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Consort takes listeners back in time

February 22, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- For a brief time Sunday afternoon, you could have felt you were living in Jonathan Hager's time.

That is if you had your eyes closed and let the sound of the recorder take you back to the time Hager founded Hagerstown.

A Museum Consort performance at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts focused on the recorder, which was "the prevailing flute at the time" when Hager founded Hagerstown, according to concert organizers.

The performance definitely harkened back to a different time and place as group members made their way through pieces crafted by composers from the 1500s to 1700s.

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Six musicians in the group produced a sound that was lighthearted and impassioned and an auditorium in the museum was full of spectators, some of whom were nodding in approval as they listened.

The "Pearls Are Gems, Too!" performance was to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Museum Consort.

According to a concert handout, the use of the recorder in Hagerstown had a rebirth in 1964, when members of the Hewitt and Comstock families began playing together.

The Elizabeth-towne Recorder Consort, named after Hager's original settlement, began playing in town that year, according to the handout.

Fifteen years later, the art museum invited the group's director to form the Washington County Museum Consort as a resident group performing four concerts annually at the museum, the handout said.

To help celebrate Sunday's 30th anniversary concert, the Museum Consort commissioned an associate professor of music at Hood College in Frederick, Md., to compose a piece.

Wayne L. Wold, who is also the college organist at Hood College, wrote "Pearl Suite" for Sunday's show.

Pearls are often associated with 30-year milestones and Wold's suite contains five movements.

Museum Consort members kept the performance varied, adding drums, a tambourine and a piano at times.

Group members had various recorders beside them, placed upright in racks.

Group member Brenda Slick said it was necessary to switch recorders because they can "become waterlogged" during performances.

Other instruments used included a contrabass, a tall, low-sounding instrument whose sound resembles that of an organ.

To help keep things lively, the group performed a Beatles medley.

That might seem incongruous to the rest of the music, said group member David Styer.

"Our audience doesn't seem to mind. Why not?" Styer said.

The group members then put their instruments down, stood up and sang a rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Williamsport resident Rita Doherty, who came to see the concert, left fulfilled. Especially since Doherty, a native of Ireland, was able to hear "The Snowy-Breasted Pearl," a traditional Irish air.

"It's a great resource for the town," Doherty said of the group.

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