MUSICA E ARTE IN UMBRIA 2014 Reviewed by Mike Peterson
“MUSICA E ARTE IN UMBRIA 2014 Renaissance Lute Course in Spello with Crawford Young 11-16 May. (Submitted by Mike Peterson)
This past May 2014, I spent a delightful and highly educational week at the “Musica e Arte in Umbria 2014” Renaissance Lute course in Spello, Italy. This is a one-week medieval and renaissance lute music course taught by Crawford Young (from the Basel Schola Cantorum), and includes a full-day guided iconographic tour of medieval and Renaissance art works containing musical instruments, including lutes, in museums in Perugia and Foligno, as well as in the awe-inspiring Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. The course takes place in the beautiful medieval hilltop town of Spello, near Assisi, at the Centro Studi Europeo Musica Medievale “Adolfo Broegg.” We arrived a day early and were treated to the world-renown Calendimaggio festival of Assisi, celebrating the local medieval heritage in a three-day competition of historical music drama and pageant.
I was not familiar with the Centro Studi Europeo Musica Medievale “Adolfo Broegg.” This is an early music center and concert venue in the center of Spello. The center is housed in a recently restored medieval church donated for the Centro by the city of Spello. It acts as a musical center for Ensemble Micrologus, and provides concert space, a classroom, and a musical instrument museum. Tuition for the week was $800, which included twice a day group and private lessons with Crawford Young, the guided iconographic tour and transportation, and admission to the Calendimaggio pageant in Assisi. There was plenty of time to sample the restaurants of the charming medieval town, do local shopping, and tour Assisi. Convenient housing was just up the hill, in the center of the ancient city, in one of several reasonably priced and charming hotels with modern conveniences.
The Calendimaggio festival of Assisi is something that cannot be explained but simply experienced, but I will try. Imagine a competition between the “upper city” of Assisi and the “lower city” in music, dance and drama played out for the local and international audience attending that has been played out every year since the Middle Ages. This represents a year of fierce rivalry and preparation, involving almost every inhabitant of the city, with props, musical instruments, actors in medieval costumes, and even animals. This takes place on one of the main city squares and we had comfortable bleacher seats in “blue” upper city section so we could cheer and root for the upper city presentation. There were all kinds of props and actors in historic costumes of the middle ages, and the play even included horses, pigs, chickens and a herd of uncooperative sheep. It was vastly entertaining and lasted the afternoon and evening.
There are several convenient ways to get to Spello, including flying into the local airport of Perugia which is about 20 minutes away by car, or by flying into Rome and taking a train. We flew into Milan and rented a car to sample the countryside and had no problems with this, outside of a long drive. Our hotel also provided free parking in the narrow confines of the ancient medieval streets–be sure to rent a very small car!
We had time for several side trips to Assisi and to Ancona (to pick up missing luggage) and we had no trouble with driving, trying out our Italian, and especially enjoying the ambiance of the Italian countryside. Breakfasts from our hotel veranda were a delight and there was a new restaurant to sample every night, plus the excellent Italian gelato. This trip might become an annual pilgrimage, it was so rewarding! If you were thinking about a lute workshop and want something different to try, I would highly recommend this trip.”