Saturday, January 24, 2009

Circus Music

Once a month I take a class at our local museaum, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Over the past few months I have attended classes that looked at Japanese Woodblock Prints, Egyptian Treasures, Japanese Kimonos and then today they celebrated everything circus. Our class was on the sounds of circus music. The Windjammers Unlimited is a musical society that has one goal, that of preserving and performing circus music. They come to Sarasota every January. They come from all over the country and all over the world for this event. There are more than 800 members in this organization. Some of the greats from early circus days include musicians, Merle Evans, Bill Pruyn and Chuck Schlarbaum.

We are given a two hour concert interjected with history and music lessons. I am not a music major or teacher. As a matter of fact I play no musical instrument at all. They showed the different styles of circus music during Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus days to the present. They talked about how to make dramatic changes in the music based on where it was being played. They demonstrated the type of music that was played during each act. I sat with my eyes closed, visualizing the elephants walking to the beat of the drum. I could imagine the aerialists on the trapeze or the wire walker. In addition to educating teachers in the hopes we will bring this information back to our students, they are hoping to bring a love of this type of music to the next generation so that it may live on in the future.

After the class was over we were invited to spend the afternoon listening to another segment of the Windjammers play in the museum courtyard. There was the circus museum to visit with the newly renovated Ringling Train car from Wisconsin or the Tibbals miniature circus museaum. They had hands on arts and crafts for children of all ages. Tomorrow close to 200 Windjammers will sit center ring and play for the Sailor Circus acts.

It is awesome to be a part of bringing different types of art to my students through lessons learned at the museum. It is a teriffic way to spend a Saturday afternoon

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