Nothing terribly exciting has been going on, but I have some cheery highlights from this month as May draws to a close. I mentioned in my 2022 in Review that I’d joined the Collegium Musicum, Grinnell’s early music ensemble, this academic year. I have been playing the bass viol (viola da gamba). At the beginning of May, the St. Paul-based Baroque ensemble Flying Forms came to campus to give a concert, as well as a series of lessons, master classes, and workshops for Collegium members. We in the viol ensemble enjoyed a workshop with Flying Forms’ cellist and gambist (that’s the same person), though I did not personally feel very coachable (pretty sure my musical abilities–at least the cello-related ones–peaked around my senior year of high school/first year of college).
The concert on Saturday evening was fun; Flying Forms was joined by a local mezzo-soprano who has been teaching voice at the college but who is moving out of state this summer. The program was a mix of vocal and instrumental pieces. The concert opener was Henry Purcell’s “Music for a While,” which I first encountered thanks to The New York Times’ 5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Baroque Music feature (I already loved Baroque music). My initial parse of the title was parallel to music for a party or music for a birthday. You know, music for a while. But grammatically it’s actually Music, for a while, shall all your cares beguile, which really makes more sense. Anyway, it’s kind of a weird piece, though appropriate to begin a concert, and I don’t think I was the only audience member seized by the urge to laugh by the fifth or sixth repetition of drop (in case you’re wondering, it’s snakes that are dropping).
My favorite part of the concert was the very end, and to explain why, I have to go back. When I was leaving for the performing arts center, I wondered vaguely whether the evening’s program might include Handel’s “Flammende Rose,” a song I like very much. After all, it was a Baroque ensemble performing with a mezzo-soprano. I arrived at the auditorium, found a seat, and opened the program to find that it listed a different one of Handel’s nine German arias. Ah, well. At the end of the concert, I had a feeling there would be an encore; it just felt like the right context for one (fairly intimate concert, the singer’s last local appearance…). The musicians filed back on stage, and the mezzo-soprano announced that the encore would be…”Flammende Rose”! I was delighted. And it was splendid. I came to know this aria through music listening in high school, and it was wonderful to hear it performed live. (A week later I got to tell the mezzo-soprano all of this at a party, but I digress.) Shortly after the concert, there was a reception at the local wine bar, which ended up being more of a small gathering in which I was the only amateur musician. It was a fun time, though.
The following weekend was our concert. The viol ensemble, along with a four-member choir and a countertenor, performed Orlando Gibbons’ “This is the Record of John.” This was my favorite piece we played all year. My parents came to the concert since it’s one of my mother’s favorite musical works too. The countertenor was my student in introductory linguistics a year ago, and he has an amazing voice. At the concert, I also played (in ensembles) a Byrd pavan and galliard and a paven by William Lawes (whom I hadn’t heard of before we got the music). The Lawes was the first piece in which I had to shift on viola da gamba.
About another week later was Commencement. I did not march this year or last (someday!), but I still enjoyed seeing some of my students graduate. The Class of 2023 were first-years when I arrived at Grinnell, so I’d taught some of them in their and my very first semester. Also, three first-year students in that first Intro to Linguistics class I taught eventually declared concentrations in Linguistics, and I taught all three of them this semester–their last–in a sort of capstone class!
This past weekend was the Midwest Morris Ale (an event I have previously mentioned in passing). My friend David and I went to Minnehaha Falls to catch the mass Morris dancing. I recognized a number of people from contra dancing and shape note singing and such, and I got to say hello to a college classmate who dances with one of the sides attending the ale.
Finally, my brother’s housemate adopted a kitten recently, and I got to meet him! He’s so tiny.