Thursday, February 9, 2012

Greek Music and Greek History

Making the Past Come Alive

Story by Bryce Lungren
Photos by Bryce Lungren and Linda Showman

On the afternoon of Friday, January 27, 2012, world-renowned performers Gayle and Philip Neuman entertained both seminarians and faculty at the Mount Angel Abbey Library auditorium.  The duo, who call themselves Ensemble de Organographia, played and sang their rendition of several music pieces of the ancient Greeks for an audience of over 40 people for about an hour.

Philip Neuman during the performance.
Gayle Neuman plays a two-person piece with Philip.
According to the Early Christian Music Guild of Oregon, the Neumans specialize in music of the Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and 19th century historical cultures.  The EMGO states that Ensemble de Organographia performs their music on authentic ancient instruments or faithful reproductions.

Ms. Linda Showman's History of Music class and Dr. Stewart King's Humanities class made up the majority of those in attendance.  The music played at the event was originally composed from 500 B.C. to 300 A.D.

Ms. Showman, who has been arranging the Neumans' concert at MAS since 2008, looks forward each year to their performance.  She believes that it benefits her students "to experience live music of the highest caliber."  Ms. Showman also said that this is an "opportunity for music of the distant past to come alive."

The Neumans prepare their instruments for the performance at Mount Angel Seminary.

The Neumans' performance was informative as well.  Between pieces Philip described what the written form of Greek music would have looked like.  He said that if the meter was correct and accurate the writers would often leave the rhythm out of the script.

Gayle often sang the Greek lyrics as she picked a trichordon (similar to a mandolin) with a feather or strummed a lyre.  Most of the songs would have been sung to invoke the Greek gods.  Philip pointed out that occasionally in the music there would be a divergence from the melody with a harmony.

Some of the Greek instruments played at the concert.
Most of the instruments the Neumans play on they have built themselves.  This is one of Gayle's favorite aspects of their musical profession, which has been full-time since 1975.  "I really love building the instruments," Gayle said.  Particularly the string instruments, she added.

More Greek instruments
At the time of the Neumans' concert, Ms. Showman's History of Music class was studying the development of music in ancient Greece and Rome.  The students not only study the different kinds of music in these eras, they also look at the philosophies behind them.

History of Music student Dean Marshall said that the performance was an "enlightening experience!"  Marshall's favorite part of the Neumans' concert was "the obvious joy and dedication they have for their craft."

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