Musicologist and conductor Eric Rice is a specialist in the history and performance of music composed before 1750. He is Head of the Music Department at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in music history, notation, and historical performance, and he also serves as a member of the Medieval Studies faculty. He demonstrates the relationship between scholarship and performance as director of the University of Connecticut Collegium Musicum.
In his scholarship, Rice focuses primarily on medieval and Renaissance music of the Western liturgy and its relationship to architecture, politics, and secular music. He has presented his research at national and international conferences in musicology and medieval studies, and his publications have appeared in Current Musicology, the Journal of Musicological Research, the Revue de Musicologie, and Viator. He has received fellowships from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to pursue archival research at churches in Aachen, Germany, and in Paris. He is the author of Music and Ritual at Charlemagne’s Marienkirche in Aachen (Merseburger Verlag, 2009) and co-editor of Young Choristers, 650-1700 (Boydell & Brewer, 2008), the first scholarly volume dedicated to the history of professional child singers.
As a performer, Rice seeks to pique interest in the cultures of the distant past through the immediacy of historically-informed performance. As Artistic Director of the Connecticut Early Music Festival, he serves as both a curator and a performer, choosing the theme for the festival, selecting regionally and internationally known ensembles to perform in it, and conducting concerts by the Connecticut Early Music Ensemble. As music director and tenor in the Boston-based period vocal ensemble Exsultemus from 2003 to 2009, he developed several concert programs involving liturgical reconstructions based on his research. Exsultemus’s 2012 CD release, “O rex orbis,” a reconstruction of Vespers and Compline services for the feast of Saint Charlemagne as it might have been heard in Aachen in 1582, was “highly recommended on all counts” by Fanfare and received four stars from Belgium’s Le soir, whose Serge Martin hailed it as “Magnificent and austere music, sensual in its fervor, performed with rigorby its American interpreters.” Having left Exsultemus, Rice founded the Hartford-based Ensemble Origo to continue performing music related to his research.
Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Rice discovered his interest in early music as an undergraduate at Bowdoin College. After a four-year career as a schooner captain and marine educator at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City, he returned to his music studies at Columbia University, where he earned a Ph.D. in Historical Musicology and a Certificate in Medieval and Renaissance studies. While pursuing these degrees, he also studied conducting and voice, and he sang professionally in New York City churches that feature medieval and Renaissance repertoire in their liturgies. He taught at Brandeis University from 2001-2003 before joining the faculty at the University of Connecticut. He lives with his wife, Anne, and his two sons, Gregory and Nathaniel, in Hampton, Connecticut.