by Dwight Newton

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The Center for Old Music in the New World is a nonprofit organization in Lexington, Kentucky, whose main activity is producing concerts by the early music performing ensemble Musick's Company. The Center also maintains a library of performance scores and parts and has, over the years, produced concerts by other artists and has been active in education activities.

I was a performing member of Musick's Company from around 1983 to 1995, and a board member of the Center from around 1986 to 1995. Since I returned to Kentucky in 2001, I am  again happily performing with the ensemble and serving on its board.

Musick's Company - December 2003
Musick's Company,  2003 (click for larger view)

The Center and some permutation of Musick's Company have been active since around 1979, providing a huge variety of early music experiences to Central Kentucky audiences, under the direction of Donna Boyd. At the core, the ensemble has always consisted of a choir of eight to 15 or more singers and a mixed instrumental ensemble. When I began playing with them, the instruments consisted of myself on bass viola da gamba, and a broken consort of recorders, lute,  harpsichord, cittern and recorders.

In later times I played many instruments with the group, including some recorder, medieval fiddle, tromba marina and various percussion. The Center owns two instruments that I built and are used on occasion in concert: a metal strung plucked psaltery and a small Celtic lap harp.  My favorite playing is early baroque continuos on the viol, doubling the bass line in the harpsichord.

In 1988 Musick's Company was invited to perform a concert in the medieval Italian town of Todi (Umbria), near Perugia, Orvieto and Assisi. The theme of the concert was non-liturgical religious songs sung by informal gatherings of the faithful. The first half was dedicated to the medieval songs of the penitents and pilgrims in honor of Mary. Of special interest was a selection of laude by the poet and monk Jacapone da Todi.

The  crypt beneath the altar of San Fortunato in which 
Jacapone is buried. The singers were allowed to go down 
and sing his songs in his presence. (click for larger view)

It was a deeply moving experience for the musicians to be able to perform songs that were nearly 700 years old in the very spaces and buildings in which their author lived and worked.

The Temple of San Fortunato. Jacapone lived in the attached
cloisters. We were fortunate to be allowed to rehearse in this
special place. (click for larger view)

The program also included songs from Spain (Cantigas) from the same era, and shape-note hymns from Appalachia.

The program. (click for larger view)

The performance took place in the Sala del Consiglio off the
main piazza. (click for larger view)

Members of Musick's Company on the 1988 Todi tour included:

  • Donna Boyd, director
  • Jenny Brock
  • Atossa Kramer
  • Catherine Oleksa
  • Anna Isaacs
  • Dwight Newton

... all of whom are still performing with the ensemble.

Relaxing on the steps of the Ducal Palace in
Gubbio after the concert. (click for larger view)