Baroque conference draws international guests

Audra Gamble

This weekend, the department of music and dance at Grand Valley State University will host the Baroque Legacy Conference, which celebrates the enduring influence of the Baroque era in Hispanic America and Central and Eastern Europe.

The conference features around 24 presenters and a variety of cultural events. It began with a tapas dinner in Grand Rapids on Oct. 23 and will end with a concert on Oct. 26.

Organizer Lisa Feurzeig said the conference is a continuation of a conference held in April of 2010 at GVSU.

“Then we were concentrating on Czech music and art. So now we’ve expanded,” Feurzeig said. “We now are including not only the Czech region, but Eastern and Central Europe. We’ve also added Hispanic America.”

Hispanic America may be geographically far from Europe, but Feurzeig said the connection between the two places is clear.

“We came across a quote by the Czech novelist Milan Kundera, he wrote to a Mexican novelist and said the two regions are very similar,” Feurzeig said. “They’re both grounded in the Baroque, the eighteenth century style. As a result, there’s a certain type of imaginative connection, with imagination, folktale, superstition and all those things.”

While the basis of the conference is musical connections, presenters will speak about an array of topics, including literature, Brazilian film, Peruvian plants and more.

The conference has drawn many presenters from across the world, including Estonia, England, Slovakia, Cuba, Brazil and other nations.

There will also be two keynote speakers—John Rice will speak about Brazil and Bohemia in the Czech Republic, and Yale professor Roberto González Echevarría will speak about literature.

“(Rice’s) wife is Brazilian, so he’ll give a lecture about Bohemia in the Czech Republic and Minas Gerias in Brazil and how they were both centers of musical change,” Feurzeig said. “[González Echevarría is] Cuban-American, and a scholar on literature. He’s a really interesting man. He’ll talk about a novel called ‘Lezama Lima’s Baroque Legacy.’”

The conference will conclude with a multi-part concert, beginning in the Cook-DeWitt Center and ending in the dance studio inside the Performing Arts Center. Bolivian, Spanish and Austrian music will be played.

Between the performances in the above-mentioned locations, a Spanish tonadilla will be performed by GVSU student Cora Alexandra Papas. The piece will take place outside the Louis Armstrong Theater while refreshments are served.

“I’m hoping I can get across as much of the story as I can,” Papas said. “Hopefully the audience will know what’s going on. It’s going to be challenging, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Feurzeig said the goal is to make GVSU known as an intellectual center where people think about and talk about important things.

While the conference topic is specific, everyone is encouraged to attend.

“I think it would be too bad if people were daunted by the topic and say ‘I don’t play music, I’m not a literary person,’” said Feruzeig. “I think that there’s going to be a range of presentations. There will be something that will be of interest for anyone.”

All events are free and open to the public. For a full schedule of events, visit

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