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Contact information:
Bells & Motley Consort
"Music at MonteViola"
36 South Street, Marcellus NY 13108

Performances, Workshops, Integrated Arts Residencies
Erie Canal Music & Instruments, Dance, Storytelling
"15 Miles on the Erie Canal"
is an original and very participatory historic musical storytelling performance for all ages. In addition, we can teach historic dances of the day, offer an up-close exploration of the instruments, tall tale writing and performance workshops, more! Details for Schools   for Public venues "15 Miles on the Erie Canal" Folk Operetta
Colonial Conviviality
Early American Music, Instruments, Dance, Documents, Projects Details
Science of Sound; World Music, Instruments, & Cultures
Instrument making option also available Details
Medieval & Renaissance Immersion in the Arts
Faires, Festivals, Dramatics, Dance, Documents, and Pageants - two examples of which are listed next... Find many more exciting ideas in our
Medieval/Renaissance Residency Program Catalog
"Chanticleer's Tale Medieval Pageant" - Built around the story from Geoffrey Chaucer�s fabulous Canterbury Tales. Scripted by Sondra Bromka especially for children�s performance. Residencies individually designed, inquire for more details!
"Carmina Burana Young People's Medieval Pageant:
The Wheel of Fortune"
- We have created a dynamic, historically based musical theater script for our Medieval Arts residencies with older students, again going back to original Medieval sources, music, instruments, dances. Details

"Celtic Muse & Minstrelsy" Early Music Journey
This concert explores the musical arts of Gaelic kings and commoners with harp, hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, voices, and much more!
"Terpsichore" Early Music for the Muse of Dance
Lively music from Renaissance France, Spain, Italy, Flanders, Germany, beyond! (If you want to learn period dances, that can be arranged as well!)
"Shakespeare's Garden:
Flowers, Birdsong, & Fountains"

Evocative Mid-Summer, May Day, Valentines, or any time you would like a richly warming concert on early instruments including lute, harp, recorders, nyckelharpa, and other sweet sounds.
"Olden Music Splendor, from Bards to Bagpipes"
This performance will engage audiences of all ages and ignite a love of history, arts, and traditions. Medieval bagpipes, hurdy hurdy, harp, and other early instruments will be featured in this spirited performance of music of Medieval troubadours, Celtic bards, Village pipers, American dreamers, and more.
French-Dutch Heritage Programs:
Quadricentennial & Beyond

17th c. French & Dutch music, dances, and art celebrate the explorations of Samuel de Champlain and Henry Hudson. Link to programs & resources
"One World, Many Instruments"
Traditional Music & Instruments from Many Cultures"
A delightful, enriching musical journey for all ages.

Multi-Media Explorations of Historic Art, Music, and Imagination

"From Art to Wood to Music: Sculpted Sound" Exhibit
"Medieval Instrument Mysteries & Metamorphoses" Concert
Bells & Motley's photo-documentary exhibit of European frescoes, sculptures, and other works of art that have documented our research trail for authentic performance and building of medieval musical instruments. Past exhibits include colleges, libraries, galleries, conferences ... more

"Ne Jamais Oubliez: Never to Forget"
Cultural Traditions in 17th C. Old France/New France

What European cultural and practical traditions would have been known and utilized at St. Marie Among the Iroquois, upstate NY's 17th c. historic site? To answer this question, the artists explored the regions of France that have significant connections to the people that came, studying documents, colloquial building styles, and land use that continues to this day ... more

"Illuminate History - Art-as-Document" Forums
An outstanding interdisciplinary teaching tool, this program uses a wide variety of primary source imagery, designed to bring an accurate, informed understanding of history, on a great range of topics. Because the images include primary sources that the presenters have gathered first-hand in their own ongoing research, students gain an appreciation and working knowledge of the historical research process. Topics ranging from Historic Illumination arts, Music and Dance, Occupations, Costuming, Architecture, Symbolism for Creativity, and much more.

For Holiday Celebrations Most Memorable & Rare...

We bring a rich variety of holiday concert themes to choose from. All feature a feast of historic instruments, from Medieval to Renaissance to Traditional Old-World. Choose between Olde English-Celtic Concerts, Dicken's Victorian, International, Renaissance Revels, and much more, including Custom programs.
Click for more information about our Yuletide programs... including
"Wassail!" Olde English-Celtic Participatory Pageants and Revels for Christmas Celebrations
Make History! Read about our wonderfully memorable Yuletide events. Custom-created for over 30 years, our pageants bring together the community of your school, organization, library, village... Participation enhanced through your choice of workshops in traditional Music, Dance, Mummers' Drama, Costuming, and more. Madrigal Dinners and Boar's Head Feasts a long-time specialty! Link here to learn more!
Here is a month-by-month calendar list of our seasonal performance themes to take you through the year with the arts...Share your own ideas!

Campers enjoy learning about different cultures, their history, and various forms of artistic expression around the world and across time, by participating in historic musical pageantry with Bells & Motley - premier CNY artists, musicians, and educators. In each week-long arts camp session we learn the story and its background, and according to program, make costumes, masks, props, dance, sing and more. Session frequently conclude with a Friday performance of dramatic storytelling, music, and dance. For Ages: 6-12; Teens
Popular Arts Camp themes include -

"Bawshou & the Water Dragon" Chinese Arts, Music, Folklore, Pageantry
Maskmaking, Music-Making, Dragon Dancing, and Theatrics weave together into a spell-binding production and an unforgettable experience.
"Chanticleer's Tale Medieval Pageantry" - Built around the story from Geoffrey Chaucer�s fabulous Canterbury Tales. Scripted by Sondra Bromka, �Chanticleer� features lively theatrical roles and dramatic parts everyone, as well as authentic Medieval music, dances, and language woven into a colorful production.

our home & studios in Marcellus, NY

Teaching traditional and historic instruments, beginner to advanced, individual and group
including fiddles (medieval & traditional American), mandolin, mandocello, guitar, ukulele, pennywhistle, recorders, hurdy gurdy, dulcimers, harp, lute....Celtic, Medieval, & Renaissance instrument specialties! Custom stringed instruments built to order. Link for more information, or call 315-673-2995

"Faires & Festivals: Medieval-Renaissance" Guidebook for Teachers - 110 pages of wonderful ideas and information. For the complete Table of Contents click here, and here to order your copy!
Medieval-Renaissance Program Catalog for Schools click here for pdf

Fans & Friends, as you know, most of our music performance venues - libraries, schools, churches, festivals, historic sites - are open again. Check our calendar page for confirmed performances. Thanks for so much for being part of our circle, and stay safe!

For all manner of venues large and small, below is a sampling of our featured stories. Each of these memorable tales has served a wide range of audiences, young children, families, seniors. Set historically in a wondrous place and time "long ago and far away," audiences are transported into an atmosphere that is underscored by musical accompaniment on historic instruments, and welcomed with opportunities for all different kinds of participation. Every telling is a journey to remember!

"15 Miles on the Erie Canal"
Participatory Folk Operetta
with Traditional Music, Dance, and Instruments of the Past

Here is a colorful and very participatory historic musical storytelling event for all ages. Enjoy this lively collage of Tall Tales, Costumes, Music and Sing-along Songs as the artists share an unforgettable story of New York�s famous waterway. Presented in 19th century 'folk operetta' comedic performance style, it sparkles with canal-era music, performed on a rare collection of historic instruments including hammer dulcimer, banjo, fiddle, hurdy gurdy, early squeezeboxes, canal boat horn, and even more. More details

A special offering: Heroic Mythology from China
"Bawshou & the Water Dragon" Participatory Musical Pageant
A Traditional Chinese Folk Tale of a heroic young boy who rescues the Sun from a fearsome dragon

Chinese Folklore, Art, Dance, Music, and Instruments
Dig deep into a cave under the sea--the Sun has been captured by a Fearsome Dragon and hidden away. The Hero of our tale is Bawshou, a young man who courageously rises to the challenge of freeing the Sun. With the help of a golden phoenix, a small parcel of earth, a magic robe, and a heroic dream, Bawshou travels afar to seek out and rescue the Sun, for the good of his people and all the land.
Traditional Folktale presented in vibrant pageantry style, includes Chinese music on wondrous and authentic musical instruments. Options for pre-show workshops include Maskmaking, Ceremonial Gong-playing and Music-making, and Dragon Dance Workshops for further participation in the play's pageantry, arts, and learning! Details

Bells & Motley have long been recognized for their musical expertise, and this is their big year. Below are many great choices for concerts, participatory musical storytelling for children, teens, and adults. Scroll down to find even more listings on the bottom half of this page.

"The Ant & the Grasshopper" - a time-honored tale about Dreaming and Doing - with a wonderful new twist! Our participatory musical telling of Aesop's fable featuring harp, nyckleharpa, and John's 6 ft. ornately carved reconstruction of the rare historic tromba marina. Including settings of Vivaldi's "4 Seasons" and Monteverdi's Orfeo, watch how we excite youngest audiences about oldest music, and the value of dreaming, digging in, and doing! pdf link

"Stone Soup & the Hurdy Gurdy Man"
*A Double Treasure music & storytelling performance!
This favorite classic tale has been crafted to include lots of singing, movement, and active participation for audience members, from the youngest, to the most old and wise. The story: When a very clever traveler meets a very stingy lady, an extraordinary soup is heroically created from nothing more than the imaginative man�s ordinary stone, water, and his wits and imagination. Our version highlights this most valuable clue: There is great joy in sharing, and it is important to always �use your noodle,� and your imagination! Young children will love the inclusion of their favorite storytelling elements: singalongs, patterns, repetition, the wondrous ways of �long ago & far away,� and especially, their magical Chorus!
For a truly unusual musical experience, songs are accompanied by a real live HURDY GURDY built by the artist. This unforgettable historic stringed instrument doubles as a magic pepper grinder in our telling! Look forward to an energetic, meaningful, & interactive tandem storytelling experience underscored with live music, resonant with historic authenticity, and alive with abundant participation.
PLUS Double Treasure Option: 2 enriching programs, 1 special price
"The Hurdy Gurdy Children's Concert:
Curious Olden Instruments of Long Ago & Far Away"
"Stone Soup" Details

"The Boy Who Went to Visit the North Wind"
and "Who Has Heard the Wind"

another "Double Treasure" music & storytelling performance!
Sondra and John Bromka bring audiences on a wind-swept journey to 'long ago and far away' with the telling of this fine traditional tale. Look forward to an energetic tandem storytelling performance that is underscored with live music on Celtic harp, enriched with historic authenticity, and alive with abundant participation that is well suited to audiences of all ages. A tale of wonder, magic, and heroism, the story unfolds when a poor boy's meal is unwittingly blown away, taken to the four corners of the earth by the all-powerful North Wind, and cannot be returned. In exchange, a magic tablecloth, magic donkey, and magic stick are three marvelous gifts offered by the Wind. But in the end, the most important gift of all is surely the North Wind's sage advice: 'All you have to do is keep your eyes & ears open.' As in the best of traditional folktales, there is the timeless appeal of a thought provoking theme. Here, justice & fairness are of universal concern to young children. And they will enjoy their favorite storytelling elements: patterns and repetition, personification, and especially, the wondrous and curious ways of 'long ago & far away.' pdf link

"Who Has Heard the Wind" Concert, Double Treasure!
The artists' extensive early instrument collection features a joyous diversity of historic Medieval, Renaissance, and Traditional instruments. Playing upon the wind as our theme and setting, we are pleased to usher in our performance journey with an early music mini-concert, specially highlighting a diverse collection of early wind instruments of all shapes, sizes, and sounds. The audience is treated to consorts of recorders, of curious crumhorns, and as a special treat, historical bagpipes both loud and soft. Imagination is then courted with a mysteriously ancient and evocative gemshorn. As you enjoy this exploration of historic instruments, you will marvel at the wonderful ways human kind has used wood, animal horn, reed, leather, and ingenuity to invent instruments that created a rainbow of musical sounds. These two complementary programs unite perfectly to appeal to all the senses, a memorable and meaningful feast for the eyes, ears, and imagination! pdf link

"Music, World Instruments, & the Science of Sound"
There are SO many clever ways people have used the natural material around them - wood and reeds, skins and horns, horse hair and tree resin, and much, much more - to create instruments for sharing the beauty of music, dance, and other cultural traditions together. What ideas did people discover about the science of sound to help shape their fabulous instrument inventions? Let's experiment as they did! As builders of instruments the Bromkas have many exciting instruments and insights to show & to share! Details

As we continue to celebrate beyond the 200th Anniversary of the Grand Erie Canal, an amazing effort of collaboration & vision, is a great initiative to bring people of all ages actively together through music & song.
15 Miles on the Erie Canal Community Folk Pageants

Sample Project: Jordanville Public Library - a wonderful success, preparing for the finale pageant was the perfect vehicle to bring a remote community together through musical camaraderie, singing, and participatory tall tale writing and telling. Why, it even launched a sequel! If you would like to have your community participate in this kind of event, or find out about other Erie Canal programs we can offer, please let us know. Together let's create a very special celebration of collaboration!

Thank you so much for your feedback!

...."'I'll never look at art the same way again, I'll take my time with it."

...."I was immediately impressed not only by the knowledge and expertise that they bring to their vocation, but also by the way they engage people in their activities. As musicians who are also educators who are also performers who are also historians, Sondra and John bring a unique range of talents to audiences....their interactive approach works well to brings the usual 'gap' between performers and audiences..." - John R. Black, Ph.D. Moravian College

...."Thank you for a wonderful visit - so successful as all we've had in the past. This year's group thoroughly enjoyed it, and we only got positive feedback from everyone! It is a truly enriching experience to have you come in and share your expertise and your passions with the kids. I look forward to continuing our partnership for many years to come! " - Jon Glisson, Voorheesville MS. June 2015

...."You two make the Middle Ages come alive for our students, and all will remember this week as a highlight of their years at EMS. Thank you so, so much for your creativity, energy, musicality, and teaching expertise. Everything was perfect! See you next year! - Ronnee Lipman, Elisabeth Morrow School, Englewood NJ June 2015

plus a lighthearted news interview with all of our favorite FAQs... here...

A Sampling of Our Programs
For Schools & Libraries:

Performances, Workshops, Concerts,
Integrated Arts-in-Education Residencies
  • Historic and Traditional Music, Dance, Theatre, Storytelling
  • Living History Faires & Festivals
  • Renaissance Faires
  • Renaissance Arts & Art History Workshops
  • A Complete Medieval & Renaissance AIE Catalog 14-pg. pdf
  • Colonial Conviviality: Early American Traditions link
  • "15 Miles on the Erie Canal"
    Participatory Musical Theater link
  • NYS/Erie Canal Music, Dance, Theatre Residencies
  • "Music, World Instruments, & The Science of Sound" pdf

For Children, Teens, & Family Audiences Historic & VERY participatory Storytelling & Musical Theatre, Operettas & Pageants, and Interactive Concerts including
  • "15 Miles on the Erie Canal Participatory Folk Operetta" pdf
  • "Music Along the Canal: Our Canal Era Heritage Folk Music and Instruments from Many Cultures" pdf
  • "One World, Many Instruments: Heritage Folk Music and Instruments from Many Cultures" pdf
  • CHINA! "Bawshou & the Dragon" Musical Folktelling of China Performance, with Maskmaking, Musicmaking, and Dragon Dance Workshop options details
  • Music & Instruments of the Celtic Lands
  • French Music/Dance Cultural Traditions
  • "The Ant & the Grasshopper, Aesop's Fabled Fiddler" pdf
  • Double Treasure participatory storytelling + concert programs:
    "Stone Soup" +"The Hurdy Gurdy Children's Concert" pdf
  • Double Treasure participatory storytelling + concert program: "The Boy Who Went to Visit the North Wind" and "Who Has Heard the Wind" pdf
  • "Bawshou & the Dragon" Traditional Chinese Musical Pageantry and Storytelling details
  • May Celebrations & Spring Pageants
  • Chaucer's Canterbury Tales,
    Chanticleer's Tale
  • Christmas Concerts & Pageants pdf
  • More about Merry Olde English Christmas Wassailing Pageantry, Programs page, photos link
STORYTHEATER for Older Audiences
  • "Tristan & Iseult: A Harper's Tale" link
  • "Beowulf" Bardic Performance and Workshop
For Museums, Historic Sites, Colleges, Concert Series, Libraries... page link
  • "Celtic Medieval Muse & Minstrelsy"link
  • "Bards, Bagpipes, & Rhymers"pdf
  • "Terpsichore" Early Music for the
    Muse of Dance
  • "Shakespeare's Garden: Flowers, Birdsong, & Fountains"
  • Thematic concerts for All Seasons, All Holidays
  • Workshop menu includes historic music, dance, bookmaking & illumination arts, early crafts, instrument making
HISTORIC DANCE Workshops & Events
  • Renaissance Dances
  • Dances of Shakespeare's England
  • French Traditional of the Provinces
  • Dances of the British Isles
  • Seasonal & Ceremonial Dances
  • Jane Austen Historic Ball page
  • Dickens Victorian "Fezziwig's Ball"
  • NYS Heritage, Erie Canal Traditions
  • American Heritage Dance Traditions
  • International Heritage Traditions

Part of our Medieval/Renaissance "Instrumentarium" (larger)
See more of our instruments here

ARTS-in-EDUCATION Residencies & Resources

"Bells & Motley's Olden Music, Dance, and Storytelling programs carry students into the heart of history and culture. Curriculum-based multidisciplinary programs custom designed for all grade levels."


This past year we enjoyed a very full, and extremely interesting range of interdisciplinary residencies encompassing Medieval, Renaissance, American, Colonial and Multicultural Heritage themes. From inner city schools to private institutions to homeschoolers, from primary to high school ages, each setting brings its own unique diversity of charms and amazements in both the students and teachers we work with.
Custom Residencies are enthusiastically welcome!

Multicultural Heritage Music, Dance, Fine, and Cooking Arts was a highly participatory residency that compared these art forms between four major cultural entities, exploring similarities and differences in their historic roots, as well as in contemporary culture. At the sime time, we explored regional differences within each culture. The residency culmination included music and dance performances for school-wide enjoyment, as well as a multicultural cook-off.

Canterbury Tales: We continue to add new programs to enhance our twin scripts "Chanticleer Tale", based on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and "Renard the Fox" from the medieval French tradition. These residencies are linked to curriculum in all subject areas, and are complemented by an ever-growing detailed teacher's guide, to maximize those tie-ins. Possibilities for related developments include historic multicultural studies, folklore and fairytales, animal personification and mythology, and much more. This past year's implementation for a multi-age K-12 homeschool group was truly an unforgettable enrichment experience.

Carmina Burana: The Wheel of Fortune: Our original script goes back to its Medieval sources, a tale of fortune and fate. Designed especially for use in schools, the production includes songs in Latin, comic and tragic acting roles, dancing, instrumentals, and can be performance-ready in one-week's time. Coordinated workshops in costuming, theater craft, and more. For Grades 6-12 (wonderful photos from recent student performances!) see link

NYS Bicentennial Celebrations...a small community in the Catskills asked us to design a specialty program to celebrate that village's 200th birthday. We wrote a tall tale theatric storyline full of local references, highlighted by performances prepared by every school child K-6, including regionally related songs, dances, and scenarios. The preparatory workshops and culminating performance were a smashing success, and provide an excellent model for personalized Heritage Celebrations of all kinds.

Our extensive time working in Europe has also brought us tremendous new images of illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, architecture, and more to add to our medieval arts/history/culture slide shows. They provide resources for exciting new programs, and enhance our long-established programs for schools. These images also form the core of our most recent Photo-documentary exhibit, "From Art to Wood to Music: Sculpted Sound" see link

Our Instrumentarium...

... Includes a wide range of strings, winds, reeds and percussion instruments. A typical Bells & Motley performance is a great opportunity to oggle many incredible instruments, both familiar and rare, from Medieval to Folkloric to Modern, covering a span 1000 years' time and many continents.

We also use these instruments to vividly introduce concepts in the Science of Sound, and to stimulate creative instrument building projects. For many programs, we come with some of our current partly-finished instrument building projects in tow, and pass them around, for participants to study sound-making techniques "from the inside out."

John: Hurdy Gurdies and nykelharpa (a medieval keyed fiddle); Various bagpipes including Northumbrian smallpipes, Breton biniou, veuze, cabrette; Winds and reeds from crumhorns, shawms, and recorders, to flavioles, pipes & tabor drums; medieval fiddles, lute, viols, guitar, citterns, and vocals. Other traditonal folk instruments include banjo, mandolin, and fiddle.

Sondra: A full complement of early and traditional harps, including Celtic lever harps, a Scottish wire strung harp, Gothic bray harps; Hammered dulcimers, and related mid-eastern Kanun and other international members of the zither family; Winds and reeds including Breton bombarde, recorders, crumhorns, shawms; hand drums, and vocals. Other traditional folk instruments played include button accordeons (as enjoyed in America beginning in the early 19th century, and still popular throughout Europe), and a splendid guzheng (a 5 foot lengthwise harp-like affair from China ).

What is Unique
About Bells & Motley Consort?

"A Bells & Motley performance is a journey, a vibrant cultural immersion for all the senses. At the heart and center of all Bells & Motley's performances is the engagingly realized HISTORIC MUSIC, brought to life on an array of Medieval, Renaissance, and Traditional Folk instruments. Thematic programs are unified by a POETIC SPIRIT and IMAGINATION that illuminates the artists' harmonious vision, and resonate with an authenticity that comes from their very unique experiences and perspectives. Look closely, and you'll see under the music that very often the performance will bear witness to deep involvements with literary and visual art forms as well."

We come to our performances with the combined experiences of well-seasoned presenters, historic instrument builders, extensively traveled cultural historians and musicologists. We both also readily confess to a heavy involvement in documentary arts, literary and visual arts history and techniques as well. If you add to this a passion for teaching Arts & Humanities to people of all generations, and you will see how our seemingly disparate menu of music, dance, creative writing, theater performances, and workshops are all meant fit together. There's the big picture.

Specialty themes and programs include Medieval and Renaissance arts & history; operettas and pageants; community collaborations, pageantry, and spectacles; participatory folkloric storytelling from European, American, and Asian traditions; Multicultural Dance and Ceremonial Arts. Our research and performances have enriched us in many wonderful places around the globe.

GRANTS are available to provide funding for both our SCHOOL Arts-in-Education Residencies, and our PUBLIC Performances, Workshops, and Residencies. We are listed on the rosters of numerous arts agencies, and will do our best to help point you to available resources. We offer teacher development programs, and it is our pleasure to work closely with schools to creatively support their curriculum.

And yes, we DELIGHT in providing music, pageantry, and dancing for
  • Weddings & Sacred Ceremonies
  • Faires, Festivals, & Feasts
  • Community Functions
  • Parties & Special Events of all kinds!

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Bells & Motley Olden Music, Dance, and Storytelling
Sondra Bromka, John Bromka
36 South St. Marcellus, NY 13108
Phone: (315)673-2995
Email: info@bellsandmotley.com

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