Bourbon Baroque | Courtesy of Bourbon Baroque

After delivering an intimate and moving rendition of Handel’s “Messiah,” Bourbon Baroque is rounding out their holiday celebrations with some caroling, vegan treats and giving the year-round gift of musical education to some Jefferson County students.

The second annual Bourbon Baroque Carol Sing/Play-a-Long invites unskilled and skilled music lovers to bring their voices and/or instruments to join in singing and playing a selection of holiday favorites.

The event is being held at Flora Kitchenette on Saturday, Dec. 22, and it will raise money for WUOL’s Instrumental Partners. The nonprofit invites people to donate their gently used instruments and puts them in the hands of students to make sure no kid goes without musical education due to the lack of an instrument.  

Alice Culin-Ellison | Courtesy of Bourbon Baroque

Insider spoke with Bourbon Baroque’s Co-Artistic Director Alice Culin-Ellison about the importance of instruments, as well as the importance of making sure everyone knows they are part of the music, not just spectators.

The Louisville native received a bachelor’s degree in violin from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, then spent some time in New York before getting a master’s in music with a focus on historical violin from Indiana University.

During a brief stint home in Louisville before getting that master’s, Culin-Ellison began working with Bourbon Baroque, and she commuted back and forth to continue that work. She finally moved back to Louisville full time last June after completing her doctorate of musical arts from Case Western Reserve University, focusing again on historical violin.

With words and phrases like “baroque” and “historical violin” floating around, it’s easy for people to feel like classical music is maybe not for them.

“Definitely part of this project is to close the gap with people who are maybe intimidated by classical music and instruments,” says Culin-Ellison.

A good way to close the gap might be, well, closing the gap. Make your audience co-musicians instead of bystanders.

“We want everyone to bring their instruments and their voices,” she explains about Saturday’s event. “We’ll provide music, people are welcome to bring music, everyone can play and sing, or you can listen. We want to include everybody. You can be a beginner, you can be a professional. We would love to have you.”

Culin-Ellison during a Bourbon Baroque performance | Courtesy of Bourbon Baroque

The repertoire, as promised in the event’s name, is built of music most folks know already: Christmas carols.

While much of Bourbon Baroque’s programming comes in the form of exposing people to baroque music, Saturday’s show is much more focused on exposing people to baroque instruments. While playing along to familiar songs, folks will get to see the difference in the build and sound of a historical violin, which is pretty different than a modern violin.

Similarly, there’s no piano banging out holiday favorites. Instead, Bourbon Baroque’s other co-artistic director, John Austin Clark, will be playing a harpsichord. Unlike a piano, which is incredibly heavy and usually requires professional movers, a harpsichord is good to pack up and go.

In addition to getting to see these instruments, Culin-Ellison says folks will be able to play the harpsichord a bit if they dare.

Culin-Ellison with John Austin Clark | Courtesy of Bourbon Baroque

“If there is a pianist who wants to give the harpsichord a-go, they are welcome to do that,” she says.

Bourbon Baroque believes that access to instruments is key to appreciating music, which is why last year’s Sing & Play-a-Long became a fundraiser for Instrumental Partners.

“When we got (to Flora), we sort of decided we’d love to accept tips for the WUOL Instrumental Partnership Program. So we ended up raising around $150 last year,” she notes.

Perhaps even more importantly, they collected several instruments as well.

“People came up to us and said, ‘I have these instruments.’ A couple I went and picked up myself, and a couple others the people delivered. They found out about the program because of the event we did,” she says.

Culin-Ellison admits there is a more selfish reason for her to participate in the event.

“My favorite part of last year was just seeing everybody participate,” she explains. “It’s fun for us — we get to just stand by these people who love music and make music together. There is nothing quite like making music with other people. You don’t even have to know them, it just brings people together.”

Join in the music or just enjoy the treats at the second annual Bourbon Baroque Carol Sing/Play-a-Long on Saturday, Dec. 22, at Flora Kitchenette, 1004 Barret Ave. The event runs from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

If you want to beat the rush and have a delicious breakfast, Flora opens at 8 a.m. on Saturdays.

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Eli Keel
Eli Keel is “pretty much” a Louisville native. You may have seen him around town reading poetry, short stories, dancing or acting. He’s a passionate locavore, so you may have also seen him stuffing his face at one of Louisville’s amazing restaurants. When he isn’t too busy writing short stories, he blogs at