Director of the Center for the Arts Pamela Tatge discusses the New England premiere of the concert “Music at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello” with Wesleyan Professor of Music Neely Bruce.
Wesleyan Professor of Music Neely Bruce played in an extraordinary concert in the summer of 2011 at the Caramoor International Festival—it brought to the stage the Baroque instruments that would have been played in the mansion at Monticello (harpsichord, Baroque cello and violin) and the fife, fiddle and banjo that would have been played in the slaves’ quarters. It was an astonishing program, curated by Paul Woodiel, a three time winner of the New England Fiddle Contest and a former private lessons teacher at Wesleyan (and great colleague of ours).
On Friday night, Music at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello comes to Wesleyan! Neely Bruce will give a pre-concert talk at 7:15pm and walk the audience through the program (which includes works by Corelli, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart; martial music from Camp Dupont; and traditional songs and tunes including “Barbara Allen” and “The Gal I Left Behind Me”). There’s a fantastic moment after intermission where two groups will play the same tune, Haydn’s “The White Cockade”: one group will play it on harpsichord, Baroque cello and violin; the other on the fife, fiddle and banjo. The concert brings a number of virtuosi to the Crowell Concert Hall stage in addition to Mr. Bruce and Mr. Woodiel, among them: Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton (Neely tells me that 24 year-old Blind Boy doesn’t believe music exists after 1941, the year Jelly Roll Morton died!); Mazz Swift, a very cool violin/vox/freestyle composition artist who is also an accomplished singer and Julliard-trained violinist who has performed with the likes of Kanye West and Jay-Z; and Jennifer Hope Wills, who for nearly four years won audiences’ hearts as Christine in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.
The concert also features Dennis James and the first-ever appearance of a glass harmonica on the Crowell Concert Hall stage. Mr. James has recreated the instrument originally designed by Benjamin Franklin. We all know what it’s like to dip a finger in a glass and circle it around the rim until a sound is formed. That’s the operating principle of the glass harmonica, whereby spinning glass disks (bowls) on a common spindle are configured with the lower notes (larger disks) to the left, and higher notes (smaller disks) to the right. The shaft is turned by means of a foot pedal (now motorized), and the sound made by touching the rims of the bowls with moistened fingers. By the way, you are invited to attend a free lecture/demonstration on Saturday morning at 11am in Crowell Concert Hall, where you can see and learn about the instruments played in the concert [fiddle, fife, banjo, harpsichord, and glass harmonica] up close.
This anchor concert to our year-long exploration of Music and Public Life is absolutely not to be missed.
Music at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
New England Premiere
Friday, February 1, 2013 at 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$24 general public; $19 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Pre-performance talk at 7:15pm by Professor of Music Neely Bruce
Lecture/Demonstration: Instruments at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 11am
Crowell Concert Hall