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History

How Early Music Week at World Fellowship came to be...


left to right: Jane Hershey, Jay Rosenberg, Christopher Greenleaf, Chris Rua, Julian Cole, Larry Wallach

In the early 1990s, family visits to World Fellowship lodged an insistent “what if” in my mind. A stream of music-related experiences, especially enjoyable conversations about music with then co-directors Kit & Christoph Schmauch, began to suggest a need, then a realistic solution. Like many of their summer visitors, the Schmauchs yearned for regular, serious music making during the long WFC season. They also felt that introducing an extended cultural element would leaven the organization’s unvaryingly socio-political agenda, and that it would do so healthily and enjoyably. In July of 1995, we chewed over the notion of an early music week that would embrace teaching and performances, with a view to vigorously stirring the richly diverse World Fellowship melting pot in new, no doubt controversial ways. That October, the Board agreed. After finding more good things to say about this novel notion than many of them had anticipated, they broke with WFC tradition in two unprecedented ways: Allocation of a budget for faculty compensation, and approval of an additional fee for program participants. With much wondering as to what would come of such a  departure, Early Music Week became a part of the 1996 season.

I asked colleagues and friends to recommend performers who were well-thought-of teachers in the field, and who could bring humor and flexibility to the task. World Fellowship’s fluid humanist environment, not to mention possible resistance to the introduction of a non-socio-political program, meant that each member of the faculty must possess advanced people skills. Privately, I also cast about for musicians capable of awakening a sense of delight through everything they did.

That first time, in June of 1996, Jane Hershey and Larry Wallach pulled together repertoire, hurriedly sourced scores and parts, evaluated participants, and — with no visible terror — threw themselves into simply wonderful performances. Larry’s Big Blue Cembalo made its first trip from the Berkshires to WFC’s nightmare tuning environment, participants and teachers quickly arrived at a harmonious game plan for the week, and the general camp population were startled by the new stimulus and audible delights. As our first week headed toward its end, vigorous discussion of a practical, sustainable future began. This conversation has never stopped.

I participated in Early Music Week formally for ten years, then stepped aside. The momentum and really good personnel were clearly in place. Today’s faculty have taken EMW places we could not have dreamed of in 1995. Our early-summer slot — typically, just ahead of Independence Day — is now an institution at World Fellowship, with a gratifyingly high percentage of return participants and a welcome number of music-loving adherents who schedule part of each summer around it.

Our old dream has legs, it seems.

—  Christopher Greenleaf

 

Christopher Greenleaf
founder, occasional lecturer

Christopher’s freelance career as a recording engineer, translator, writer, and acoustic consultant began at college (Indiana University; Université de Strasbourg; Universität Hamburg). He works mostly in the US Northeast, with forays to the Carolinas, California, Japan, Mexico, and Western Europe. His specialty is collaboration with artists on the development and practical execution of their album and concert concepts. He works in music-friendly spaces, never in studios, and has become known for quiet, unbudging insistence on recording in natural acoustics. Albums on Hyperion, Naxos, Dorian, Centaur, Music & Arts, CRI, and other labels disseminate his session recordings, annotations, and translations worldwide. Since 1995, Christopher has produced his Recording Symposia for Performers & Composers in English, French, and German at music schools and conservatories on three continents. He is an irregular contributor to the Boston Musical Intelligencer, a classical blog, and cheerfully makes his home on the  coastal flood plain of Rhode Island.