Special to the Patriot-Bridge
Can we kick up our heels in a Charlestown church?
We might feel like dancing when winsome duo-pianists Chi-Wei Lo and Xiaopei Xu, who, as Psychopomp Ensemble, present “Dance Music of the Germania Musical Society.” After all, they once artfully interpolated the Beatles’ “Imagine” into the 19th-century Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s “The Union,” and brilliantly evoked the Seven Deadly Sins musically.
The acoustically warm sanctuary of St. John’s Church, 27 Devens Street, in Charlestown, home to a restored 1870 Chickering concert grand, will provide the perfect ambience as we imagine ourselves with fancy-dressed partners in popular waltzes, quicksteps, polkas, marches, and galops as originally performed by the Germanians. A light reception will follow the free concert.
The Germania Musical Society deserves to emerge from the cocoon of writings by musicological specialists and reclaim the interest of a larger public.
Twenty-four members of Josef Gungl’s orchestra left Germany after the revolutions of 1848-1849, with utopian and transcendental expectations for a musical life in the New World. The musicians desired to bring their music to the audiences of a democratic republic at this turbulent time. Eager to avoid the egotism and self-promotion of the European patronage system, they pledged to work for their mutual interests both musically and socially. “One for all, and all for one” became their motto.
The self-governing, self-promoting group frequently opened with the overture to Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and often mixed popular music with classical. Altogether they gave something like 900 concerts and reached more than one million listeners.
Piano transcriptions of popular waltzes, quicksteps, polkas, marches, and galops as originally performed by the Germanians sold well in the sheet music market in those days before recordings. These will provision the concert on March 3rd, in sparkling arrangements done by the artists of the Psychopomp Ensemble
Germania flutist Carl Zerrahn, whose lively transcriptions will give us much pleasure, later served as conductor of both the Harvard Musical Association Orchestra (until its dissolution in 1892) and the Handel and Haydn Society. And for the record, the Germania Musical Society joined the Handel and Haydn Society in 1848 for Boston’s first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth.
The Psychopomp Ensemble (this means “spiritual guide” rather than something psychedelic or psychosomatic) pursues unconventional transcriptions and multidisciplinary performances. Psychopomp Ensemble presents music synthesizing improvisation, recompositions, and original works, forging paths in standard repertoire as well as world music and works in the 21stcentury.
Highlights include concerts presented by The Harvard Musical Association, UCLA, The Chinese American Museum (LA), Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, Scripps College, Ukraine Forward, College Music Society, Foundation for Chinese Performing Arts, The Lancaster Piano Festival and the German Society of Pennsylvania. Their (almost) all Gottschalk program was released on the Harvard Musical Association YouTube Channel. The Boston Musical Intelligencer’s David Moran wrote:
When you have observed [slavery’s] horrors as I have, when you have seen thousands of victims die through unimaginable tortures, then you would condemn without forgiveness the greatest of the inequities which the ages of barbarity bequeathed to us. Gottschalk
“It was probably not only the upcoming Black History Month which caused known NOLA native and BMInt publisher Lee Eiseman to advocate for someone, or two, or more, to serve up a gumbo bowl of Louis Moreau Gottschalk in the superb Harvard Musical Association YouTube live series. It might also have been the sore need, right after the Inauguration of this new political era and year, for some musical ‘freshness of openhearted sincerity.’ ” The latter phrase can serve as the watchword for these delightful young artists. [email protected].