| 03.24.2018

Musical renaissance


The Renaissance era was one of a series of intellectual movements in the Middle Ages that brought life to art, music, food and the way people think.

Ellen Kittell, University of Idaho history professor, said prior to the Renaissance everything was focused on God. Kittell said in the 14th century, people began to question why the focus was on heaven when God made the Earth for the human race. This revolutionary thought changed much of the culture of the world and the way art and music were viewed, she said. The Moscow community embraces the expression of beauty in its own Renaissance Fair. This year marks the 56th anniversary of the Renaissance Fair, which is held at East City Park. The fair lasts May 2 and May 3, with a craft fair, a royalty parade, international food, live music performances and two Maypole dances — one on each day.

Live performances are on the stage all day long and some artists include local bands, bands from the Northwest and one award-winning bluegrass band, Front Country, from San Francisco. The music is everything from yodeling and bluegrass to Americana and South African beats.

The fair music director Mark Lesko said he enjoys getting a variety of artists from all areas.

One of the first acts on May 2 is a Sub-Saharan marimba ensemble made up of local artists including Diane Walker, professor emeritus of dance at UI.

Walker said rhythm is the heart of the music and it is hard to sit still when listening to the marimba ensemble. The ensemble plays energetic music that is easy to dance to.

“We want people to feel free to dance in any way they want,” Walker said. “As the African saying goes: ‘if you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing.'”

The band Front Country will also perform Saturday. This bluegrass band comes from San Francisco where all six members met. One member, Jacob Groopman, said that after they won the RockyGrass band competition last summer they decided to become a real band.

“We are a progressive bluegrass band, playing bluegrass, Americana, folk stuff and some covers,” Groopman said. “It’s a pretty eclectic group of songs.”

Groopman had heard that Moscow was a pretty cool area and Lesko offered them a great opportunity in getting the Californian band here.

“We’re excited to come up there and put on a whole performance,” Groopman said.

The final act on Saturday night will be a fire dance put on by the Spectrum dance studio.

According to Shelly Werner, Spectrum Dance Studio teacher, the fire dance is actually poi spinning.

The art originated within the Maori tribes of New Zealand, said experienced poi spinner Dane Mills. The Maori used poi, which is both a ball on a cord or chain, to develop flexible wrists among warriors, Mills said.

Fire was not introduced into poi prior to the 20th century, when a Maori-American,Freddie Letuli, decided to set his spinning knives on fire before a performance, Mills said.

“Fire dancing became a big hit in Hawaii at luaus for tourists,” Mills said. “There are now hundreds of troupes all over America specializing in different forms.”

Not only will there be live fire, but one of the parts of this fire set will use something called glow poi. Werner said the glow poi will be performed by her contemporary dance class and will be choreographed to a French song.

The Moscow Renaissance Fair may not be traditional, but it is a celebration of spring, art and food. All events are free to attend.

“The Renaissance fair is good, because it brings people together for food, dance and fun,” Kittell said.

Claire Whitley 

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