Bloomington-based musical group the Forgotten Clefs performed a musical storytelling event Tuesday featuring the children’s storybook “The Very Last Castle.” The pre-recorded performance was streamed by the Monroe County Public Library at 4:30 p.m., followed by a live Q&A session with members of the ensemble.
The Forgotten Clefs is a nonprofit, professional group of five IU Jacobs School of Music alumni: Chris Armijo, Keith Collins, Adam Dillon, Kelsey Schilling and Sarah Schilling. The group primarily plays music from the Renaissance era using instruments from that time period.
“We each met through different school concerts and we all shared this interest in Renaissance music,” Kelsey Schilling said.
This performance featured several instruments including a family of recorders, the dulcimer, the crumhorn, harp, the shawm and the sackbut. Managing director Sarah Schilling said the ensemble played almost 20 instruments.
Vicki King, a retired pianist who serves as a board member of the Forgotten Clefs, narrated “The Very Last Castle”. The story is about a five-year-old girl named Ibb who visits an unfrequented castle that scares the villagers.
“It’s a book about making friends and facing fears and realizing that there’s nothing to be afraid of,” King said.
Ibb was portrayed by Destiny Walton, a sophomore studying dance. Walton choreographed her own dance for the show.
After each page read by King, the group played a song that matched the tone of the scene, while Walton danced Ibb’s actions. Her dance was set in front of the background of the page’s illustration.
The performance was part of the group’s annual educational outreach program, Shawms and Stories. With a grant from the City of Bloomington Arts Commission, King said they visit six to eight elementary schools every year to perform a musical storytelling event like this one. This year’s performance will be presented in local schools in addition to the performance shown by the library.
The performance was edited by Christopher Armijo. The video began with the performers introducing themselves and their instruments.
“When the actual play is run, you hear my voice reading,” King said. “Chris used some background art from the book itself, and then you see Destiny dancing to this music. It’s a combination of dance, digital photography and music.”
King said the group began planning the general details of the event in March 2020 and began selecting and planning the performance in November. The performance was recorded in early March, with the musicians first recording their music, King reading the story and Walton dancing.
Armijo invited viewers to move to the music they heard. Attendees were of all ages. Children watching with their parents, and older people enjoying the music. One child followed the dances of Walton.
An audience member asked, “How did you pick the story?” Armijo said the group went to the library and combed through the children’s section for the perfect book.
“We picked this book because the illustrations were so good,” Armijo said. “We liked the story, and the castle fit our type of music. We also picked it because the main character is a young black girl and we wanted to feature more African American stories.”
A child responded, “Oh, that’s cool!”