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Remembering Jane Austen

Updated: Mar 13, 2019

This weekend festival honoring Jane Austen originated from one of my late night expeditions on the internet for weird harpsichord music. I discovered The Battle of Rosbach, and this little anonymously composed battle sonata led me down a rabbit hole throughout London’s musical culture. Following this thread brought me to Jane Austen, a woman who was actively engaged with many forms of artistic expressions in her world. While this festival is dedicated to the novelist, I hope that it gave audiences a different perspective into Jane’s life as well.

Natalie Kress and Kyle Collins performing "Campbell's Country Dances"

Community outreach is important to us, especially since our instruments are not often seen in everyday musical life. At Ward Melville High School, we had the opportunity to teach three different classes about our instruments and the music we perform. Most of the students did not know the traverso or harpsichord, and found our tuning to be rather radical from their expectations. Gaby even stayed for an extra class hour, teaching the school’s flute studio about the traverso and reading original manuscripts.

I used to hate speaking in front of audiences during a recital, mostly because I never felt I had anything to say. With this festival, there is such a wealth of fascinating information regarding Jane Austen that I was excited to tell audiences what we had found. (At least I hope we sounded excited.) I’m grateful that, in all three of our main concerts, the audiences seemed to respond well to the research, and even asked questions, which makes for an effective lecture. If the audience can leave our recitals learning more about music and how it connects to other humanities, then I’m very happy.

Thanks to Natalie Kress and everything she did to organize these events, the Jane Austen Festival was a great success. These concerts would not have been possible without her, and I'm glad she tried this idea out with us. I also want to thank Adele Dusenbury for all of her work in recording our Saturday concerts. She did an amazing job, and I'm glad we have videos to document the event. Finally, I want to thank Dr. Lynn Hallarman for working with us and performing the Wragg duets with Gaby. It was a nice change of pace for the concerts, and the audiences really enjoyed hearing the duo flute pieces.

This month, Gaby and I are headed to North Carolina, where we will be featured in the Darkwater Women in Music Festival at the University of North Carolina in Pembroke. We will be playing both baroque and modern instruments, with composers ranging from Jane Mary Guest to Leopoldine Blahetka. We will also be headed to Boston later in March, where we will perform programs consisting only of early Scottish and Irish music in Boston. We’ve also begun throwing around the idea of recording a set of Scotch and Irish airs (to sell), as well as our upcoming year's programming, which we'll be letting you know more about soon!

- Kyle Collins

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