Finding music in unlikely places
When Tim and Vicky Nelson built a new shop on their farm a few years ago, hosting a concert featuring classical baroque music was probably the furthest thing from their minds.
Yet, on a cool fall evening last Saturday night that is exactly what happened.
The Complete Gamba Sonatas by Johann Sebastian Bach was presented to a small crowd in a comfortable heated shop. It was a backdrop that made for a cozy, intimate setting.
The musicians for the evening were Tulio Rondn and Tami Morse.
Rondn performed on the viola da gamba. A viol is a bowed string instrument. Similar to the cello, the viol, or viola da gamba, is played between the legs (hence the name viola da gamba, literally ‘leg-viol’).
The viola da gamba comes from the Renaissance and Baroque period. It was popular in small groups playing in small venues.
The sound produced by the viol is often described as a sweeter sound, quieter than that of violins, violas, or cellos. When larger ensembles became more commonplace, with concerts being performed in larger halls, the viola da gamba lost its popularity.
Those attending the concert also learned other differences between the violin family and the viol family. The violin family has four strings, the viol family has six or seven strings. The viola da gamba has frets like a guitar.
One other difference is the way the bow is held. An underhand grip is used when playing the viola da gamba compared to an overhand grip for a cello.
The instrument that Morse played in the performance is also quite unique. It is a 2018 Klinkhamer harpsichord, modeled after the Colmar Ruckers harpsichord from 1624. It is the only instrument voiced in bird quill that can be heard publicly in the state of Minnesota.
Like the viola da gamba, the harpsichord was widely used in Renaissance and Baroque music.
The shape of a harpsichord and piano are very similar. They both produce sound by pressing keys with your fingers. They are, however, very different instruments.
The piano produces sound by hammers striking strings causing them to vibrate. A harpsichord’s sound comes from plucking strings with plectrums and vibrating them. A piano has a single keyboard but a harpsichord may have a single or a double keyboard.
The piano is a relatively new instrument with the first ones being built in the late 1700s. The harpsichord is believed to have been invented during the 15th century.
Morse teaches harpsichord at Augsburg University. She also performs regularly with the Minnesota Bach Ensemble, the Big Apple Baroque Band, the Lyra Baroque Orchestra, the Bach Society of Minnesota, and with the Mount Olive Bach Tage Orchestra.
Morse is a fiscal year 2018 recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
Rondn performs throughout the United States, Europe, and North and South America as a soloist and chamber musician. A native of Venezuela, he started his professional life early as principle cellist of the Aragua Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela, which he helped found at the age of fifteen. Rondn is currently the primary cello professor at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire.
So how did these two talented musicians end up performing in a farm shop about 10 miles east of Blue Earth on a damp October evening?
Tim and Vicky’s daughter-in-law, Seulgee Nelson, is a harpsichord player who just happens to know Tami Morse. The grant that Morse received requires that a certain number of concerts be given during the year. The concert at the Nelson farm was the third of eight total concerts that the duo will be giving through December of this year.
Those attending the concert were able to interact freely with the musicians both during the intermission during the performance and at a reception following the concert. While the local people learned more about the music, the instruments and the musicians’ backgrounds, the musicians were interested to hear about the people who came to watch them play.
Morse and Rondn both stated that they would love to return and give another performance on the farm sometime in the future.
For more information on their concert schedule you can visit: Minnesota-gamba-tour.carrd.co.