Getting lost in acrylic trees and the soft, warm tones of oil paintings is a fun way to pass the time on cold winter days, especially when walking outside is enough to melt even the sturdiest of souls. There is more to the Renaissance and art history than just painting and sculpture, but it isn’t always easily accessible. The Utah Museum of Fine Arts in collaboration with the University of Utah Early Music Ensemble have created a series of concerts in the museum itself to showcase other artforms of long lost eras.
Nov. 29 marked the final concert of the Chamber Music Series for this year — though they will begin again in Feb. 2018 — as well as marked the grand finale by inviting Dance Balletti to perform.
Small, black fold-out chairs were lined in neat rows in the middle of the hall facing musicians and singers dressed all in black and dancers wearing traditional Renaissance garb. Programs rested on seats waiting for guests to peruse the setlist and get a feeling of the gallery and the performance to come. After opening remarks from Lisa Chaufty — recorderist and ensemble director — guests were invited to explore the gallery as music wafted through the air to create an unparalleled experience.
The concert started out strong, the beauty of the Great Hall is not only aesthetically pleasing but great for acoustics and the resounding voices of Aerin Lund, Garrett Medlock and John Bergquist danced throughout the room with the pleasant notes played by their accompaniment in “Madonna, io son un medico perfetto.” Lund then showcased the extent of her angelic voice while Rachel Miles and Darlene Castro played delicate melodies on the baroque flute and guitar in the most beautiful aria of the night.
The director of Dance Balletti, Carly Schaub, quickly explained how dancers in Italy at the time of the Renaissance communicated the most common dances of the time to others through dance manuals. Dance manuals outlined each step of a dance in a short paragraph that would later have to be translated into physical movement by the dancers. She and her group, comprised of two men and four women, then performed a number of dances as the Early Music Ensemble played.
While the program recommended paintings to explore as the ensemble played, just listening to them was an experience in and of itself. It was inspiring to see musicians taking instruments many people today may take advantage of or discount — like the recorder — and playing them in ways a majority of people have forgotten. Chaufty played a short solo, “Excusemoy,” that brought beauty to an instrument I learned as a child. Giving the recorder ethereal and enchanting qualities that changed the way I thought about the recorder as an instrument.
The most amazing part of the entire performance, however, was that each person participating in the University of Utah Early Music Ensemble was there as a participant in a class held here at the U under the same name. Accepting students and members of the community, the ensemble’s goal is to share music from the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque periods with the musicians themselves and the community.
Mark your calendar for February to take a moment to explore a new art form or just bask in the elegance of well-played music with a visit to the UMFA’s Chamber Music Series.