Pearl Pirie is a local arts enthusiast who arrived in Ottawa about 20 years ago for university. She blogs about the city’s literary events — in both word and image. Her second full-length poetry collection is coming out this fall.
Last Thursday, we heard the Music at Noon concerts at First Baptist off of Elgin. For $5, each Thursday in June, you can hear people moonlight their musical expertise. It was Kevin James on Baroque Violin and James Calkin on a Harpsichord.
Having never seen that type of instrument before, it looked surprisingly like a piano with wooden keys but sounded more gentle. The strings are plucked with wood instead of struck. It is a far more pleasant sound than a piano or more pleasant to my ears than even a harp.
The baroque violin is a different instrument than one often used now with a heavier-ended bow and played across the strings going down only, not back and forth.
They played Sonata quinta by G.B Fontana (c. 1571-c.1631), Sonata quarta by J.H. Schmelzer (c. 1620-1680), Sonata in G (BWV 1019) by J.S. Bach (1685-1750) and Sonata seconda by Dario Castello (c. 1590-c. 1630). The first I very much enjoyed but the last one was my favorite. There was such a range in it and it sounded so much more lively and fresh than anything I’d heard in music in some time. Both according to the notes were in “stile nuovo” where composers where playing with polyphonic rules, exploring dissonance and improvisations.
People centuries later could play the same instruments, not know the first language of the composers — if that could be said to be Italian rather than music itself — and communicate directly. How much more would we stumble to try to directly hear the word from the 1600s? The poetry seems more obscured than the sound. Perhaps the music too would have resonated more fiercely with that time than now. I don’t know but what a marvelous town that we can just dip into a bit of history so it lives.
Thanks, Pearl! Anyone checking out today’s concert? It’s just a short stop from the National War Memorial, where the Royals will be laying a wreath at 2:35 p.m.