On a different note ...

Concert showcases rare instruments, music styles from throughout history

Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2005


  Lauren Pelon will perform Saturday with her collection of 25 instruments from the first to 21 centuries. Photo courtesy of Lauren Pelon

Lauren Pelon will perform Saturday with her collection of 25 instruments from the first to 21 centuries.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Pelon

Ever wonder what a cornamuse was? How about a shawm, rackett or schreier-pfeife?

This weekend, the curious will be able to see, learn about and hear these instruments and more from around the globe and throughout the centuries in "The Living Roots of Music," a performance put on by the Lauren Pelon Musique Company.

In the concert, Pelon will perform music from the first to 21 centuries on 25 instruments that also span the centuries, including the shawm, a precursor to the oboe popular from the 13th to 17th centuries in Europe, to the more recently invented synthesizer and MIDI pedalboard. Pelon also performs original compositions, sings and speaks about the instruments and their development throughout history.

"One of the things I'm trying to do in the music is reflect the roots of music but also reflect the modern age," Pelon said.

The presentation format makes the performance more informative than a concert with nothing but music, and Pelon has found this appeals to her audiences.

Besides, if she doesn't talk about the instruments during the show, she ends up doing it informally with curious listeners later.

"People were always asking me, and of course they still do afterwards," she said. "... People are really curious about a lot of these instruments because a lot of the ones I'm using are ones people aren't familiar with, both and ancient and modern."

She enjoys the questions, though, since the point of the concert is to expose people to music styles and instruments they aren't familiar with.

"I hope that at least one instrument or style is new to everybody in the audience," she said.

Pelon began listening to culturally diverse music in high school. In college she began playing the recorder and branched out from there. Now as a professional musician she's traveled the world studying music styles and instruments used throughout history and in various cultures. Her interest in world music is twofold.

"I guess I would say, besides the fact that I just like a lot of different styles of music, I really think we can learn an awful lot by learning a little bit about the instruments and music of other cultures," she said.

The Kiowa courting flute is one such instrument that provides a window into the culture of the people who used it, the Kiowa Native Americans.

"The flutes were used as courting flutes by young men courting young women," Pelon said. "I think that's perhaps just a nice example of how you can learn a little about the other cultures and what they're trying to do, the purposes they use their instrument for."

Pelon's study of music has taken her across the country and world. Much of it was informal research, delving through museums and libraries to find information about ancient instruments and how to play them.

"I learn a lot from other musicians and I'm listening to music at all times," she said.

She's amassed her own extensive music library and her collections of instruments is up to 150, although she doesn't play all of them.

"Some I can pretty much pick up and perform on within a few weeks and others take years and there are others that are still waiting that I'm learning to play but wouldn't perform on," Pelon said.

As a performer she's played in concerts throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Russia and China. Pelon also has performed as a soloist with symphony orchestras, on television specials and on the radio variety show "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor."

Her Alaska tour, which includes stops in Sitka, Anchorage, Homer, Soldotna, Haines and Petersburg, is a homecoming for Pelon, since she lived in the state from 1975-85. Originally from Michigan, Pelon has lived all over the Western United States and now lives in Minnesota. When in Alaska, she lived in the Anchorage area, Homer and Hope and toured widely with her band Banish Misfortune, which played Celtic music, Old English folk songs and jazz. Her Lauren Pelon Musique Company has previously toured Alaska.

"I still have a lot of friends up here, too," Pelon said.

One is Mary La Fever of Anchorage, who is doing Pelon's concert promotion and also was a fan of Banish Misfortune.

"She's really just an incredible person and so talented," La Fever said of Pelon. "She plays all these 25 instruments, and even if she weren't my friend, I'd say that she's world-class."

Pelon will perform in Homer on Friday and Soldotna at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Christ Lutheran Church. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors at River City Books in Soldotna.

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