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NGI Recipient: Andrew Ivarson

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - Early Music Week (2019)

I would like to thank CDSS, Pinewoods Camp, and the NGI Scholarship Fund donors for supporting my attendance to Early Music Week this past summer. I left with a lot of truly special memories, especially of people I connected with there.

I joined the camp planning to join the Accademia, an advanced vocal group. In the weeks leading up to the camp, Michael Barrett, the director of the vocal portion of Accademia, emailed me and the other singers to let us know what we will be singing: The Tears of St. Peter by Orlando di Lasso. From this moment on I knew Pinewoods would be special. This heart-wrenching set of twenty-one sacred madrigals has been on my bucket list, and we were going to sing them one-to-a-part.

In the Accademia, we sung exclusively from parts, rather than scores as singers usually do. This was very difficult for all of us, but through the difficulty it helped us grow as musicians by forcing us to train our most important muscles, our ears. This was a break-through for me.

Along with our counting and note-reading needing to be top-notch, we also needed to be more aware of the music around us than ever before. Usually we can just look at the score, see a cadence, and hear it go by. Score reading takes a simple thing to hear and turns it into a complicated thing to read and produce. When we were on point and paying close attention, those cadences, where all we used were our ears, were some of the best I have ever sung. I will spend a long time trying to reproduce that level of musicality with others. Perhaps I’d better follow Michael Barrett’s lead and only give our parts, instead of scores from now on!

Dancing classes provided a way to connect with people that truly surprised me. Looking someone in the eye while doing a two-hand turn was definitely something weird and uncomfortable before attending this camp. Through our extensive practice regiment of three hours per day, and the wonderful instruction of the dance teachers, Jan, Nikki, and Graham, I discovered for myself what a fascinating connection you build with people by striving to maintain eye contact or express yourself in other ways while dancing. I really don’t know how to describe this feeling yet. It’s liberating, humbling, and different for every dance partner. I also loved the beautiful patterns that comprise English Country Dance. I bet my wife will love it, and I can’t wait to take her out dancing, or try to get her to Pinewoods.

On skit night I had the opportunity to narrate the story of The Three Little Pigs translated into early Middle English. Its new title was Ða ?rie smale swyne. Susan Matsui was the translator and organized almost the entire cast, staging, and music that went with the show. I’ve been secretly hoping to perform in Middle English for a long time. Meeting Susan, who is an expert in many other things outside of Middle English, was just serendipitous. We are planning to bring the production together again for a concert in Amherst, MA this coming fall.

These experiences, while nice, really fall short of the magic at Pinewoods. Walking around to hear medieval jams happening, krumhorn rehearsals, English country dance tunes, in the middle of those serene woods along the tranquil ponds was just heart-warming and special in so many ways. I hope I can continue training my ears, connecting with people through dancing, and performing in Middle English. I also dearly hope to return to Pinewoods and CDSS Early Music Week. Soon.