A romantic concert at the Bloomington Courthouse will feature unusual instruments


Kisses are best in February; music is best heard live. Add songs about kissing to a group of instruments perhaps never before heard in Bloomington, and a concert of lovers will break out at 4:30 p.m. on February 6 at the Monroe County Courthouse.

A song cycle concert, “Colin’s Kisses”, will include three love instruments – these are the ones that are rarely heard together – flute d’amore, oboe d’amore and viola d’amore. They, accompanied by a countertenor, will carry the melodies, accompanied by a harpsichord and a consort of viola da gamba. The concert is a collaboration between the Indianapolis music group Alchemy Viols (which has ties to Bloomington) and Bloomington musicians.

“This is a combination of rarely heard instruments, and this is probably the first time these three instruments will be heard together in Bloomington,” said Leighann Daihl Ragusa, Baroque Flute Competitions Coordinator for the National Flute. Association. She received a grant from the Bloomington Arts Commission to organize the concert and also plays the flute d’amore. She owns one of the only love flutes in the United States.

A viola d'amore.

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“Most people don’t know what they are,” she said. “My mission is to bring them back.” They are not alto flutes but they are similar.

Alchemy Viols takes its name from the medieval beginnings of modern chemistry and supports combining elements that are not normally considered to go together. Alchemy once meant a mystical transformation. Today’s Alchemy Viols brings together world-renowned violinists, and they perform with other ensembles to create new sounds.

The Scottish Baroque songs in the concert on February 6 come mainly from a collection published in 1743 by James Oswald entitled “Colin’s Kisses”. Representing the different types of kisses, the titles to perform include “The Meeting Kiss”, “The Secret Kiss”, “The Reconciling Kiss”. And there are more.

James Oswald was an 18th century Scottish cellist, composer and arranger who also published music. In 1761 King George III appointed Oswald as chamber composer, but he also wrote variations on Scottish folk tunes.

“Before, there was a greater variety of musical instruments,” Phill Spray, director of Alchemy Viol and alumnus of Indiana University, said over the phone. With the arrival of the French Academy and, later, of the modern symphony, Spray says that certain instruments faded away.

An oboe d'amore.

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A French organization originally intended to standardize literary quality, the Académie française (French Academy) came into existence in 1634, inspired by Cardinal Richelieu. It still persists today, having stopped during the period of the French Revolution.

The February 6 concert is a first, and Spray said Ragusa wanted to combine the viola da gamba with the three love instruments.

“Historically, this type of gig hasn’t been done,” Spray said. “By the 1700s, the viola da gamba consort had kind of died out, by the time these three love instruments were popular.”

The musicians are Wendy Gillespie, Joanna Blendulf and Phil Spray on viola da gamba, Leighann Daihl Ragusa on flute d’amore, Sarah Huebsch Schilling on oboe d’amore and Martie Perry on viola d’amore. Hsuan Chang Kitano will play harpsichord and the countertenor is Thomas Aláan.

A viola da gamba.

If you are going to

WHAT: “Colin’s Kisses”, a concert on the theme of love with a countertenor and an unusual mixture of instruments.

WHEN: 4:30 p.m. on February 6.

OR: Monroe County Courthouse, Upstairs, 100 W. Kirkwood Ave.

COST: To free.

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