Sneak Peek: Art in Tune

Museum Council Steering Committee

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of a musical instrument collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It was in January 1917 that 560 instruments formerly belonging to English collector Francis W. Galpin began to arrive in Boston, having been purchased by Boston businessman William Lindsey and donated to the MFA in memory of his daughter Leslie, who had perished in the sinking of the Lusitania two years earlier. Galpin's collection was remarkably broad in scope, and the Museum's number of musical instruments has now grown to nearly 1200 examples from all over the world, ranging in date from ancient times to the early 21st century.

One of the most exciting ways the MFA is celebrating this centennial milestone is with Art in Tune, an evening of special performances at the Museum on Thursday, November 16, from 6 to 8 pm. Visitors will be greeted at the MFA's grand staircase by a trio playing fanfares on three mid-19th-century English trumpets, as well as a lively accordionist performing on a recently acquired instrument from the 1950s in the Shapiro Courtyard and various other locations in the Museum. Visitors can travel around the Museum to nine different galleries to discover soloists and ensembles of musicians.

Twenty-one musicians perform in eleven different areas throughout the Museum, all playing musical instruments from the Museum's collection. The majority of these performances will take place in galleries that relate to the instruments being played, such as an Indian sarod (lute) in the South Asian Gallery and a 1936 electric violin in the gallery dedicated to American modernism.

A complete list of the instruments, musicians, and performance spaces is listed below:

Locations, Instruments, and Performers

Gallery 152: English Regency
Instruments: Portable Irish harp and English dital harp (about 1820)
Performer: Nancy Hurrell

Gallery 251: 19th-Century European Paintings
Instruments: French flutes and guitars (19th century)
Performers: Peter H. Bloom and Olav Chris Henriksen

Gallery 133: The New Nation
Instruments: New England violin, viola, and cello (early 1800s)
Performers: Brian Clague, Jayme Kurland, and Javier Caballero

Gallery 326: American Modernism
Instruments: Electric violin (1936) and electric lap steel guitar (about 1950)
Performers: Mimi Rabson and Norman Zocher

Gallery 176: South Asia
Instruments: Indian sarod (lute), tabla (drums), and tambura (drone) (about 1970)
Performers: George Ruckert and Jerry Leake

Gallery 285: Chinese Furniture
Instrument: Chinese pipa (lute) (1891)
Performer: Kevin Zhen

Gallery 110: Ancient Near East
Instrument: Turkish oud (1899)
Performer: Malcolm Barsamian

Gallery 215: Ancient Greece
Instruments: Greek lyra (fiddle) (1981) and laouto (lute) (2012)
Performers: Beth Bahia Cohen and Vasileios Kostas

Gallery 103: Musical Instruments
Instruments: French harpsichord (1736), English piano (1796), and German clavichord (1796)
Performers: Peter Sykes and Jay Panetta

Sharf Visitor Center, Shapiro Courtyard, Linde Wing
Instruments: Accordions (1930s–1970s)
Performer: Cory Pesaturo

Grand Staircase
Instruments: Three English natural trumpets (mid-19th century)
Performers: Chris Belluscio, Paul Perfetti, and Robin Pyle

Special thank you to Darcy Kuronen, Department Head and Pappalardo Curator of Musical Instruments, for his time in developing this article.