Late Nights, Early Music

The SUNY New Paltz Department of Music held The Collegium Musicum at the Max and Nadia Shepard Recital Hall on April 24. The concert, intended as a tribute to early music, featured key pieces of the genre.

Concert director and music professor Joël Evans defined the genre music from antiquity, including music from ancient Greece and Rome, the Medieval Era, the Renaissance and the Baroque period. The songs performed at the concert were European in origin, some containing vocals and some not.

Evans gave a primer on the characteristics of different early music eras: typically, Medieval music was more vocally-oriented, while Renaissance and Baroque pieces tended to focus on instrumentation, he said. Early music, particularly that of the Medieval Era, even serves as a framework for modern heavy metal due to its emphasis on power chords, he added.

Many of the musicians wore traditional Medieval and Renaissance garb, making the concert feel very lived-in and authentic.

“I find the students become involved in the particular period that they’re singing or playing in,” Evans said. “This is a result of that involvement. They want to be dressing in the period as well as playing and making music in the period.”

Audience members seemed to appreciate those details. For one audience member, the concert made music and art in antiquity truly come to life.

“You can learn about music throughout history, and you can read it in a textbook, but when you see everyone in the costumes and you see it come to life, I think that’s a very exciting thing,” the audience member said.

The performers also used instruments common to the Baroque period, including the bass recorder. According to Evans, the bass recorder was a virtuoso instrument of the era.

The show worked well as an introduction to this large stretch of musical history, which Evans said spans about 1,705 years. Guest described the concert as “interesting,” “fun and upbeat” and “simple, yet very elegant.”

For those interested in further exploring more early music, Evan offered his favorite music composer of the era: Guillaume de Machaut of Medieval France.