Collegium Musicum Ensemble

Music acts as a portal for most people; they fall into whatever piece they’re listening to and find themselves in a whole new mindset because of it. Music evokes certain moods and feelings, some of which are unique because of how the piece is played and what instruments are used to play it. SUNY New Paltz’s Collegium Musicum ensemble offers this by playing pieces from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods. The event was held in the Shepard Recital Hall and was directed by Associate Music Professor Jöel Evans.

Collegium Musicum was founded by Professor Emeriti Mary Jane Corry, and is an ensemble dedicated to playing music from those three time periods. Students are given full access to SUNY New Paltz’s collection of period instruments in order to fully capture their sound, as well as dressing up in period -accurate clothing during performances to fully immerse the listener. Musicum has been part of SUNY New Paltz’s college music community for quite some time.

“We’ve had Muscia for forty to fifty years,” Evans said. “When I returned I was hired to teach Collegium Musicum.” 

The event featured over a dozen musicians, most of whom were students. This included guitarists Michael Iaciofano and Brian Twohig, soprano vocalist Alexa Marie Fini, guitarist Emily Charash, violinists Caitlyn Castro and Elena Kellerhouse, harpsichordists Saili Biswas and Bianca Checa and flutist Sarah Creighton. Evans would accompany the students, either playing the recorder, oboe or flute. Local musicians Barbara Kidney and Andrew Dalton performed early in the set, and Assistant Professor of Piano Alex Peh played with Checa for the final piece.

The performers played incredibly well, perfectly nailing the stylings of the time-periods they were calling back to. The small space of hall provided a sense of warmth and intimacy with the performers. Stand out pieces include Twohig’s rendition of a harpsichord piece he converted for guitar titled “Gayment from Fantasie 14” by Georg Phillip Telemann, and a harpsichord duo piece played by Peh and Checha titled “Allegro from Concerto BWV 1060” by John Sebastian Bach. 

Twohig’s rendition was incredibly beautiful and pastoral, capturing the spirit of both the guitar and the harpsichord in his arrangement. Twohig described the process of finding and converting the piece. 

“They gave me a book of Telemann duets for recorder and guitar to look through and decide what duets what I wanted to perform with Joel,” Twohig said. “The first one I was looking at was very, very simple, so I tried the first eight measures of it just reading both parts and I was like ‘this is really easy.’” 

Twohig then drafted a rough arrangement, fine tuned it with Adjunct Professor Gregory Dinger and got it ready for the performance.

Peh and Checha’s finale was just as memorable; both performers displayed their technical prowess on Bach’s piece. They interweaved intricate melodies on rhythms on top of one another as they played their respective harpsichords, filling the hall with rich tones of both instruments.  It was an amazing ending to an hour of excellent music.

Evans thoroughly enjoys working with his students as well as being with the Musicum, and encourages people to join and come see them. 

“It’s a live, living view of history [and] an opportunity to travel back to the past by listening; [it’s like] a musical time machine,” Evans said. “I would encourage any who would like to travel in our time machine to join us.”

Twohig said that working with Evans was just as positive. “He’s such an incredible musician. He has such an aptitude with so many different instruments. He has such a knowledge and appreciation for music that takes away all the anxiety, to be up there performing with him.”

The Collegium Musicum has no formal plans for next year due to it being an ensemble that students have to sign up for every semester. Evans said that the pieces chosen for each show “depends on who registers. If I have singers, I’ll do more Italian and French music. It depends.”