When Sarah Huebsch plays a reproduction of a 16th century oboe, she feels centuries of music and musicians flowing through her person. It’s a rush to say the least, perhaps not unlike what actors feel when they perform the works of William Shakespeare.
“It’s like you’re bringing to life sounds and compositions that were originally brought to life centuries ago. There’s something really special about that experience every single time it happens,” she explains, while sitting in Angles Café in the IU Art Museum.
A D.M. student at the Historical Performance Institute of the Jacobs School of Music, Huebsch is helping to foster an unprecedented relationship with IU’s Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, as well as building collaborations that raise the profile of early music on campus. The most recent event, From the HeART, which promoted the current production of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, involved the IU Art Museum, IU Theatre, and HPI musicians.
Last summer she organized concerts of 16th century chamber music on 16th century instruments before each performance of Twelfth Night at IU’s Indiana Festival Theatre. This year, director Nancy Lipschultz invited Huebsch to join the production team of Romeo and Juliet. Advising sound designer Aaron Bowersox, she has helped to create a soundscape of music, evoking the London of the 1590s.
“If you’re going through all the trouble of having period costumes and choreography, you don’t want to hear Phillip Glass in that world – or even Mozart. You want the music to be relevant to the time period you’re working in,” she explains. “I think I was able to give Aaron [Bowersox] a good framework to work in. But I was amazed at the music he found on his own that was completely appropriate for the period.”
And Huebsch’s fascination with the Bard won’t end with this production. She’s currently researching a 1777 production of The Tempest art Drury Lane, London in search of a better understanding of the theatrical applications of music in the period.
“Shakespeare productions provide an incredible opportunity for music historians. Because of the massive interest in Shakespeare’s work, the scholarship is vast and excellent,” she says. “And, because theaters kept copious records, we have so much evidence as to what happened – what instruments were used and what musicians were paid. It’s a fascinating record of how and why music was utilized in the period.”
Since its founding by Thomas Binkley in 1979, the Historical Performance Institute (established as the Early Music Institute) of the Jacobs School of Music has been the pioneering, leading program of its kind in the United States.