June 16th, 2007
I’m in Boston, having just spent four days at the Boston Early Music Festival. My brother Gavin, director of the Princeton Early Keyboard Center, rented an exhibitor’s room—basically a hotel room from which the beds have been removed—where he displayed his oldest harpsichords (one made in London in 1785, one made in Italy in the late 17th century). Visitors to the room were encouraged to play on the instruments, and many did.
It wasn’t just a display, though. Gavin also produced something like fifteen half-hour musical recitals, involving himself, me, and various musical colleagues and friends. The result was that Room 921 at the Radisson was a hot-spot of wonderful performances and presentations. Highlights included:
- Baroque music performed by its composer, Grant Colburn (unusual at an early music event!)
- John Thompson performing on the qin (pronounced ‘chin’), a Chinese instrument, with Gavin playing clavichord selections to complement the pieces
- John Burkhalter discussing the Neff manuscript, a one-of-a-kind handwritten collection of pieces, dating from late 18th century Pennsylvania and belonging to John
- Two recitals by the baroque group Col Legno, of which I am a member
And there was more. Room 921 was, as Gavin and I said to each other almost simultaneously when we were discussing it afterwards, a festival within a festival. Congratulations to Gavin for producing these four days of music, and thanks to everyone who participated and everyone who came to hear us.
I also spent a lot of time looking at the exhibit halls, where there were lots of instrument makers and sheet music sellers. There were not as many cellos as I would have liked; in fact, I only saw three. Viols seem to rule at this event, and the violin family is mainly represented by the smaller instruments. I guess it’s understandable, since the makers have to lug the instruments to the festival… but I still would have liked to have seem more baroque cellos. There were a lot of bowmakers on hand, though, and that was interesting.