• Laura Nelson

Fanfare! A Day at The Met

When The Met decides to change things up they don’t hold back. All the musical instrument galleries are getting a facelift this year. While two of the galleries remain under renovation the Brass Instruments have been reopened and entitled Fanfare! The museum is bringing in musicians to play in the space to call attention to this very beautiful and interesting gallery.

The genius behind Fanfare and the rest of the gallery renovations is Dr Bradley Strauchen-Scherer, one of the curators of musical instruments at The Met. She knows each instrument in the vast collection like a family member and can recount their colorful histories. “Why was this strange looking horn called The Turd?” Yes, she knows why (because it looks like one). Each item is thoughtfully displayed so curious brass nerds like me can get closer than ever. The centerpiece of the exhibit is an enormous glass case filled with every permutation of horn possible with a fantastic Conch in the center. (You can see it in the photo below, on the balcony level over me)

Before we launched into some alphorn duets Dr. Strauchen-Scherer sounded the Conch. What a beautiful, rich and primal sound! Raising goose flesh up my arms. (A decent Conch is now on my Christmas List).

Playing such a large, unwieldy instrument in this delicate environment was a source of much worry on my part. Luckily I wasn’t put in a gallery housing delicate Ming Dynasty vases and I managed to pull the whole thing off without harming a single priceless item!

There is really nothing quite so attention grabbing as two alphorns. Put them in a busy museum and it becomes coolness on another level, indeed. For people to appreciate the art of musical instruments they need to see and hear them played. The Met understands this quite well and is undertaking the task of recording as many of their collection as possible, as well as hiring people like me to play in the space.

The sound it that gallery was really wonderful and live. Five second decay time at least! Really perfect for the alphorn.

All in all it was a wonderful day at The Met. I got to see “behind the scenes” (oh my, the worlds oldest piano right over there) and meet the people who make it all happen. Their creativity and enthusiasm was definitely inspiring to me and I remain filled with gratitude for it.

And of course I warmed up in Central Park! If the traffic quietens a bit you hear an unexpected echo.


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