Google launched its Cultural Institute project in 2011 as a way to “make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations.” The first four years of the institute were focused on the visual arts and world heritage sites, but on December 1 they launched a new performing arts section — and Philly’s own Piffaro, the Renaissance Band was one of only 13 groups from the United States (of more than 60 worldwide) to be included.
The Piffaro section of the exhibition includes photos, performance audio, and videos that introduce the various renaissance instruments that members of the ensemble play — so if you’ve never been clear about the difference between a shawm and a sackbut, help is at hand. “Most of these instruments are the precursors to modern classical music instruments and are unfamiliar to the general public,” said Shannon Cline, Piffaro’s executive director.
Piffaro’s artistic co-directors, Joan Kimball and Bob Wiemken, are excited and grateful. They’re “thrilled at this opportunity and feel so fortunate that we received an invitation to join the Google Cultural Institute,” Kimball said. “To have an early music ensemble featured in the mix with Carnegie Hall, The Metropolitan Opera, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, among others, is exciting indeed. It would be wonderful to see other early music organizations joining us on this roster! We are very grateful to Sharon Torello for her excellent display of our photos and videos.”
Another Philadelphia group can be heard performing at the Cultural Institute site: Carnegie Hall is represented by a 360-degree video of the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 under the hands of music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
In addition to music, dance, and theatrical performances, the site includes exhibits from museums on the performing arts. For instance, the American Museum of Magic provides a display of 50 posters, most of them from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and France’s Centre national du costume de scène has photos of hundreds of stage costumes. There’s plenty to explore after checking out Piffaro’s performance videos.
Piffaro will also be performing a special Christmas program, Christmas in Germany: Dresden Vespers 1619, with Tempesta di Mare and Choral Arts Philadelphia. The program will be offered three times: Friday, December 18, 8pm at Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, 18th and the Parkway, Philadelphia; Saturday, December 19, 8pm at Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia; and Sunday, December 20, 3:30pm at Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew & Matthew, 719 North Shipley Street, Wilmington. Tickets are $10 students, $29 general admission, $39 preferred seating, and $49 premium seating. Tickets are available online or at the door. Check out Tom Purdom's preview of the event here.