... “How can you do Shakespeare and not have music be prominent?” Ms. van Kampen asked in a recent interview backstage at the Belasco. “It’s not possible!”
The music begins before the plays do. As the audience filed in to a recent matinee of “Twelfth Night,” they were met by the strains of a hurdy-gurdy: a string instrument played with a crank and keys whose droning sound brings bagpipes to mind.
It was played by Arngeir Hauksson, a guitar and lute player originally from Iceland who has played at Shakespeare’s Globe in London for eight years and who, like the other musicians, said he never expected to find himself performing on Broadway. (He later explained that the hurdy-gurdy is “sort of like a one-man band,” demonstrating how its crank turns a wheel that rubs the strings like a bow on a violin, hitting drone and melody strings called chanterelles.)
Ms. van Kampen, a pianist and composer who has written extensively for the theater, said she took a practical interest in Renaissance music and the question of what was performed at Shakespeare’s plays when she became the first music director at the Globe, where these productions originated and where Mr. Rylance was the first artistic director.
But she said her interest in Renaissance music was piqued earlier when, as a girl, she met David Munrow, a recorder player and pioneer of the early-music scene in England.
“He was just so charismatic and exciting,” she recalled. “I think that’s what sort of turned me on to the idea that these weren’t weird sticks played by men with beards and sandals. They actually could make really glorious sounds.”
Music, of course, plays a major role in Shakespeare’s plays. “Twelfth Night” begins with it (“If music be the food of love, play on”) and ends with it (with Feste, the fool, singing “When that I was and a little tiny boy”). But little is known for sure about what music was originally used...