Collegium Musicum

learn more about Muhlenberg's Renaissance music ensemble

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Collegium Musicum | Photo by Julia Lennon '25

The Muhlenberg College Collegium musicum was held in the Egner Memorial Chapel on Saturday, Nov. 5., The group was composed of students and faculty who performed 16th century renaissance music. Zach Kleiman ‘25 said he was “looking forward to getting to know music more” in this experience. 

Megan Lyttle ‘23, who played bass recorder in the concert, said before the show, “I enjoy being able to show this music to other people because it’s an opportunity most people don’t get until college.” The lights were warmly lit above, encapsulating the musicians on the small stage as the audience sat shrouded in shadow. After a brief introduction by Ted Conner, Ph.D., singers ranging from bass to soprano stood while bows glided across string instruments and percussion beats filled the air. Conner noted to the audience, “This would have been the music people were playing at home in the 1500s.” As each soloist sang their piece, the rest of the group faced the singer admirably, fully attentive. One soloist, Yael Beer ‘24, later commented that singing on stage “was quite fun.” Beer was asked what they thought about when they were singing, to which Beer answered, “I was actually thinking about my physical body, my breath and the position of my chest and chin.” 

The collegium took a brief intermission to tune their instruments. Conner later explained that the weather has a very big effect on the strings due to the way the instruments were designed. The instruments utilize gut strings instead of steel strings, therefore, they go out of tune easily in slight changes in heat or cold. Conner announced the group’s love for the next song, “The Lowest Trees Have Tops” by John Dowland, saying, “We like this one because it has the word spleen in it.” This prodded an eruption of laughter from the silent audience. The collegium then played a song, “No grave for woe” by Philip Rosseter, prefaced by Conner’s comment that, although he was aware that he was potentially exaggerating, “this piece may be the coolest piece on the planet.” He told the audience the melodies were supposed to imitate the mischievousness of fairies. 

“I enjoy being able to show this music to other people because it’s an opportunity most people don’t get until college.”

-Megan Lyttle ’23

At the end of the concert, performer Jill Stephen, Ph.D., was asked her opinion on the organization. She said, “I love it. I taught at Muhlenberg for 35 years and I just couldn’t leave the school.” Thus, she has been with the group ever since. Stephen continued with a laugh, “The group has great vibes.” She added that the group is especially talented because they rehearse ridiculously hard music with a cheerful dedication. Conner told The Weekly that he started the group 25 years ago in order to share the music that he loves. He noted that the word “collegium” to him means a group of friends that get together and play music. Lyttle remarked that Thursday rehearsals are always something she looks forward to, “just to come together to make music.”

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