackling such a well known and loved piece of music?

JAC:  The biggest challenge is for the audience. Our interpretation will be very different than what the Louisville audience is used to. The first part of Messiah recounts the anticipation and coming of the Christ child. So, I believe it is important to establish Christ as the playful Messiah of his youth, capturing innocence before the heavy tones of worldly judgment are cast. I think the Louisville patron has come to an understanding of Handel’s Messiah. We expect this understanding to arrive at the concert but hope that it leaves expanded.

BW:  Sounds very exciting!  Number 5.  Will you be accompanying it with any other pieces during that performance?

NF:  Yes, since we are only performing the first part, we have paired this headlining work with Corelli’s Christmas Concerto and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, featuring Kelly Ballou, soprano and Kris Kwapis, baroque trumpet.

BW:  Number 6.  What’s your favorite brand of bourbon?

John Austin Clark, Bourbon Baroque

JAC:  If I tell you, then I narrow my field for future corporate sponsorship. Bourbon Baroque:  an authentic sound paired with [insert Distillery or Manufacturer]’s authentic original recipe. Sound good? I think so . . . I will say I love a good Manhattan, but can also enjoy a simple neat preparation.

NF:  “As long as it burns…” (see question 11)

BW:  Very nice.  Number 7.  If you had to condense it down to a few sentences, how would each of you tell your own personal history as a musician up to this point?

JAC:  I would like to answer this question in a slightly altered form of Dolly Levi’s monologue from the musical Hello Dolly: “Music, pardon the expression, is like manure. It’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.” And I do believe that this is true when realizing your purpose in life. You have to share your passion or else it can’t develop its fullest potential. I didn’t really answer your question because I feel that my personal history with music doesn’t matter; what matters is the here and now: what can I give back today because of the history and opportunities I have had with music. Yes, I have studied here and there. Met this person. Heard great performances. Music and I have been at odds with each other. But the ebb and flow we go through together makes it all worthwhile, and I can only hope that this dance is exposed in its most visceral form on stage.

BW:  Number 8.  Do you compose your own music?

JAC:  In some form or fashion, yes. I have not hit my peak on this venture. Composition for me is something that I want to develop into at a later date. I have a lot to soak in as a performing artist and I think no one is going to give a shit about what I compose until it’s completely cooked through. I would hope by age 40 I will have taken this plunge.

NF:  I don’t compose new music; however, the study and execution of the historical performance practice requires all sorts of research and knowledge of compositional methods. From music scores on a shelf to the live performance, there are many components towards creating a final product. One specific example, we add ornaments and play cadenzas: improvised passages during final statements of a solo movement, a personal touch to the composer’s original material.

BW:  Number 9.  When you’re not performing with Bourbon Baroque, what can you most often be found doing?

JAC:  Teaching piano and accompanying musicians in their musical quests.

NF:  I am a freelance musician in Montreal and Executive Director of Montreal Baroque Festival.

BW:  Number 10.  What’s your favorite Louisville hangout?

JAC:  Holy Grale of course! And it just so happens that is where our rollicking after party will be for Messiah. The party begins right after the Sunday Dec. 1st performance, probably around 4ish. Patrons are asked to dust off their Messiah scores, crack the binding, and join the musicians as we do an exceedingly loosened rendition of the Christmas portion from Messiah. The idea is that an innocent patron of the Holy Grale will be walking into the bar at the time we are making music from the choir loft. “Where is this lovely music coming from…” they ask? “Oh, that’s Bourbon Baroque!” Cheers!

NF:  My friend’s porch with a glass of bourbon.

BW:  Number 11.  Are there other art forms that either of you draw particular inspiration for your own?

JAC:  DANCE! Baroque music is steeped in dance rhythms. The only way to truly understand and interpret music is to be able to move and be moved. This applies to all music. Hands down.

NF:  I love movies form the Hollywood Golden Age!!!

BW:  Number 12.  What’s a piece of music you’ve not performed yet for an audience but want to before you die?

JAC:  Here’ s a crazy thought: a staged performance of Igor Stravinksy’s The Rake’s Progress accompanied by Bourbon Baroque. Rake was composed during Stravinksy’s Neo-classical period and contains many elements of the Baroque/Classical form. The libretto is based on the etchings of the Baroque satirical artist William Hogarth. So, the ideological fusion in this production would be overwhelmingly delicious paired with a period band.

NF:  An entire tragédie lyrique by Lully with great costumes, dancers, and gods descending from the ceiling.

BW:  Number 13.  Who is your favorite modern pop star?

JAC:  Jessie J. She’s hot.

NF:  Diane Dufresne. A great singer from Quebec, better than Celine…

BW:  Number 14.  Is there a performance hall (or anywhere for that matter) in Louisville you haven’t performed in but would love to?

JAC:  The Motherhouse at Sacred Heart. Unfortunately, the nuns have quite the death grip on their place of worship. Yet, the acoustic in there is dynamite!

NF:  A little gem of a place nobody knows about.

BW:  How mysterious… Number 15.  What advice would you give to musicians looking to start their own performance group?

JAC/NF: Be patient and surround yourself with kind people.

BW:  Number 16.  What’s one thing folks would be surprised to learn about you?

JAC:  I kissed a girl and I liked it.

NF:  ABBA rocks! Seriously.

BW:  Number 17.  Who is someone who inspires you and why?

JAC:  My musical colleagues inspire me daily. Without their love, support, and harsh reality checks I would have a hard time realizing how fortunate I am. My mother always says, “You have your music.” And, it’s true. No wiser words were spoken in my quest for happiness.

NF:  All musicians who dare to live their passion as I try to do every day. As Bette Davis said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belt, it’s going to be a bumpy night!”

Bourbon Baroque presents Handel’s Messiah, and other seasonal works for choir and orchestra

Saturday, November 30 at 7:30pm

Sunday, December 1 at 2:00pm

St. Brigid’s Catholic Church

1504 Hepburn Avenue

Louisville, KY 40204

Tickets: $20    502-641-1787

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Austin and Nico, Artistic Directors of Bourbon Baroque

Austin and Nicolas, Artistic Directors of Bourbon Baroque

We are excited to launch our brand new website:! While the name hasn’t changed, there are many new aspects to the site that specifically aim to keep you, our beloved patrons, informed of upcoming concerts, events, and important announcements. There are so many ways to keep “in-the-know” whether it be via social media, Louisville culture blogs, periodicals, etc., yet our hope is that this website serves as your point of reference for anything Bourbon Baroque related. Want to attend a concert and don’t know how to get there? We’ve got you covered with GoogleMaps to each concert venue located in the Footer of every page. Our online shopping cart experience has been upgraded to make your CD/DVD and ticket purchasing a breeze. No more leaving the site to make a transaction! New patrons now have the option of signing up for our Constant Contact newsletter via the homepage including an option to view the latest edition with one click! Lastly, and perhaps most noticeable is what you are reading now: our new blog. Admittedly, we are new to blogging, but we hope that it can serve as not only an informative resource but also a platform for our patrons to learn more about the insides, the wizards behind the curtain. There are many people who create Bourbon Baroque: musicians, accountants, bookkeepers, audio engineers, videographers, photographers, hair stylists, lint rollers, therapists, pharmacists, technological advisers, critics, administrators, teachers, relatives, students, schools, universities, and of course our supportive patrons. This blog will serve as a window into how it all works! I have a feeling our blog might end up being a bit unpredictable. Fitting, eh?

Please let us know your thoughts on how we can improve our connectivity to you. Your comments and advise are always welcome and appreciated.


Enjoy the website and see you at the Messiah! Push the yellow button for tickets :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Austin and Nico

PS. Text/Call/E-mail Nico. It’s his birthday!