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. . . for Historic Sites . . . Museums . . . Living History and Special Community Events

Bells & Motley Consort
of Olden Music, Dance, and Storytelling
present Concerts, Historic Music, Instruments and Dance Workshops, and Pageants

The musical duo Bells & Motley brings historic music, dance, theatre, and pageantry to life. We are known for programs that are warm and interactive, with broad appeal to audiences of all ages. From rustic & robust music performed on early bagpipes, hurdy gurdy, and button accordeon, to more sophisticated settings on lute, harp, recorders, fiddles, and more... audiences delight to discover that historic music not too esoteric for modern ears!

In addition to concerts, we offer participatory Erie Canal Folk Operettas, Wassailing Plays, and traditional storytelling representing a variety of early immigrant cultures. Hands-down, our most favorite places to perform are Historic Sites (and we especially enjoy implementing special project partnerships with sites and museums.)

Here are some examples of past projects specially created by Bells & Motley for unique historic sites:

JOHNSON HALL STATE HISTORIC SITE In 2001, Bells & Motley first teamed up with Wanda Burch of Johnson Hall to offer a pairing of performances with an eye towards attracting new audiences and appreciators of history. First, on Saturday afternoon in the neighboring village of Glen, the Bromkas performed "Who Has Heard the Wind," a family program of traditional storytelling combined with a mini-concert. The story sought to introduce young people to "times long ago," and also featured a mini-concert on historic wind instruments (recorders, gemshorns, crumhorns, bagpipes...) On Sunday afternoon, the audience was invited back to hear the Bromkas at Johnson Hall for a concert entitled "Bards, Bagpipes, & Rhymers," with friends and relatives in tow! Since that first year, the Bromkas have returned to Johnson Hall for a variety of programs, including teaching historic dances to folks on the lawn, and "St. John's Day" Christmas concerts.

OLANA Jim Ryan first invited the Bromkas to perform at Olana in 1990, and from there it became a longstanding tradition. Some of you might recognize Frederick Church's famous stairwell stage in the original cover photograph that graced "Wassail!" (the artists' CD of early Christmas music, see at right). Memories of past performances there, bathed in the stained-glass window's golden light, with views of early winter sunsets over the Hudson make John and Sondra eagerly await this year's Christmas Open House! Bells & Motley have also performed Victorian Picnic concerts on the lawn in the summer time, and mid-winter, John has presided for several years running, in the guise of a Victorian Father Christmas, over interactive the Artists traditional English Mummers' Wassailing Plays for the children. Click here to learn more about "Wassail" community theater projects

LORENZO STATE HISTORIC SITE: JANE AUSTEN BALL COMMUNITY COLLABORATION This wonderful historic site is one of several right in Sondra and John's own backyard, and since 1986 the Bells & Motley Consort has been honored to perform annually in that wonderful upstairs library as part of the Cazenovia community's holiday tradition of "Candlelight Christmas at Lorenzo." The acoustics ring through the entire house, and faithful guests return year after year, saying that Christmas would not be Christmas without this tradition. Lorenzo has sponsored the Bromkas in a number of memorable special events over the years. The favorite so far?
Working closely with Lorenzo's site manager Russ Grills, Cazenovia College, Cazenovia Library, and the Historic Lincklaen House, we coordinated and implemented the re-creation of an historic Midwinter Jane Austen Ball that included folks of all ages. (click here for project details and photos)

In preparation for the event, the Bromkas taught a series of dance workshops. Folks from the community -- young, old, beginners, and more experienced -- learned the steps of English Country Dances that were popular in Jane's era, such as would have been enjoyed at Lorenzo's own gatherings. The culminating gala ball was a sold-out success, and wouldn't you know, host Russ himself cut a fine figure as the most accomplished of dancers. The unique project further enriched the community by extending the Lorenzo/Bromka partnership to include Cazenovia's college, schools, library, Lincklaen House, merchants' organization in an annual Winterfest Celebration.

and following upon another of our specialties

at Sackets Harbor Battlefield Site

A full day of French programs, workshops and activities lead by Bells & Motley, including: a concert of French historic and traditional music on hurdy gurdies, a variety of French provincial bagpipes, including Breton biniou and bombarde (Breton bagpipes and rustic oboe duet), songs for dancing, singing, and dreaming; Instruction on historic musical instrument playing; Workshops in historic and traditional French dances of the provices; and musical instrument playing, and barbe-a-queue in July.

The core of this project began with our prooposal for a cultural history photo-essay, which we researched and documented in France especially for this site. The culmination of the project was a community festival, in which John and Sondra Bromka presented a lecture about 17th French cultural traditions, performances of French music and instruments, discussions of the artists' research and recreation of historic stringed instruments, and dance workshops for one and all. Find more information about the Jamais Obliez photo-documentary project at

A full day of performances and workhops of French culture, including music, instruments, and dance traditions, and highlighted by the artists' original musical theater performance "The Tale of Yanek & Heliotrope."

Historic French music, dance, and storytelling performances and workshops given in various places, including Brittany, Alsace, and Sully sur Loire France; Lissberg, Germany; Brussels. Belgium; Istanbul. Turkey, and more!

If you would like to receive further information about any of Bells & Motley's past special projects, or ideas for future programs, concerts, historic musical theatre performances, dance workshops, or extraordinary traditional holiday programs created especially for your site, contact the artists by email or by phone at 315-673-2995.


We have presented a huge variety workshops and performances at historic faires, festivals, holiday and other special events at:

Lorenzo State Historic Site
Crown Point, "Quadricentennial Concert of French Music" for Samuel de Champlain
Crailo, "Quadricentennial Concert of Dutch Music" for Henry Hudson
Lyndhurst, "Quadricentennial Concert of Dutch Music" for Henry Hudson
Olana, Victorian Music & Performances for various holiday celebrations
Herkimer Home
Madison Historic Society "Cottage Lawn" Living History Faire
1890 House, Cortland, Celtic Christmas Open House
Albany 1st Nite: Celebration of Historic New Years
Onondaga Historical Museum - Onondaga History Festival
Fenimore House - teachers workshops
Senate House, Kingston

Albany Institute of History and Art
New York State Museum "15 Years on the Erie Canal" an original musical theater performance piece, ours was the first of its kind, and boasts all manner of rare and exciting period instruments
Erie Canal Village, Rome New York
Erie Canal Museum, Syracuse "Bells & Motley's Merry Tunes for Early America and Old England"
Springfield Museums "Founders' Day Living History Celebration" on the Quad
Zadock Pratt Museum "100th Birthday Celebration"
St Marie Among the Iroquois, Syracuse, "Jamais Oubliez" Concert and documentary exhibit
Witter Agricultural Museum, New York State Fair

Springfield GWV Art Museums, commissioned "Bawshou" traditional Chinese musical piece to accompany special exhibit; Hosted day-long Renaissance Day of workshops in music, art, dance, costume making
The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls - workshops in Renaissance music, dance, historic art-as- document for student groups. Summer camp labyrinth building residency
Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center "Making Music Together" bringing an instrument to play; also, a Christmas Mummers' Play and Pageant
Roberson Museum of Art, Binghamton
Johnson Art Museum, Cornell University
Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse
Parrish Art Museum, Southampton NY, Children's summer program workshops
Strong Museum, Rochester
Glencairn Museum, Bryn Athyn PA
MoBia - Museum of Biblical Art, NYC, NY

and many others!

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