Like a lot of other people, Michelle Stott became interested in early music because she liked the sound of it.
"I started out as a pianist," Stott explained, "and I also played violin." But she switched to the recorder while a student at Weber State University.The founder of Musica Antiqua, Stott admits that she didn't know the repertoire at the time, "But I loved the music." In fact, Musica Antiqua grew out of a project she did for an honors class at Weber State in 1972.
Local audiences will get a chance to hear the ensemble perform at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square Saturday, Aug. 15, at 7:30 p.m. "This is our 14th year performing at Temple Square and the first time that we'll be dressed in Renaissance costumes for our concert there."
Though this will be a first for an Assembly Hall concert, costumes are a regular feature when Musica Antiqua performs. "It's not always easy getting the men into tights," Stott laments.
"We do schools, weddings, banquets, and also Renaissance fairs and brown bag concerts in summer. Whatever we can get out and find. We've also done devotionals at BYU."
Most of these concerts are strictly instrumental, but a few, like the upcoming Assembly Hall concert, also include singers. And singers are hard to find. "We're always hunting for a tenor."
Stott, who directs the German students' choir at BYU, recruits singers for her Musica Antiqua concerts from among her students. "I've been doing that for 10 years now, and it's been going well. Our bass and alto were my students."
In contrast to the singers, the instrumentalists have been with the group for some time. "I'm the only original member from '72, but there are three who have been with us since '76. They're all volunteers who have the same interest in music and want to get together and play."
Rehearsals are a bit unusual. Unlike later musical periods, the composers of the Middle Ages and Renaissance never wrote music with specific instruments in mind. They always assumed their music would be played by whatever instruments were available at the time of the performance. The music was actually more important than the sound.
This creates something of a problem for modern performers. When members of Musica Antiqua rehearse they try out different instruments to create different sounds, according to Stott. "Our rehearsals sound `messy,' since we try different sounds to find out what works best. It also makes the rehearsals more exciting."
The members of Musica Antiqua have quite a collection of different instruments at their disposal to help create an authentic sound and performance. "We have all the different sizes with several of the instruments. We've got soprano, alto and tenor krummhorns and recorders. We also have a rebec, which is a medieval fiddle."
Stott says many of the members also play several different instruments. Stott, for example, plays recorder, krummhorn and mandolin. Her sister, Twyla Hansen, also a member of the ensemble, plays lute and viola da gamba.
This extensive collection of instruments and the versatility of the performers allows Musica Antiqua to play an expanded repertoire of music, although the Middle Ages and the Renaissance are their primary source of music. "Some of the music of Handel and Telemann works well, too, and we also do arrangements of later pieces."
For the Temple Square concert, Musica Antiqua will present a program ranging from the Middle Ages to Gilbert and Sullivan, including an arrangement of the march from "Carmen" that Stott says sounds like a calliope.
"We like to do some fun things to get the people to laugh," she confesses.