Project Proposal Update

My project on the Governor’s Musick ensemble in Colonial Williamsburg hinges a great deal on first hand research, through collecting oral histories with members of the ensemble. I have contacted Professor Tom Marshall, former long-time member, who has agreed to speak with me about my research. I am hoping to interview at least two of the current members of the ensemble. I am most interested in how the group has evolved over the last (nearly) 75 years of its existence. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has worked to present a very professional image of its programming, and is one of the few organizations left that still employs a truly resident ensemble. How has the changing attitude toward historical performance affected this ensemble? Where do they see its future? Lance Pedigo has also agreed to provide information on historical musicianship and the role of music in Colonial Williamsburg.

The biggest challenge facing my project is that there is very little scholarship already on historically accurate early music ensembles, or resident ensembles in general. I am planning to speak with Professors Ruth Griffioen and Anne Rasmussen on these ideas to hopefully have some more background. I have also started exploring the Early Music America magazine online, which has information on early music’s presence in a modern world.

I have found a few other examples of resident music ensembles. The Folger Consort is a resident ensemble at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. This ensemble has a similarly long (though not quite as impressive) tenure at its institution, playing for over 30 years. The group plays music from the twelfth through eighteenth centuries, but seems to be made up of a “core” of only two musicians, joined often by guest artists. The Newberry Consort is affiliated with the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies in Chicago, serves as an ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, but also travels across the country.

My plan to move ahead involves spending some quality time at the Rockefeller Library in Colonial Williamsburg, studying the institutional history of music here. I have set aside a day of spring “break” to research how Colonial Williamsburg has presented this ensemble through audio, film, and text over the years. As soon as I have contact information, I will start reaching out to more potential interviewees, with the hope of collecting oral histories around the end of March. I think that the information I receive from these might further direct my research in secondary sources.


About

The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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