Arcadia Players - New England's Period Instrument Ensemble
Listen to Gregory Hayes play Tombeau de Mr. de Chambonnieres by Henri D’Anglebert HERE:
Arcadia Players embraces
practice to illuminate
and invigorate the
great Western heritage
of vocal and
MEET THE (ARCADIA) PLAYERS
Board member Arthur F. Kinney is Thomas W. Copeland Professor of Literary History Emeritus at UMass Amherst. He was the founder and first Director of the UMass Renaissance Center and the Bachelor of Independent Studies program. He edits the international journal English Literary Renaissance and the book series Studies in Early Modern Culture for UMass Press.
How were you introduced to music?
My life in music began when I started piano lessons on a used baby grand my parents managed to buy in the Depression. I learned by reading music, not by ear, and got as far as Gershwin's score for “Rhapsody in Blue.” In public high school in Cortland, New York, I played violin in the orchestra and French horn in the concert band. I also played piano part-time for a local adult jazz band where my shining moment was the opening solo for "Take the A Train."
At Syracuse University I played in the marching band, culminating in an appearance in a nationally televised Orange Bowl game where we lost to Alabama, 66-6!
What brought you to our area? How does your interest in music intersect with your work as a scholar?
I went on in English at Michigan where I wrote my first books and lectures that taught me a keen awareness of literature as fundamentally better understood to be a cultural phenomenon deeply affected by history, philosophy, social and political thought, and expressed in the arts.
In the 1960s – at the time I was a senior Research Fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington – the University of Massachusetts offered me the Directorship of a Renaissance Center, which I gladly accepted. I was free to define what the new center would be, and my initial objective was to establish a “Folger North.”
Fortunately, I was able to secure the Dakin house for the project! It was a recent gift to the UMass campus, and the house and its 26 acres of land became a tantalizing lure to establish a truly Renaissance Center to study the interdisciplinary culture of that rich period. We set out to explore the era through books, art, lectures, concerts, newsletter profiles and stories, meadow walks and trails, gardens and an orchard, and to bring them all alive in an authentic way. Naturally, music of the Renaissance was central to our plan, and we soon launched a Sunday concert series that has been very popular for decades.
What music speaks to you in a special way?
My favorites then and now are Monteverdi and Tallis; with Arcadia Players it is the annual “Messiah” and Purcell.
How did you become associated with Arcadia Players?
It was a natural fit, since we both sought to illuminate the artistic expression of the Renaissance, especially given AP’s interest in the recovery of authentic early music instrumentation. I approached AP for smaller concerts as well as lectures and exhibits, and they not only supported all of these efforts but also kindly invited me to visit, and then join, the board. It is a vital part of my life, even in post-retirement.
Visit the Renaissance Center website:
(Greg is a member of the AP board)
1. How did you become associated with Arcadia Players, and what attracted you to early music?
I’ve played (harpsichord and organ) in many Arcadia Players concerts over the years, and have attended almost all of AP’s presentations. As a young pianist I had a goodly helping of Bach. As a teenager (it may have been in eighth grade) I heard my first recording of a harpsichord (it may have been Ralph Kirkpatrick, or perhaps Sylvia Marlowe). I was hooked. I just loved the sound.
2. What would you say to potential concertgoers to encourage them to try period-instrument performances?
I came of concert-going and CD-listening age in the early days of the period-instrument movement in early music, and what I heard opened my ears—I realized that Vivaldi was not just “sewing-machine music” after all! Revelations can come in more recent music, too: several years ago, I had the privilege of playing Debussy on an 1893 Erard piano, and I learned a lot from hearing his music as he heard it--it helped me shape my interpretation. Period-instrument performance can make us experience even familiar music in new ways.
3. Have you ever experienced a musical disaster?
Many years ago I was part of a concert featuring a superb English violinist; I was playing harpsichord. The concert was designed as a benefit but also as a community-outreach event that included some local student musicians, one of whom was a percussionist. Because of scheduling challenges, no run-through of the entire program had been possible.
The first piece was “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (played by the “pros”). The first movement went smoothly. The second movement, according to the poetic text that appears in Vivaldi’s score, depicts the falling rain, beginning with an elegant violin solo accompanied by pizzicato strings. Unfortunately—but memorably—the student percussionist mistook this for the beginning of the second piece on the program, a medley entitled “The Festive Sounds of Hanukkah”—which included, a few measures in, a fortissimo snare-drum solo. The young player began this with great enthusiasm. This came as a surprise to all of us, including the soloist, who instantaneously stopped playing and doubled over in laughter. The rest of us soldiered on for a moment or two, until the second snare-drum solo came, sounding a little less authoritative than the first. Eventually we all ground to a halt. The young drummer was embarrassed but he recovered—and we all got through the rest of the concert. I don’t remember what else we played, but I do remember that we were all smiling.
4. What composer’s music speaks to you in a special way? Why?
Johann Sebastian Bach, of course—but what baroque musician would say otherwise? And many others: for sheer, if sometimes subtle, variety, Georg Philipp Telemann; for his dramatic sense and deft setting of text, Heinrich Schütz. And there’s Johann Theile. (I spent two years creating a performing edition of his wonderful St. Matthew Passion; it was the first Arcadia production to be displaced by the coronavirus.)
5. Is there any musical event in the last eight months that epitomizes for you the strangeness of these times?
I teach piano students at Dartmouth; some of them are in-person and others remote. The students who are not currently on campus—about half of the student body—are for the most part currently living at home.
I have one student who’s at home in Kazakhstan. Our weekly internet connection thus far has been very reliable. But in the middle of one recent session it broke off…and then resumed a few minutes later. My student explained that the ongoing social unrest in neighboring Kyrgyzstan was causing periodic internet outages in Kazakhstan! To me this was a bizarre but memorable intersection of the microcosmic (my iPad screen in Hanover) and the macrocosmic (political unrest halfway around the world).