Musical Renaissance at New Paltz

Max and Nadia Shepard Recital Hall took a journey back in time this past Sunday at 3 p.m. when the ensemble for early music performed history through music.

The ensemble for early music performed masterpieces from Renaissance, Medieval and Baroque periods. The concert, titled Collegium Musicum, according to the director and lute performer, Joel Evans, means a musical gathering. It is a gathering of music students who not only play and sing pieces from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods but also dress the part. The students learned to play unique instruments from the time periods of which they perform such as the rebec, domra, baroque guitar and more.  The students also sang in various languages such as French, German, Spanish and Latin.

Collegium Musicum featured songs from around the year 1100 up until the year 1750. Pieces by Alfonso X of Spain called “Cantigas,” English lute songs, French songs and a Baroque trio sonata, which featured the harpsichord played by Theresa Orr and piccolo played by second-year journalism major Erica Ascher.

Evans said he chose the selection of songs because he tries to do an assortment. “I go chronologically through history,” he said.

The concert began with an introduction from Evans about the time period of music to the audience. He explained how some songs have words, others only have a line or two that have survived, or have no words at all.

Before each piece, Evans provided information about its origin and elaborated on what the song was about.

Throughout the concert, performers were not afraid to start over or take a breather if they made a mistake or needed to calm down. Evans said during the introduction, “concert mistakes may happen and they are welcome.”

During the performance of  “Miss Bailey’s Ghost” from the Broadsheet Ballad, whose origin is London in 1804, vocalist Timothy Gage and Evans on lute invited the audience to sing along to the chorus.

Ascher, who closed the show with her performance on the piccolo, said she loved Gage’s performance.

“It’s so much fun getting the audience involved in such a creative piece, not to mention the humorous lyrics,” Ascher said.

Old Russian folk tunes were also featured in the concert performed by Cole McCormick and Evans.

McCormick and Evans played old Russian instruments such as the domra, a triangular shaped string instrument of the lute family and the balalaika, a guitarlike triangular shaped string instrument.

Before their performance of “The Little Birch Tree” and “Katiusha” Evans chuckled as he joked to the audience, “never trust a triangular instrument.”

An audience member, Alison Fletcher, 23, a local farmer from Gardiner, said she studied early music at a college in Texas and was curious to see what the early music scene was like at New Paltz.

“I really love Joel Evans lute playing, it was really beautiful,” she said.

According to Ascher, Collegium Musicum is like no other concert on this campus.

“We focus on learning new pieces from the Baroque period. We learn how to sing in new languages, how to play new (but really old) instruments and new repertoire,” Ascher said.

Rosemarie Williams, a New Paltz resident who has been to around 15 of these concerts was enthusiastic about the performances.

“[I loved] everything. The costumes, performance, enthusiasm, humor and their very inviting, warm and welcoming atmosphere,” Williams said.