The mystique of a musical niche

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On my travels around the great metropolis that London is, I came across a museum that has a building that was described as The Observatory. This place was basically a glass house. Some readers might be familiar with the exact place I’m referring to. The space will always carry a unique sort of mystique for me, because I saw a group performing there that made me interested in a genre of music that I hadn’t paid much attention to, before that time.

The group specialised in performing popular and folkloric music of the baroque era. Dressed in period outfits, the instrumentalists played rebecs, shawms, crum horns and viol da gambas. Most the players sang parts in the ensemble and the whole presentation was refreshingly down to earth. I found a programme that explained about the group’s vision and I noticed that most of the performers were actually distinguished teachers in leading London conservatoires. This act was obviously their labour of love.

A few years later, I met someone who was a fan of this same group. She had an album that the group recorded. I was able to borrow the album and I studied the group’s approach in detail. I learnt a significant lesson from those musicians about the huge potential there is in answering to one’s personal calling. If they hadn’t done that work, it wouldn’t have been there to inspire me and others.

Nowadays, it isn’t that difficult to track down niche endeavours of the sort mentioned above. Many of the group’s recordings are available on YouTube. I could talk to a group of children about the Tudor era and its music, simply find their videos and bring this world vividly into their imaginations.

Many folks don’t understand why artists devote so much time and energy to creating things that seem to be obscure or left field. Surely they could do the obvious thing and “give the people what they want”, but how do people know what they really want, if they don’t have a diverse range of options to choose from?