Ruckus is a shapeshifting, collaborative baroque ensemble with a visceral and playful approach to early music.
The ensemble debuted in Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo in a production directed by Christopher Alden featuring Anthony Roth Costanzo, Ambur Braid and Davóne Tines at National Sawdust. The band’s playing earned widespread critical acclaim: “achingly delicate one moment, incisive and punchy the next” (New York Times); “superb” (Opera News).
Based in New York City, Ruckus’ core is a continuo group, the baroque equivalent of a jazz rhythm section: guitars, keyboards, cello, bassoon and bass. Other members include soloists of the violin, flute and oboe. The ensemble aims to fuse the early-music movement’s questing, creative spirit with the grit, groove and jangle of American roots music, creating a unique sound of “rough-edged intensity” (New Yorker).
The group’s members are among the most creative and virtuosic performers in North American early music. Ruckus’ debut album, Fly the Coop, a collaboration with flutist Emi Ferguson, was Billboard’s #2 Classical album upon its release. Performances of Fly the Coop have been described as “a fizzing, daring display of personality and imagination” (New York Times). The Boston Musical Intelligencer describes the group as taking continuo playing to “not simply a new level, but a revelatory new dimension of dynamism altogether... an eruption of pure, pulsing hoedown joy.”
The ensemble made its Ojai Festival debut in 2022, performing a wide range of music: from Bach, to the improvisational scores of Roscoe Mitchell and George Lewis, to a recital featuring Anthony Roth Costanzo, and an original opera by bassist Doug Balliett. Of their performances, San Francisco Classical Voice described Ruckus as “the world’s only period-instrument rock band.”
With Holy Manna, a program including arrangements of early American hymns from the shape-note tradition, Ruckus has begun a multi-project exploration of histories of American music. Other upcoming projects include a co-commission of a large-scale work by pioneering artist and NEA Jazz Master Roscoe Mitchell as part of a Bach & Bird Festival alongside the Immanuel Wilkins Quartet, produced by The Metropolis Ensemble.