Since the 1960s, Amherst Early Music has been transporting amateur and professional musicians a few hundred years into our musical past.
To Amherst, a nonprofit that bills itself as the largest presenter of early music workshops in North America, the cutoff to “early music” is 1750, when Baroque-period composer Johann Sebastian Bach died. With beautifully crafted woodwinds such as flutes and recorders, strings including viols and lutes, as well as choral groups and historical dances, the organization keeps this era of music alive. Within the spirit of composing, creating and community, amateur and pre-professional musicians hone their craft during several weekend retreats, workshops and festivals, including a massive two-week festival in July at Connecticut College in New London.
A Memorial Day series of workshops at Litchfield’s Wisdom House included ensembles of about 50 members, including faculty. In July, the numbers will multiply at Connecticut College for two full weeks (July 14-21; July 21-28) for Amherst Early Music’s largest event of the year. The festival offers instruction for musicians, dancers and singers, as well as assorted performances, concerts and lectures open to the public. An exhibition brings together instrument makers, music shops and experimental projects. “There is something for everyone,” Executive Director Marilyn Boenau says.