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Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009

Charles Q. Sullivan: Early Music Master

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Charles Q. Sullivan has been engaged with the early music scene in Milwaukee for some decades now, seeking to bring his passion for early music to an ever-wider audience while expanding our perception of it. Say “early music” and one conjures monks and madrigals, troubadours and Tallis, plainchant and polyphony. Though such a world is removed from our own by several centuries, it is not so different. In its music we find the same foibles, fears and fascinations that characterize us today. We recently sat down to discuss Mr. Sullivan’s involvement with Early Music Now (EMN) and recognition that has come his way.

Where did you receive your professional music training?

My undergraduate degree is from UWM and my graduate degree is from WCCM, from that brief period when the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music also had “College” in its name. But my real professional training has come from associations with many fine musicians and educators in my work life.

Tell us about your newly appointed role on the national board of Early Music America.

Early Music America is a national service organization focused on all phases of early music education, performance and promotion in North America. I was invited to serve on the national board because EMN is one of the most successful early music series in the country, and because I’ve been involved in workshops for emerging early music performers for the national organization.

You have also recently been appointed convener of the Wisconsin District of the American Guild of Organists?

I have been involved in church music virtually all my life and have recently completed a term as dean of the Milwaukee chapter of this guild, in which capacity I wrote topical articles that attracted the attention of upper levels of this organization.

A “convener”?

Yes—the role is essentially a conduit for communication among local chapters and individuals throughout Wisconsin with the region and national office.

When did you first become interested in early music?

Because of my early involvement in music of the Roman Catholic Church, when chant and Renaissance music were more widely used, I have always had a love of this music. When I had my own chamber chorus and orchestra here in Milwaukee in the ’70s and ’80s, we performed everything from chant to avant-garde. In the mid-’80s I had the opportunity to produce and direct medieval drama for Milwaukee’s Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, deepening my experience with the genre. When I returned to Milwaukee from Ohio in 1999 I was approached to take on a leadership role with EMN.