About the Boston Village Gamelan
|Barry Drummond, Artistic Director|
|Official BVG web site|
Founded in 1979 by Sam Quigley and Alan Robinson, the BVG has the distinction of being the first community gamelan group in the US, dedicated to the performance of traditional Javanese music. Starting with a few imported instruments, the group assembled its own homemade gamelan sléndro out of steel, brass, aluminum and various woods. The group has matured over the years and has attracted other musicians from other gamelan programs throughout the country. The ensemble has performed regularly throughout New England and, at the invitation of the Indonesian government, at EXPO '86 at their pavilion in Vancouver, Canada. Upon his return from two extended periods in Indonesia, Barry Drummond joined the group in 1991 as its artistic director. Since then, using his gamelan lengkap made by Tentrem Sarwanto, the BVG has grown tremendously in its musical capabilities. Most notably, the ensemble shared the stage with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in their East Meets West concert (February 1996) and performed an extended wayang kulit with Bpk. Widyanto as dhalang at Tufts University (November 1996), where the group is now in residence. The entire membership gratefully acknowledges the instruction and inspiration of Javanese teachers both in the United States and in Indonesia, and especially, R.M. Soekanto Sastrodarsono, I.M. Harjito and Sumarsam, Artists-in Residence at Wesleyan University, for their artistic guidance and support.
The Boston Village Gamelan has grown considerably since the summer of 1979 when a few friends convened simply to enjoy playing music. Throughout its existence this enjoyment of the music has been regarded as the overriding concern of the group. The history of the group has been cyclic, complete with variations. An increase in membership creates the need for more instruments. More instruments increase the musical potential and concert activity as well as increasing the need for a more suitable space, all of which requires a more organized administration of the affairs of the group.
By the fall of 1980, after the first additions of new members, several new instruments were made and others had been received on loan. The BVG was invited to perform as part of the "Free-for-All" holiday festival at the Museum of Fine Arts on December 13th. This first public appearance of the ensemble was particularly auspicious because of the venue: the extraordinary French Impressionism gallery filled with world renowned paintings, including Gauguins monumental Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? Additional members and several other festival invitations prompted the musical development towards a group capable of high quality performance with a stable membership. Infrequent business meetings in addition to the weekly rehearsals were held and, following Javanese examples, consensus became the mode for decision making on operational issues. Financial activity was conducted through a personal checking account and was so limited that only minimal records were kept.
The summer and fall of 1981 saw further stabilization and the decision to close rehearsals to visiting participants. A second weekly rehearsal was established as an open class for anyone interested. Conceptually, the open class was to allow the group to improve its repertoire and ensemble technique while continuing the encouragement of new people and individual improvement and experimentation among the members.
As the first featured concert approached (February 1982 at Wesleyan University), the need for more and better instruments was acutely felt and with the rehearsal space already overcrowded, the need for a more spacious location was underscored. The second rehearsal had not worked out and so easy access to the instruments for individual practice became more of a motivation than ever for a new space. The organizational ability to accomplish this however, was lagging far behind the need.
By early summer of 1982, a major dance concert at the Museum of Fine Arts for the following December was scheduled. The group decided to purchase tools to forge new instruments. Contributions were solicited and tools were acquired. A checking account was set up for the group and by September 30th, we had spent $602.51 and had a balance of $1.97! The severe space limitations were temporarily resolved (sic) with a new arrangement of the instruments and although barely adequate, the issue of finding new quarters was tabled in light of the priorities of preparing for the concert.
By January 1983, the group recognized that the financial situation and the amount of administrative work was well beyond the present organizational structure and we decided to incorporate. A committee was formed to study the process and prepare the documents. By this time, the home-made sléndro ensemble looked like this.
In addition to the purposes stated in the By-Laws, the committee enumerated the following reasons for incorporation:
to establish efficient and accountable administrative mechanisms,
to establish a location for the performance of world music,
to make or otherwise acquire better instruments,
to raise funds to facilitate the will of the musical ensemble.
The deliberations of the committee were quite involved. A number of people had voiced their fear of "over-organization" and their concern that the incorporation process might alter the basic premise of the group. With this in mind, the committee attempted to design an administrative structure which would balance the need for a less time consuming decision-making process with the previous style of unanimous agreement. Requiring three quarters of the membership for a quorum and establishing a majority at two-thirds is the method by which we hope to achieve this balance.
Fear had also been expressed that in a worse case scenario, the interests of the group might not be best served if the Board of Trustees was given too much authority. This was resolved by envisioning the Board as an advisory body whose main function is to support and facilitate the will of the membership. The only positions with the ability to implement policy are the officers who are elected from the membership and who sit on the Board. Finally, it was recognized that some of the members of the Board may not be able to be extremely active and would, in fact, prefer to guide policy rather than perform administrative duties.
By May 1983, with the incorporation papers nearly completed, Wesleyan University offered the loan of the pélog World's Fair gamelan on the condition that it would be properly insured in an appropriate location. The needs and benefits of incorporation, if ever in doubt in the minds of the membership, had finally become entirely evident.
The first major performance by the BVG on the World's Fair gamelan occurred in January 1984 at New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall. Resulting from a major publicity campaign and a growing interest in World Music, the group played to a sold-out hall (the only event of that season to fill the 1,200 seats other than the Julliard String Quartet!). Another highlight of that period was the group's participation in the first International Gamelan Festival in Vancouver, Canada which was sponsored by the Indonesian Government at EXPO'86. Also during the 1980s, the ensemble participated in a number of the New Year's Eve festival, Boston's First Night.
For the BVG, the 1990s began with the inaugural concert on the Museum of Fine Arts' recently acquired 1840 "Blora" gamelan lengkap . Shortly thereafter, Barry Drummond joined the group as artistic director began to rehearse on his gamelan lengkap at Boston's Emmanuel Church, where it was an ensemble-in-residence. This residency was culminated by a major performance of classical repertoire for the Association for Asian Studies' annual meeting in March 1994. Along the way, the corporation's By-Laws were amended to reduce the organizational overhead and to better meet the growing needs of the musical ensemble.
The group has been in residence at Tufts University since August 1994 and the notable events of the recent period are highlighted in the first paragraph of this page. The BVG continues to offer beginning classes and workshops in Javanese gamelan and is always anxious to add new interested and/or experienced players. Regular rehearsals take place Mondays and Thursdays at 7:45 pm in the basement of the Music Department at 48 Professors Row, Medford, Mass.