Classical quintet Mélomanie celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year with a new home in the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts (DCCA). French for “music mania” or “love of music,” Mélomanie brings its unique musical pairings to new audiences on the Wilmington Riverfront. Town Square Delaware recently sat down with Mélomanie’s artistic director and harpsichordist Tracy Richardson to learn more.
Town Square Delaware: Why did Mélomanie choose DCCA as its new home?
Tracy Richardson: The partnership just clicked! Mélomanie ensemble members have visited the DCCA many times, looking at art or thinking about a great new place to perform. In the spring we talked with DCCA staff about the possibility of playing one concert at DCCA. They responded – why not do all of them here? It was a happy moment for us, to be sure!
TSD: How do you see the contemporary art and music “connecting”?
TR: Mélomanie performs music of today’s composers, along with gorgeous Baroque music of the past. DCCA exhibits today’s artists in an historical context that, even if not stated directly, we all understand. Here at this moment, the visual and musical arts connect – in another provocative pairing – to create an enriched context for us, for audience members, and for art lovers to experience.
TSD: Which parts of this season are you particularly excited about?
TR: We are thrilled about our upcoming premieres by composers Jennifer Margaret Barker, Mark Hagerty, Richard Belcastro and Michael Stambaugh. Some of the pieces are not yet written – but they are in process! We’re also excited about our special guests: Naomi Gray, cellist; Richard Belcastro, sitarist; Chris Hanning, percussion. We’re revved up about our Baroque music that that we’ll play on period instruments.
We are also particularly excited about our first concert in October. In this performance, we’ll feature a world premiere from composer Jennifer Margaret Barker of the University of Delaware – Le Passage du Temps. Her new work is subtitled: “a re-composition of J.S. Bach’s French Suite No. 3 in B minor.” Naturally the premise of her piece gave me (as our harpsichordist) the idea of playing this suite by Bach in the same concert – bringing together old and new music styles.
Our second world premiere is from the composer Michael Stambaugh, a student of Dr. Barker. We have chosen his harpsichord piece, The Machine Comes to Life, from among seven excellent pieces Dr. Barker’s composition class composed for flutist Kim Reighley and me last spring in a special project. We’ll also perform music of Purcell, J.S. Bach, Colquhoun and Abel.
TSD: Will performing in galleries be challenging? How do you manage logistics and acoustics? How do you choose a gallery for performance space?
TR: Earlier in the summer we spent an afternoon at the DCCA to check out the acoustics in the various galleries. A big group of us visited: Our ensemble members with instruments, soundman, photographer, harpsichord movers and some others excellent ears. We moved around the spaces – the harpsichord movers kept very busy that day! – and we learned a great deal about the best places, acoustically speaking, for us to perform. We discovered that there are two galleries that work well for us. It depends where we locate ourselves – in a corner, on a flat wall, in the middle of a room – it all makes a big difference. In October we’ll have the opportunity to play in our first-choice spot.
TSD: How else will this arts partnership develop?
TR: Mélomanie has been invited to participate in several events at the DCCA. In September, young composer Michael Stambaugh and I will be guests in an interactive DCCA exhibit by artist Tom Marioni: “The Act of Drinking Beer With Friends is The Highest Form Of Art.” In October we’ll present a lecture demonstration as part of DCCA’s Art Salad series. We’ll also perform at a Friday Art Loop, as well. We look forward to other developments in our partnership – they just haven’t occurred to us yet!
TSD: Melomanie celebrates 20 years this season! How has the quintet developed since you co-founded the group in 1993?
TR: We have a core ensemble of five instruments: Flute, violin, viola da gamba, cello and harpsichord. We perform together and in subsets, in Baroque and contemporary music. Kimberly Reighley and I are the co-founders and artistic directors. Douglas McNames has always been a member of Mélomanie. We began – with various combinations of musicians – as a Baroque ensemble performing on period instruments. Somewhere along the way we began playing an occasional newly-composed piece. We found we loved the dynamic combination of the very old and the very new. About ten years ago, we began our provocative pairings of new and contemporary works. We anticipate continuing in our exploration of these pairings.
See Mélomanie in concert beginning October 6 at the DCCA. For tickets and to learn more, visit www.melomanie.org.