Aeolus Recorder Konsort


History of the Aeolus Recorder Konsort

When Louise Rollefson moved from South Bend, Indiana to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1975, the Friday Morning Coffee Consort had a farewell party at which they gave her copies of a Purcell collection for recorder ensemble and charged her to start a recorder group in her new community. Louise had been with the South Bend consort for 5 ½ years. It was composed of women who gathered in their homes to share coffee, home-baked goods, fellowship and the joy of making music. From time to time, the consort was invited to play in schools, in churches and for dinners of various organizations, but its major purpose was to enjoy each other’s company and to enjoy playing music together.

When Louise arrived in Little Rock, she met Shelley Wold, who invited her to church. There, she told new acquaintances about recorders, and many were interested. After Louise invited them to her house and taught them to play recorder, the Musica Antiqua Recorder Consort was born. It met in the afternoons rather than the mornings, but its main purpose was to enjoy each other’s company and to make music together.  Members of the Musica Antiqua in 1976 included Anna Carolyn Bradley, Sharon Heidt, Linda Pitts, Wilma Reed, Mylitta Fletcher, Maria Sylvester, Shelley Wold, Ann Coleman, Carolyn York, and Louise Rollefson.  A Little Rock Chapter of the American Recorder Society existed from November 1, 1977 to August 1, 1978. 

In the next 5 years, the consort grew and gave programs for nursing homes, churches, schools, and for various community organizations. During that time, Louise was invited to play with the consort class at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  This class was under the direction of Professor MaryBelle J. Nissly,  retired from her post as Director of the first Women of the Air Force Band. In 1980, Louise and her family left Little Rock because her husband was invited back to South Bend to be a visiting professor for 14 months. MaryBelle Nissly was asked to direct the Musica Antiqua Recorder Consort that year.

On May 6, 1978, an Arkansas Early Music Festival was held at UALR.   MaryBelle J. Nissly was the coordinator, with the organizing committee consisting of Carolyn York and Louise Rollefson.  The faculty were Richard Arnest on recorders and flutes, John Muratore on guitar and lute, and Barbara Jackson on viols.  About 60 people from around Arkansas attended.

On August 1, 1981, the Aeolus Recorder Konsort was organized as a chapter of the American Recorder Society. On August 20, 1982, the Konsort  was incorporated as a non-profit organization.  At that time, the Konsort board of directors were MaryBelle J. Nissly, president, Eugene A. Showalter, vice-president, Laura Lafferty, McKendre E. McNabb, and Joseph Gunn.  Members of the Konsort in 2002, who were active in 1982, are shown in the picture of the founders.

The nucleus of the Konsort thus included players from the  Musica Antiqua group, members of Mary Belle J., Nissly's class at UALR, and other local musicians.  Membership in the Konsort has been composed of players from all walks of life: teachers, librarians, housewives, nurses, guitarists, choral directors, secretaries, professors, and doctors, and other professionals. 

As is the case in many other smaller ARS chapters, some current members of the Konsort have done double duty serving as officers. Over the years, Marjorie McNutt and Louise Rollefson have each served as both president and vice-president. Also, Bob Cogburn, Linda Murphey, MaryBelle Nissly, Laurine Williams and Carol Woolly have served as president.  André Rollefson has served as vice-president.  Nancy Cloninger and Evelyn Tarbell, both have held the secretary’s position, and former ARS board member Shelley Wold, has been the much-valued treasurer for some time.

Rehearsal directors have included, Jorg F. Voss, MaryBelle J. Nissly, Laurine Williams, Louise Rollefson, Dr. Ray Moore from UALR and Elizabeth Plowman. Many members have participated in national workshops and share their experience with the Konsort.  Scholarships are offered to participants from the local organization.  The MaryBelle J. Nissly scholarship fund was created to honor Major Nissly for her contributions to the Aeolus Recorder Konsort.

Community outreach by the Konsort has been a major project of its members. Fall rehearsals have been dedicated to preparation for the annual December Madrigal Dinners with the Concert Choir from the University of Central Arkansas. This is a beautiful candle light event featuring 15th century costumes, an award winning a cappella choir and a boar's head feast served by aspiring members of the University choir. The Konsort plays during the seating of the guests, and during the dinner to entertain the paying public.  The program consists of 15th to 18th century dances and Christmas carols. In the year 2001, the Konsort participated in this event for the 22nd time.

The Konsort plays on a regular basis at nursing homes, retirement homes, state parks, libraries, the Arkansas Art Center, the Decorative Art Museum, Museum of Discovery, schools, the Wildwood Festival, and churches.  It also participated with the Women's Air Force Band, September 1999, in a memorial to MaryBelle J. Nissly. More recent performances have included a Renaissance festival held in October, for which the Konsort will play again for the fifth year (2002), and the Twelfth Night Ball and Revels night festivities for the Country Dance Society and the Arkansas Scottish Country Dance Society, which is an annual event that began in 1983.

In the past year, members of the Konsort performed “Peter and the Wolf” at three elementary schools. The Konsort also includes other more contemporary works in its performances, such as "South American Dances" arranged by Herbert von Schneider, Carolyn Peskin’s “Elegy” (an ARS Members’ Library edition), and "Indian Songs" arranged by Gerald Moore, in addition to the dance literature from the 14th - 19th century.

Each year begins with an organizational meeting in August, traditionally a potluck in the home of one of the chapter members. Rehearsal dates are usually set for two Sundays each month. 

With so many performances by the Konsort, in 1998 the Konsort went to a uniform look with tapestry vests worn over black. This gives a special look to the Konsort for easy identification by the public.  In addition to recorder players, string players are made welcome in the music making of the Aeolus Recorder Konsort.

In Arkansas, there are two ARS chapters, the first, Aeolus Recorder Konsort, affiliated with ARS briefly in 1977 and then finally in 1981, and the second, Bella Vista Recorder Consort, formed about ten years later.  When we learned that there was an active ARS chapter at Bella Vista in Northwest Arkansas and that some of our members were acquainted with their members, we arranged a joint meeting at a place about half way between the two chapters so travel time would be approximately two hours. The Wiederkehr Winery in Altus graciously consented to let us play in the large party room adjacent to the wine shop.

On a Saturday, June 19, 1999, twenty members from the two chapters came together, some accompanied by family members.  Each chapter played several prepared pieces and then joined to play as a single group.  Besides recorders, guitar and sackbut were used in some pieces. In between the morning and afternoon playing sessions, members enjoyed lunch at the winery's Alpine-style restaurant.

The Aeolus Recorder Konsort performed at the Highland Valley Renaissance Faire for the fifth consecutive year.  The period Faire and Marketplace took place in Little Rock, Arkansas 72211, at Highland Valley United Methodist Church, 15524 Chenal Valley Parkway on Saturday, October 12, 2002.