By Dave R. Davison
The sound of lutes, wooden flutes, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdys and the haunting, trumpet-like tones of the tromba marina are some of the musical flavors that will be experienced at an upcoming performance of the Belarusian group Stary Olsa, which is coming to the Tacoma Public Library Oct. 18.
The group, whose name means “Old Olsa” (referring to a river in Belarus), is from Minsk, Belarus and specializes in medieval music, especially the music of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, of which Belarus was the cultural heart and soul from the 13th to 18th centuries. Members of the group dress in medieval costume and play period instruments in their mission to faithfully resurrect the music of an earlier era.
Founded in 1999, the group has put out more than a dozen albums to date. They are now coming to an end of a tour that has taken them all over the United States in the last few months. Beginning Aug. 24 at the Provo Food Truck Roundup, the group has been putting on shows at Renaissance fairs, churches, museums and universities. They will finish with performances as a trio of West Coast libraries: Tacoma, Seattle and San Francisco.
This is a great opportunity to experience some historic music by a dedicated and skilled group of musicians.
Current members include: Zmicer Sasnouski (bagpipes, gusli, tromba marina, vocals and hurdy-gurdy,) Alies Chumakou (vocals, gusli, cister, rebec and shawms,) Maryja Sharyj (flutes and shawm,) Illia Kublicki (lute and cister,) Siarhiej Tapcheuski (drums, percussion and tromba marina) and Aliaksiej Vojciech on drums.
The gusli is the oldest Russian multi-string plucked instrument and looks something like a zither.
The tromba marina is a tall, triangular, bowed string instrument whose bridge vibrates, causing a trumpet-like sound.
A cister is a mandolin-like instrument.
The rebec is a bowed, stringed instrument with a boat-like body.
Shawms are conical, double-reed woodwind instruments rather like a primitive oboe.
A hurdy-gurdy is a stringed instrument that is played with a hand crank.
Last year Stary Olsa diverged slightly from a strictly medieval menu and made an album called “Medieval Classic Rock,” which consists of cover versions of rock hits from the second half of the 20th century, played on medieval instruments. The result is a great blend of the old sounds combined with the frightful, gothic lyric content that characterizes especially metal music. The album features such delights as a medieval version of Metallica’s “One,” The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication,” Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Catch Stary Olsa at The Olympic Room of the main branch of Tacoma Public Library (1102 Tacoma Ave. S.) on Wed., Oct. 18, 7-9 p.m. The performance is free. For additional information visit tacoma.bibliocommons.com/events and search under Oct. 18.