The Morris Museum in partnership with the National Music Museum (Vermillion, S.D.) will present the exhibit “Trumpets, Weird and Wonderful: Treasures from the National Music Museum,’’ — 44 fascinating instruments from five continents, through March 17, 2019. Dating from the late 17th to the late 20th centuries, the instruments are on loan from the National Music Museum’s Joe R. and Joella F. Utley Collection of Brass Instruments, and most of them have never been on public exhibit.
“Trumpets, Weird, and Wonderful” celebrates the rich audible and visual variety of musical instruments in which sound is generated by buzzing the lips, sometimes called brasswinds.
Broadly defined, trumpets come in many different forms and sizes and can be made of many different materials: animal horn, bone, conch, wood, and metals. Horns and trumpets have been in use as signaling instruments since prehistoric times. They play a role in ceremony and religion in many cultures. For centuries they have had a leading function in the military and the hunt. They are not only musical instruments but also objects of artistic expression, often with hidden meaning.
“This is an exhibit for us all,” says Cleveland Johnson, executive director of the Morris Museum. “If a bugle playing ‘taps’ has you tearing up at a veteran’s funeral, you’ll discover amazing new dimensions to that simple, dignified instrument. If the call of the shofar holds religious meaning for you, you’ll discover how brasswind instruments contribute to ritual ceremonies around the world. If you’ve ever marched in a band or heard a great jazz trumpeter, you’ll discover the engineering history that led to our modern trumpet. Maybe you just love Ricola cough drops and have never seen an ‘alphorn’ close up.”
Video stations throughout the galleries allow the instruments to be experienced in performance, many in their original context and country of use. A special kid’s station traces the history of trumpet playing back to early human civilization. Many of the instruments are beautifully ornate. The exhibit allows the visitor to discover almost-hidden symbols, ranging from expressions of power to religious belief.
Guest curator Dr. Sabine Klaus, curator of brass at the National Music Museum said: “The question that guided me in preparing this exhibition was how do form and decoration inform us about an instrument’s function and use, and ultimately its sound?”
Five highly decorative trumpets by Andy Taylor in Norwich, England, which were commissioned by the collector Joe R. Utley and especially created for the Utley Collection, celebrate the trumpet as art.
The exhibition is shown in two galleries at the Morris Museum and organized in nine themes.
Coinciding with the opening of the Morris Museum’s exhibit, the National Music Museum (NMM) will be temporarily closing to the public as it prepares for architectural expansion and renovation, reopening by 2021. Patricia Bornhofen, NMM manager of communications said: “While the NMM is closed for metamorphosis, we will be partnering with other institutions to display some of our extraordinary collections. We’re pleased to share these treasures with visitors to the Morris Museum.”