The Playfords are dedicated to creating authentic and innovative interpretations of Renaissance and early Baroque dance music. Using historical instruments,
they perform early music in new arrangements that start with spontaneous improvisation and reach completed form after a process of cooperative work with dance experts and after a great deal of live performance.
The five-member group was formed in 2001, inspired by The English Dancing Master by John and Henry Playford. This collection, which first appeared in 1651,
provided notation on fitting dance steps for the period's well-known melodies. Harmonies and bass were to be improvised by the performing musicians,
their essential character determined by those musicians' own predilections and particular talents. This was a welcome challenge to any virtuosic musician's creativity – then as well as now.
The Playfords continue in this tradition through the practices they have adopted in their performance of early music. Playful references to contemporary music are naturally unavoidable. The group's "Early Music Jam Sessions" have gained cult status, and their "Early Music Folk" has captivated audiences in Germany and abroad.
The Playfords have performed regularly at international festivals since 2005, including as part of the "Oude Muziek Utrecht” festival, at the Gewandhaus Leipzig, Schloss Tirol, as part of the MDR-Musiksommer,
at the Bach-Biennale Weimar, the Stockstädter Blockflötenfesttage, the Festival Gottorfer Hofmusik, the SWR-Sommerfestival, the Hohenloher Kultursommer, the Brandenburgischen Sommerkonzerte,
the Bach Biennale Weimar and at the EXPO 2015 in Milan.
The Playfords have organised the annual PLAYGROUND festival of early music folk in Weimar since 2011.
Björn Werner – voice
Björn Werner studied under Prof. Ulrike Fuhrmann and Dimitri Kharitonov at the University of Music Franz Liszt in Weimar and completed a master class at the Festival Mitte Europa.
He has appeared as a soloist at the Theater Erfurt, Landestheater Eisenach, Gewandhaus Leipzig, and at the Kurt-Weill-Festival and onstage at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York.
He sings not only with The Playfords, but also with DUODARWIN and is responsible for the “Unfinished Song Cycle of Delightful Animal Poems”.
Annegret Fischer – recorders
Annegret Fischer studied music education for schoolteachers, English, and the recorder at the University of Music "Franz Liszt" in Weimar, where she also earned her artistic diploma by performance under the tutelage of Myriam Eichberger.
She gained experience in dance music, international folk music and historical improvisation as a member of the folk band Fork & Fiddle and with The Playfords,
which she helped found. She is also a founder of the AlteMusikJamSession (Early Music Jam Session) and, when time allows, continues to improvise with Martin Erhardt as part of the All’Improvviso ensemble.
Annegret is happiest teaching what she is happiest playing: the recorder in general, historical improvisation, and dance and folk music.
She is currently performing in Selim Doğru’s children’s opera "Wüstenwind" as part of the 2014/2015 season at the Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar.
Nora Thiele – percussion
Nora Thiele is a distinctly versatile percussionist who is much in demand and who has made a name for herself in the international frame drum scene thanks to her compelling stage presence and her unique sound.
As a musician she moves seamlessly between the genres of old music, world music, jazz and improvisation. Traditional, experimental and classical music feature in her repertoire in equal measure.
Her musical work is concerned above all with sounding out the intersections, boundaries and connections among genres, epochs and cultures. A freelance musician in Berlin,
Nora Thiele composes pieces for frame drums and other chamber music. She has performed throughout Europe, the Middle East and China as a soloist and with various ensembles.
Nora Thiele has contributed to over 30 CD productions and provides instruction in oriental and historical percussion.
Erik Warkenthin – lute, baroque guitar
Erik Warkenthin studied classical guitar in Rostock and Weimar. He discovered his love of early music while working on a number of projects at university. Additional courses and private tuition, with Lee Santana, among others,
led him to specialise on the lute, theorbo, and baroque guitar. He has been strumming his strings with The Playfords and the Simkhat Hanefesh ensemble ever since.
He is also highly in demand as a guest musician for opera performances and choral concerts and has appeared with the Monteverdichor Würzburg, Kammerchor Michaelstein, Gewandhaus Choir Leipzig,
and the Mitteldeutsche Barock Compagney, amongst others. In addition, he is actively involved in working with youth and Christian popular music as well as working as an e-guitarist and band coach.
Benjamin Dreßler – viola da gamba
Benjamin Dreßler, born 1977 in Berlin, works as a freelance gambist and sound engineer. He studied viola da gamba at Koninklijk Conservatorium Den Haag with Wieland Kuijken and at the College of
Music and Theater "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" Leipzig with Rebeka Rusó, Irene Klein and Siegfried Pank, as well as sound engineer at the University of Arts (UdK) Berlin with major Singing.
Benjamin performs as a soloist and with The Playfords, the Ensemble 1684 Leipzig, the Lautten Compagney Berlin, the Cappella Sagittariana Dresden and the Capella Antiqua Bambergensis.
In 2011, together with the ensemble The Playfords, he launched the Playgroundfestival Weimar, a playground and experimental field for Renaissance and early Baroque improvisation.
As a sound engineer, Benjamin focuses on sonically perfect implementations of genre-spanning and unconventional sound productions.
Claudia Mende – baroque violin
(guest performer for the Christmas production “Nova! nova!”)
Claudia Mende is a freelance performer living in Potsdam and has made appearances with her own baroque music ensembles (Hofkapelle Schloß Seehaus and Trio: Mende-Gröger-Weiß) as well as with the
Lautten Compagney and
The English Concert. When not engaged in historical performance practice, she enjoys exploring and testing boundaries in “All-worlds-universal-muzic from Malvonia” with
the Staatlichen Kulturensemble Shmaltz. Claudia takes great care in choosing instruments, whether an early baroque violin or a Rumanian tromba marina. It absolutely must be historically accurate,
but the more unusual the sound, the better.