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Early Music in Exile

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Christopher Burrus: Since 2022, Bloomington Early Music has presented its annual festival with a mission to explore underrepresented groups in musical culture and a theme two years ago, it was Celebrating Women in Early Music, then Arabia, Iberia and Latin America. This year, the festival is called Music in Exile

Dr. Carolann Buff: Exile is quite interesting because the performers have been very creative about the way they think about exile. Sometimes exile can be a literal exile, that you've been forcibly removed from a homeland, for instance. And so you might hear musicians who are escaping persecution of some sort or, you know, fleeing revolution. For instance, some, like French Baroque musicians who  fled France after the revolution, or even some musicians who left Haiti, which is kind of interesting. You think about Haiti being a site of revolution, but of course, significantly, the Haitian Revolution really. You know, had this sort of sense of exile. 

Christopher Burrus: That's Dr. Carolann Buff. She teaches choral conducting at Indiana University and is also an acclaimed performer and researcher in medieval and Renaissance music. 

Dr. Carolann Buff: I'm on the board of the Bloomington Early Music Festival, but I'm also a long time supporter. I performed on the festival many, many years ago and am also involved in the programming committee for the festival as well. 

Christopher Burrus: I spoke with Doctor Buff about some of the ensembles that would be performing at this year's festival, from Scotland to Afghanistan. The sheer variety of cultures represented is both surprising and exciting. 

Dr. Carolann Buff: I was really pleased to see that we're going to have a performance of kind of like Scottish, Irish music that ends up in North America, for instance, like music, traditional music of Nova Scotia for instance, and that to me seems like a really fun idea of, like, what does it mean to leave your homeland and what do you bring with you? And that kind of ties in also to some other elements we're going to see in our showcase performance. So we're going to have a local showcase performance of little snippets from various people from our community who are going to come and perform and we have a group of current exiles from Afghanistan who are a family of musicians and they're going to perform some Afghani music for us in that showcase and that's really exciting to have as part of a demonstration that, like this is kind of an ongoing feature that we do bring our music and culture with us from wherever we have, we have left. We're going to have a premier performance in the United States by a Spanish ensemble called Kantaria that's going to be the closing night of the festival and we're really looking forward to having them here. They're phenomenal vocal ensemble and performing music of 16th century sixteen and 17th century Spain. 

Christopher Burrus: The festival will also host educational workshops and activities, including the return of a popular favorite: Sword Fighting on the High Seas. These and a new presentation that is particularly enticing. 

Dr. Carolann Buff: A history of chocolate, which is about the discovery of chocolate in the so-called New World in Western Hemisphere and how that has its own history of change as it's transformed by European colonizers and settlers. And so we'll get a chance to taste some traditional chocolate, hot chocolate making as well as probably some more modern versions of that as well, and it all feels like it's kind of one of the same cloth, right? Historical music, but also kind of thinking about other ways that we have histories that transform culture around us, food or acting or sword fighting. I guess we don't do sword fighting, but you know. 

Christopher Burrus: [laughs]

Christopher Burrus: Is there anything else that you want to share about this year’s festival? 

Dr. Carolann Buff: Well, I have to say I'm really excited that we always get to prepare this for everyone, All of our events are for free. And so with the exception, I think of the Tavern hopping because the liquor costs a little bit more, but everything else is for free. So people should definitely take advantage of this, come to our concerts, come see our art exhibition by some people from Indianapolis who are recent immigrants from Afghanistan and from central Africa. The children made some amazing artworks. They will be on display. Come to sword fighting, all for free, offered by Bloomington Early Music Festival. 

Christopher Burrus: The Bloomington Early Music Festival presents Early music in Exile Sunday, May 19th through the 25th. You can see a full performance schedule at For Wfiu Arts, I'm Christopher Burrus.

pc: Bloomington Early Music

In 2022, Bloomington Early Music announced their new mission of exploring under-represented groups in musical culture. They presented a festival celebrating women in early music and followed that in 2023 with Arabia, Iberia & Latin America. This year, the theme of their festival is Early Music in Exile. In this conversation, Dr, Carolann Buff, a specialist in early music, professor at Indiana University and member of the board for Bloomington Early Music speaks about how the broadness of this year’s theme allows for a wide variety of musical offerings throughout the festival week. Audiences will hear 18th century dance music from Scotland, as musicians there experienced the “Highland Clearance.” Other programs will feature Afghan refugees coming to North America, and a French clarinetist fleeing revolutionary Paris.   

The festival will also see the return of several popular educational workshops, including Sword Fighting on the High Seas and Tavern Hopping Through Time, which will focus on rum as a complement to the theme of music in exile. New workshops will also be presented. Thursday’s Cocoa Crazy: Xocolatyl to Hot Chocolate is expected to be popular, as attendees take a tour through the history of the beans & beverage in the Americas from its earliest uses in indigenous Central American ritual to popular beverage adaptations by Europeans.

Bloomington Early Music Festival presents Music in Exile runs Sunday, May 19th through Saturday, May 25th. All concerts are free and open to the public. A full performance schedule is available at
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