When Danielle Maddon, concertmaster of the New England Philharmonic, first laid eyes on the block prints of Gloucester’s Folly Cove Designers, she heard music from the world’s most celebrated composers flow through her mind.
She and a friend had been visiting museums all around the region, and last fall, they landed at Cape Ann Museum in the heart of Gloucester.
“I could hear the music as I saw the images,” Maddon said. “I said to my friend, this is Bach’s ‘Air on the G String,’ or this is a Haydn rondo, or this is exactly like the second movement of the Ravel String Quartet.”
The concert was inspired by the Folly Cove Designers Collection at the museum and will be performed by the New England Philharmonic Chamber Players’ Principals String Quartet, which features Maddon and John Lyneis on violins, Jamie Doyle on viola, and Jason Coleman on cello.
“We are always looking for opportunities to combine music with art,” Maddon said.
She and Ann Teixeira, a museum member and the board vice president of New England Philharmonic, journeyed through the varied exhibitions at Cape Ann Museum during their visit.
“I had no idea this museum is a jewel box, a true treasure trove,” Maddon said. “There we were gazing around the glorious oil paintings and seascapes, and then we went down the stairs to the room with the textiles and linoleum block prints. It was sort of love at first sight.”
Saturday’s concert is being offered in conjunction with the special exhibit “The Little House: Her Story,” which highlights the talents of children’s author/illustrator Virginia Lee Burton of Gloucester and her award-winning book. The exhibit opens on Saturday, Nov. 3, and runs through March 31. Burton was the founder of Folly Cove Designers.
During the concert, images of the work of Folly Cove Designers will be displayed on a screen while the musicians perform works by composers spanning hundreds of years from the 17th to the 20th centuries.
Maddon said that the Folly Cove Designers organized their textile patterns with many of the same design principles used by the great composers in classical music. The concert program will feature music by Haydn, Bartok, Purcell, Bach, Dvorak, Janacek, Arensky and Ravel.
The string quartet will demonstrate how music and art in their essence share similar principles in composition. The patterns in the musical selections will be juxtaposed with patterns in works by the Folly Cove Designers.
“The prints are so exuberant and vivacious. They are refined and elegantly done,” Maddon said. “Their subject matter of daily life — somebody’s rooster, somebody’s garden — is so exquisitely rendered. You just have to say bravo to them.”
The Folly Cove Designers worked between 1938 and 1969, producing designs cut into linoleum blocks and printed primarily on fabric. The majority had no previous artistic training prior to becoming involved in the group of friends and neighbors, led by Burton.
Burton urged the designers to find inspiration in their surroundings, drawing “what they knew” and to sketch their subjects repeatedly.
“Each print is an exquisite snapshot of the artist’s life and experience,” Maddon said. “They are in Cape Ann, so it’s locally specific and witty and so deeply felt.
“But what just walloped me was how the organization of their ideas is like many of the same principles that classical composers use to craft their ideas into music, from minuets to symphonies,” she said. “These musical patterns have come down to us through the ages. It’s about subject, contrast and return of the subject, which is the same ABA form we use in music. It’s about the grammar of design.”
Maddon said that the musicians are eager to share their excitement with the audience about these artistic and musical parallels.
“It’s really remarkable when you see the commonality, and you see we are not so different in the arts,” she said. “We are responding to repetition and contrast in its various interpretations, as we do in grammar. When you want people to remember something, you repeat it, like a radio station giving you its call sign, or our mothers telling us constantly to wash our hands before dinner. Repetition really gets the idea across.”
Cape Ann Museum hosts a variety of musical programs throughout the year.
“Over the years, we’ve learned that the combination of visual art and music make for a transporting experience,” said Ronda Faloon, director of Cape Ann Museum. “We are looking forward to this unique performance.”
If you go
What: New England Philharmonic Chamber Players: “The Power of Pattern”
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant St., Gloucester.
How much: $40 general admission, $25 for Cape Ann Museum members
More information: capeannmuseum.org or 978-283-0455, ext. 10
Original Article: The Daily News of Newburyport