Students of the Renaissance Banchetto, a for-credit Half-Block course in January 2022, sampled from a banchetto — a banquet — of history, music, cuisine, and political intrigue. The goal was to have students engage their senses to experience what life might have been like at the peak of Europe’s rebirth. The nine-day class was co-taught by Nancy Ekberg ’74, a member of the performance faculty, and Dario Sponchiado, a visiting instructor.
Mornings might bring the students together in Packard Hall to make music with early versions of familiar instruments, like lutes, crumhorns, and viola da gambas — ancestors of today’s cellos and guitars — or hand-crank the wheel of a hurdy-gurdy to create the sounds of a bagpipe. Studies of the era’s political rivalries, religious rebellions, and the constant threat of war as well as its cultural, artistic, and scientific revitalization spanning the 14th to 17th centuries were balanced by afternoons spent cooking and feasting. A grant from Creativity & Innovation at CC helped support the class in 2022, which was held in person following a virtual class in 2021. The Renaissance Banchetto was first offered in 2019.
“This year, it’s been very interesting to consider the history of the plague,” Ekberg says. “History repeats itself, and I think we have seen that the COVID-19 pandemic has altered our perspectives and practices just as the Black Death altered life in Renaissance times.”