First Music Monday with the serpent

First Music Monday with the serpent

When my wife and I lived in Boston from 1985-2012, I had a very nice relationship with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Museum is a perfect size to enjoy and it has a fine collection of art from around the world. Tucked away just off the Museum’s main entrance on Huntington Avenue is the musical instrument gallery. While the display space is small, it is inviting and informative, and the gallery has regular demonstrations of its instruments by people who have devoted their lives to mastering particular instruments, many of which are not frequently used today. Conducting research at the Museum and being a docent was very rewarding.

In 2012, I wrote an article for the Galpin Society Journal, Serpents in Boston: The Museum of Fine Arts and Boston Symphony Orchestra Collections. If interested, you can order a copy of that issue by visiting the Galpin Society website by clicking the link above. Here is the first page:


This peer-reviewed journal is a leading voice for the world of organology, or the study of musical instruments. My article focused both on the serpents in the two collections and also on the four people who were responsible for bringing the collections to Boston: Canon Francis W. Galpin and William Lindsay (MFA), and Henri Casadesus and Serge Koussevitzky (BSO). My research for that article was a culmination of my many hours of work at the MFA and I look back with great fondness at the times when I was in the instrument gallery giving a demonstration and talk to interested museum patrons.

This year, the MFA musical instrument gallery is celebrating the centennial of its establishment, when 560 instruments from Canon Galpin’s private collection were purchased by William Lindsay and donated to the MFA in memory of his daughter, Leslie Hawthorne Lindsay Mason, who died in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. To celebrate this anniversary, the MFA is posting a video on YouTube and their Facebook page of one of their instruments from the collection being played. So this year, you will see 52 of the MFA’s choice instruments in all of their glory. Visit the MFA’s Facebook page each Monday to see that week’s video:

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Facebook Page

I’m so pleased that the first instrument to be featured is the serpent, in a video I made in 2012 (the photo at the top of this post shows the recording session for the video, with curator Darcy Kuronen overseeing the filming). You can see it on the MFA Facebook page (where, as of today, it’s received over 29,000 views!) – scroll down a little on the page to find the video that was posted on January 2 – or on YouTube in this embedded video  or by clicking the YouTube link above (if you are reading this as an email subscriber of The Last Trombone, click on the title of this post and you will be brought to the website of The Last Trombone where you can see the video as well as the photo of the recording session for the video that is at the top of this page):

Later this year, there will be two more videos that I recorded at the MFA: one with an ophicleide and one with a buccin. Don’t know what they are? I’ll be posting links to those videos when they come up so can learn about them.

You can also see my videos on the serpent and buccin in the ebook edition of the MFA’s book, Musical Instruments by Darcy Kuronen. You can purchase that excellent ebook on the iTunes store by clicking this link below; it’s only $9.99 and you will be introduced to many of the MFA’s fine instruments as well as videos of many of them being played:

Information about the book Musical Instruments by Darcy Kuronen at the iTunes Store

Happy anniversary to the MFA’s Musical Instrument Collection!