Old music made a comeback at the Yale Collegium Musicum’s concert, “Politics as Usual: Five Centuries of Politics and Music.”
The concert, which took place in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, featured politically themed music from the 14th to 18th centuries. Directed by Grant Herreid, a lecturer at the Yale School of Music, the Collegium Musicum specializes in music from the 15th to 18th century, and many of the 35 primarily undergraduate musicians and vocalists play replicas of instruments from this time period such as the lute, the wooden flute, an early version of the guitar and the harpsichord.
Roughly 60 people attended the event, which included pieces in English, German, Latin and French.
“I’ve always been drawn to earlier music because of the sleuthing required to discover what instruments are appropriate for a certain repertory and how the instruments are played,” Herreid said. “The music itself always has a freshness and intimacy that you don’t find in orchestral music.”
The concert based its musical pieces on a timeline of political events in early European history, including political scandals in 14th century France, political patronage in 15th- and 16th-century Italy, the Thirty Years’ War in Germany and the 1649 execution of Charles I in England. Concertgoer Jane Lohrová ’16 said that it was enjoyable to hear songs that talked about the history of Bohemia and Prague since she herself is from the Czech Republic.
The concert ended on what Herreid described as a happy note with the song, “When the king enjoys his own again,” which celebrated the restoration of the English monarchy following the English Civil War. Herreid invited audience participation in singing the song with the group.
Herreid, who chooses a vast majority of the group’s repertoire, picked the political theme for the concert over the summer.
“Back in August, I was just thinking that after the election, it would be a timely concert, and it turned out to be a little more appropriate than most of us thought,” said Herreid.
The Yale Collegium Musicum comprises mostly undergraduate students, many of which are in Herreid’s semesterlong class, “The Performance of Early Music.” However, many students, like Ariadne Lih ’17, assistant director of the group and a music major, have participated in the group for several semesters.
“What I really love about the Collegium is that the focus is really on discovery for everyone involved,” Lih said. “You get people, who, like me, already have exposure to this music, but you also get a lot of people who haven’t been exposed to early music before and who want to try new things and are curious. Everyone is discovering along the way.”
Abigail Cipparone ’19, a first-year singer for the group, said that her favorite part of being in the Collegium is getting to hear all the new instruments and discovering how they interact with the voice.
Others highlighted the ensemble’s tradition of maintaining themes throughout its concerts. Lohrová, who has been to several Collegium concerts during her time at Yale, said that she enjoys how all the Collegium concerts revolve around their own motifs. Similarly, Cipparone said that she found the specific theme of politics to be especially relevant.
“I think it’s pretty timely, which is nice,” Cipparone said. “I know a lot of people who do music with me … try to take the opportunity to enjoy music and revel in it, especially now, because music is such a way to bring people together despite their differences.”
The Collegium Musicum will have two more concerts in the spring semester.