Harpsichord player leads on-stage workshop

Vivian Montgomery visited SCSU Monday to give a workshop about the harpsichord. When students and faculty filed into the Performing Arts Center recital hall, they were met with the sight of a large harpsichord onstage, a few samples of the music to be played and information about the music and Longy School of Music, where Montgomery is a faculty member.

“St. Cloud State University has a beautiful harpsichord and I hope it is used a lot,” Montgomery said. “I am very happy to be here.” 

Montgomery started playing harpsichord in college about 30 years ago.

“I started in piano but I got swept up playing the harpsichord,” Montgomery said.

She taught harpsichord for over 25 years and tries to incorporate teaching elements into her concerts.

“I have always done classes and presentations,” Montgomery said. “When I do a concert I will usually give a workshop or master class on the harpsichord.”

Montgomery played a variety of pieces, all from the Baroque era, including a piece by Scarlatti. Montgomery said that, “On the harpsichord, I prefer to play music from the 17th and 18th centuries. I am particularly attracted to music based on improv.”

Because of the wide variety of music performed, Montgomery gave a quick background on each of the composers, their playing styles and the type of music they were best known for.

Each piece played demonstrated a different aspect of the “freedom and aesthetic” of the harpsichord. “I liked the way she presented things,” Ann Oleksowicz said. “It was nice to have the background of the pieces and the flavor of the time.”

Rose Cianflone, a member of the audience, said, “[Montgomery] had a very interesting way of teaching.”

“I liked how she would explain the music in her own way,” she said.

Montgomery also talked about the history of the harpsichord, and different types of styles used in the pieces. Oleksowicz said, “I had been unaware of the unmeasured preludes, so that was very interesting to me. I enjoyed it very much.”

One of the main topics Montgomery talked about was the heavy use of improvisation in the Baroque era pieces for the harpsichord.

“At times I will improvise and add embellishment to the notes I play,” Montgomery said. “It was expected from music of this time period. Otherwise, you are missing most of the music experience.”

She explained multiple pieces of music that relied heavily on improvisation, and demonstrated that a few pieces.

Montgomery has multiple performances in Minnesota in the next few weeks. She is next going to Gustavus Adolphus and the University of Minnesota to perform and teach about the harpsichord.

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