Collegium, Gamelan offer unique performance opportunities

Photo by Jaimee Pineda

Collegium, Gamelan offer unique performance opportunities

Students from all academic backgrounds perform music from around the world and throughout time in the Collegium Musicum and Gamelan ensembles. Collegium, a small ensemble, specializes in music that was composed up until 1750. Gamelan is a traditional 21-instrument ensemble with roots in Java, Indonesia. These two ensembles had a joint performance on Friday, Dec. 2 in the Music Box.

The Collegium ensemble performs medieval, renaissance, and baroque music. On Friday, the ensemble performed works all composed by women written from eleventh to the sixteenth century. Ten students played instruments including harpsichord, chamber organ, baroque violin, baroque viola, recorder, cello, guitar and voice.

Senior music composition and musicology major Zachariah Thomas took a music history course several years ago for a degree requirement. During the course, he found early music particularly fascinating.

“Getting to hear it as a composer immediately piqued my interest,” he said. “I have a soft spot for history, as well.”

Thomas has been a performing member of the Collegium ensemble (organ and voice) ever since.

While the Collegium existed before director Lindsay Johnson arrived to UMBC last year, she brought her own interests and experiences to the ensemble. She has several antique instruments such as crumhorns, for example, in her office and hopes that enough students will express interest such that they can be used in future ensembles. Johnson also made the performance a requirement for enrolled students.

“I teach [Collegium] every semester and it’s important to me that we perform every semester,” she said.

Gamelan, which literally translates to “orchestra,” is a traditional ensemble hailing from Java, a large Indonesian island. While individual instruments vary with each group, UMBC’s ensemble consists 21 instruments including suspended gongs, metallophones, drums and a string instrument. Instructor Gina Beck has been teaching since the 1990s, but this fall is only the second semester UMBC has offered gamelan.

Students adhere to traditional practices including removing shoes before playing and remaining seated on the ground while playing the instruments in a respectful manner. Students are never to step over the instruments, but must always move around them.  The people of Java have historically believed that spirits inhabit the individual instruments and the ensemble as a whole.

Students may enroll in MUSC 300, a two-credit performance studies course, or ASIA 300, in which students are required to write a paper on the culture of the Javanese people.

Junior Global Studies and English major Rebecca Haddaway enrolled in gamelan in Spring 2016, the first semester it was offered, in order to satisfy an elective requirement for her Global Studies degree. She enrolled again this past spring in MUSC 300.

“I find the practice of playing to be great and really relaxing,” she said. Since this is her second semester, she has been able learn some of the more difficult instruments in the ensemble: “I enjoy learning the other instruments. When you’re playing in a gamelan, you never stop learning.”