Testing of the Strings – Calata ala Spagnola

Copyright @ Sarah Gilbert Fox

About this painting

Growing up on Maple Street in Columbia, South Carolina was nothing, if not creative. Everyone played some kind of musical instrument. My older sister, Kathy, played the piano and guitar, as did my older brother, Micah. My younger brother, Adam, played anything he could blow air through – oboe, clarinet, recorder, etc. (Santa Claus gave me a Ukelele one Christmas, which is probably why I went into the hand instruments, e.g., the pen and the paintbrush.)  Our mother, Betty Gilbert, sang in the Columbia Chorale Society – she had a gorgeous voice. And we were always rescuing animals. I don’t think a day went by when I wasn’t surrounded by music coming from one instrument or another, while my mother sang at the top of her pipes.  I would mope around, trying not to trip over the cats or dogs, and write really bad love poetry that rhymed.  

Testing of the Strings – Calata ala Spagnola © Sarah Gilbert

Mom never had us on a strict regiment.  She was a full-time, working art educator, raising four children without a father or a father’s financial compensation. We were four, wild ones – climbing in and out of the windows or onto the roof of our huge house (the old Shandon Presbyterian Church), at all hours of the day and night – always making music or creating something.  It was a chaotic childhood, but there was always love and creativity and play.

When I think back on those days, I particularly remember Adam, always playing his recorder for the old women in our family – Aunt Sally and Great Aunt Ella. One day Adam grew up and became a famous recorder player, traveling the world, where he met and married an Israeli woman (Rotem Gilbert) who played the recorder, as well.  Both virtuosos.  Both now teaching at USC’s Thornton School of Music, where Adam is the director of the Early Music Program and Rotem is a professor.  One of their practice songs – where they practiced with one of their former groups, Piffaro, is Calata ala Spagnola. It’s a happy song that reminds me of the those times on Maple Street, when all four of us – arms and legs everywhere – ran amok during our childhood days.

More about the painting Testing of the Strings – Calata ala Spagnola

Calata ala Spagnola
by Joan Ambrosia Dalza   (fl. 1508) arr. Grant Herreid
performance / practice by Piffaro musicians:
• Christa Patton, harp
• Grant Herreid, lute
≥ Rotem & Adam Gilbert, recorders