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Candy Cane Crumhorns

Candy Cane Crumhorns

December 12, 2018

A new band of performers has been spreading holiday cheer through the Christmas City this season—the Moravian College Crumhorn Ensemble.

What’s a crumhorn, you ask?

Crumhorn, from the German krumhorn or krummhorn, means curved horn. The instrument looks like a candy cane held upside down. It is a capped double-reed instrument and comes in sizes from soprano to great-bass. “They sound like oboes but a bit buzzier,” says Larry Lipkis, professor of music and composer-in- residence. “I use them in my early music concerts to add a bit of color.”

Two weeks ago, the ensemble decorated their crumhorns as candy canes and caroled up and down Main Street, stopping in the Moravian Book Shop and the Hotel Bethlehem lobby. On Friday December 7, a section of the ensemble spent two hours at St. Luke’s University Health Network where they played for nurses, staff, and patients, including children on the pediatrics floor. Later that day, they performed for tourists at the office of Historic Bethlehem.

“The group is becoming a bit of a hot commodity!” Lipkis remarks.

Popular in the 16th century, the crumhorn is enjoying a renaissance today, especially at Moravian College. “We’re seeing an explosion of interest in the instrument among first- and second-year music students,” says Lipkis. He introduced several early music instruments to the first-year music history class in the fall. Interest in the crumhorn took off and led to an 11-member ensemble, which will gain more musicians in the spring.

Freshman Marley Palmere plays the soprano crumhorn. “It’s an opportunity that’s hard to come by,” she says. “And I love playing modern music on a 16th-century instrument.”

The experience was also new to sophomore Ethan Beeco who loves the instrument’s unique sound.

And when word about the ensemble got to senior Vaughn Tempesta, he jumped at the opportunity. “I was so excited to hear from friends about the crumhorn ensemble,” he says. “This is a unique opportunity to play a 16th-century renaissance instrument, and Moravian probably has the largest group of crumhorns ever assembled at a U.S. college or university.”

Check out this video of our crumhorn carolers, and see them perform live in the spring. The ensemble, a part of the Collegium Musicum will perform in the Early Music concert at the end of March.