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Tuesday, Oct. 3
The Indiana Daily Student


Storytelling and early music come together

Saturday the Bloomington Early Music Festival kicked off its annual festivities with the performance of "The 12 Dancing Princesses: A Musical Retelling." The program was an experimental addition to the regular lineup of the festival, done in conjunction with Arts Week. \nIt showcased professional storyteller Joe Lee and a recorder ensemble of students from the IU Precollege Early Music Program. \n"What we were trying to do is have an event that would include the community children," said Marie-Louise Smith, education director of the IU Early Music Program. "Most of the area schools teach recorder in the fourth grade, so what I did was send some very simple dance tunes from the Renaissance to the music teachers, asking them to prepare their recorder students to play."\nElin Williams, a member of the ensemble, has been playing the recorder for five years. She began playing when she was 10 years old and became interested in the IU Precollege Early Music Ensemble through her mother, who is studying for her doctoral degree in music.\n"I'll probably go into music," Williams said. "It's a lot of hard work, but fun too."\nLee, who served as the story's narrator, began his performing career as a circus clown for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He has performed with various circuses, and he continues to do some clowning and performance work with the Unitarian Universalist Church, Indiana Shakespeare Festival, Monroe County Civic Theater and other area organizations. He contributes a weekly comic to the IDS. \n"It's going to be a fun combination," Lee said of the performance. "The kids have been rehearsing this on their own, and we are going to kind of be putting this together as it goes."\nSaturday's show was only the second time the ensemble had performed the show with Lee, a testament to the talent of both Lee and the ensemble.\nLee narrated the performance, and his voice filled the room and echoed off the vaulted ceilings of the Unitarian Universalist Church, while students interspersed the story with authentic Renaissance recorder music. The music is, Lee said, one of the reasons this story was picked. It offers a unique opportunity to blend storytelling and music in a show that will engage the entire audience.\nChildren gathered near the front of the room, and Lee strolled among them using different voices and expansive gestures to tell the story of the 12 princesses, which is based on a Grimms Fairy Tale. \nSaturday's performance was a precursor of the Bloomington Early Music Festival, which actually runs May 17-27. BLEMF includes close to 17 events, including opera, ensemble and solo concerts, children's workshops and lectures. BLEMF is a not-for-profit organization independent of the University. But it collaborates closely with the Early Music Institute in the School of Music.\n"It's a fantastic festival that allows people to sample 'classical' music in a whole new way," Director Alain Barker said. "By using replicas of instruments from past centuries and the style and technique of those times, the artists bring the music alive in a completely new way." \nThe festival attracts musicians from all over the world, as well as from the community of Early Music musicians in Bloomington. So, while being a nationally recognized festival, it has a "strong, community feel," Barker said. \nSmith praised her students' performances, stressing that the children spent many long hours practicing.\n"(The children) will be playing the dances and…hearing the dances as they would have been played then," Smith said. "I think it will be great fun. Joe Lee is a wonderful storyteller, the story is a classic and the children are playing at a very high level."\nLee said the music would be a new experience for most in attendance.\n"The music is probably nothing that the audience will have heard before, but there are pieces that are very catchy, and they may go away humming some of them after the performance," he said. \nLee said the afternoon was a great success and hoped people would continue to turn out for the BLEMF. \n"It's very easy, enjoyable family entertainment," he said. "It's a real opportunity to see this wonderful mix of storytelling and music and to hear some of the younger performers in the community"

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