ALICE MARGERUM: MEDIEVAL STRINGED INSTRUMENTS & DECORATIVE CARVING | Do you know what a bray harp is? I didn't. It's a medieval/Renaissance harp with bray pins, which when the harp is played lightly touch the strings to create a buzzing tone. It's thought that this kind of harp was the usual partner to the lute, since its nasal sound (think of it as the harp equivalent of the crumhorn) would contrast with the lute's sweeter, more open song. Alice also has at her table a rebec, which she, following Chaucer in "The Miller's Tale," calls a "rubible" (hey, if it was good enough for Chaucer . . . ), and she can demonstrate various ways to hold it: against your elbow (if you have long arms), against your shoulder or chest, even against your ear.
BODO SCHULZ: DUDELSACKBAU UND HISTORISCHE HOLZBLASINSTRUMENTE | In other words, bagpipes — not the familiar large Scottish kind but smaller, musette-like instruments in a variety of volume levels. You can get hands-on instruction here on how to fill the bag ("You have blow as if you were filling a balloon") and how to control the airflow with your elbow — all of which you'll need to know before you can start moving your fingers.
AMERICAN MUSICAL INSTRUMENT SOCIETY | Darcy Kuronen, the Pappalardo Curator of Musical Instruments at the Museum of Fine Arts, can perform on the double flageolet, a 19th-century instrument that allows you to produce the sound of two recorders at once. As well as inviting you to join the AMIS, Kuronen will remind you that though the festival will be over come Monday, the MFA's superb collection of musical instruments is on display year-round.
CONCERTZENDER | This Dutch radio station offers music via the internet 24 hours a day, and its 17 theme channels include one for early music and one for Gregorian chant. Check out the website.
HARPSICHORD CLEARING HOUSE | The Dartmouth Room on the Radisson's sixth floor would be worth checking out just for the 1995 16-foot-stop double from the Eric Herz studio in Cambridge. If you're not quite prepared to play Bach's Italian Concerto on it, you can always listen.
B.A.C. CUSTOM MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS | The high-profile instruments at any BEMF exhibition are the recorders, the strings (especially the viol da gamba), and the harpsichord. For some reason, brass-instrument makers are never well represented. Perhaps that's because there are so few of them. In fact, B.A.C. advertises itself as the only sackbut manufacturer in the US today. The sackbut is the ancestor of the modern trombone; blow into one and you'll know you're not in Kansas (B.A.C.'s home state) anymore.
BEMF CD SHOP | Another hour — and probably hundreds of dollars — down the drain. This is early-music CD heaven, with over 400 hundred titles and 5000 CDs. You'll find everything from the complete BEMF recordings (the newest are Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Actéon and John Blow's Venus and Adonis) to the latest from festival superstars Jordi Savall and the Tallis Scholars. The only composer I missed was Johann Mattheson, whose opera Boris Goudenow was the 2005 BEMF centerpiece.
PS: If you think you could be the next Paolo Pandolfo or Jordi Savall, check out the viol da gamba "petting zoo" in the Radisson's sixth-floor Exeter Room from 10 am to noon this Saturday. You can find out more about this and other events from the BEMF's indispensable 336-page program book, only $10.
And watch this space tomorrow for a review of this evening's "The Celtic Viol" (with Jordi Savall) and Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra concerts.