|No matter where the gig is at, Musica Antiqua will travel
"We're not snobbish," said Carl Bleyle, professor of music and a member
of Musica Antiqua since its inception in 1967. "We'll play anywhere to
bring Renaissance music and dance to the public."
And Musica Antiqua has played most anywhere, especially in Iowa, over
the past 35 years. In recent months, the ensemble has played at Dana College
in Nebraska and Dordt College in northwestern Iowa.
They perform annually both at the Renaissance Faire of the Midlands
and at Iowa State's Madrigal Dinners.
Large towns, small towns, kindergarteners, senior citizens - the type
or size of the crowd doesn't matter to Musica Antiqua in their more than
450 performances in over 80 communities in nine Midwestern states.
"All of our members are either teachers or have been teachers," said
Bleyle, who has served as the group's director since its inception. "After
performances we encourage the audience to come onto the stage to ask questions,
examine the instruments more closely, and even to play some.
"Because we are teachers, I think we have been able to know how to relate
to any (age) group we're working with."
The ensemble consists of instrumentalists, vocalists and dancers. The
core group of four members expands to a large ensemble for many occasions.
Many, like Bleyle, are original members of the group and all have a
connection with Iowa State, even though the group now doesn’t receive any
That wasn't always the case however.
Back in 1967, Musica Antiqua was conceived through efforts of then Iowa
State President Robert Parks. Since 1971, the group has received Touring
Grants from the Iowa Arts Council every year, a streak unmatched by any
other arts group in Iowa.
Through their fees for performing, Musica Antiqua has been able to expand
their Renaissance musical instrument collection from just four recorders
and a krumhorn, to currently more than 120 different instruments.
Besides their many performances, Musica Antiqua provides outreach through
their web site, coordinated by Alan Spohnheimer, another original member
of the group.
That national and international award-winning web site has become the
world’s biggest reference on Renaissance music, with over 1,700 links,
many to some of the world's most prestigious musicology schools including
Harvard and Princeton.
The web site has been translated into French and Swedish and is a popular
research source for individuals of all ages.
In addition to producing two LP recordings of early music, plus a CD,
"The Best of Musica Antiqua," the group has recorded 40 Middle Ages and
Renaissance compositions for a series of CDs to accompany a music history
text, The Development of Western Music. The recordings have been
distributed by Sony/CBS Records.
Present Iowa State faculty and staff who are or have been members of
Music Antiqua include Dee Dreeszen, Valerie Williams, Janice Baker, John
Clem, Jim Thomas, Jean Thomas, Don Simonson, Kevin Schilling, Stephani
Scherbart, Bion Pierson, David Stephenson, Paul Anderson, Randy Compton
and Sam Wormley.