Paul Dyer AO, Artistic Director of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, whose unique sounds and luscious layering of musical textures are always rich, poignant and inspiring, has once again come together with Yaron Lifschitz, Artistic Director of Circa Contemporary Circus to present their third concert program together.
English Baroque will be viewed in four x scenes, The Court, The Bedroom – Forest, The Chapel and The Theatre – Fairground combining movement, dance, theatre and music in a special concert experience, which is sure to delight audiences throughout May in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Australian-American vocal performer Jane Sheldon, who has a long history with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, will feature as guest soloist. Sheldon has not long come home from New York where she spent a decade, and where The New York Times complimented her for achieving “Full-on vocal virtuosity”.
Paul Dyer passionately promises, while joyously viewing the mind-boggling physicality and grace of Circa acrobats and their gravity defying feats, audiences will also be enchanted and charmed by the musicality and skill of his musician colleagues.
Contemporary Australian composer and orchestrator Alex Palmer will produce an Orchestra prelude; an ‘English Overture’ to introduce the program, which features mainly music by English composers John Dowland (1563-1626) Henry Purcell (1659-1695) and George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), as well as a selection of traditional English works.
Also included are works by two Italian influencers; Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713), arguably the most influential musician of his era, who was dedicated to the highest standards of both playing and composing, as well as Nicola Matteis (1650-1714, the ‘earliest notable Italian violinist in London’, who was also a popular composer of his day; mainly forgotten until the twentieth century.
The music of each age finds expression in its cultural and social life. It is the language of the heart and soul and a wonderful means for humans to express their feelings and experiences.
The lute virtuoso of his day, John Dowland, with his original and progressive approach, helped establish what we know today as an English style. His Behold a Wonder Here comes from his Third and Last Booke of Songs or Aires (1603) and will be a wonderful vehicle to showcase Jane Sheldon’s lovely voice.
During his life time Dowland was ‘singled out’ by his contemporaries, to be praised for his ‘learning’. Travelling extensively all over Europe, learning through his own mistakes, Dowland broadened both his knowledge and experience of continental styles and local dance music, giving his compositions a wider universal appeal.
There’s definitely mystery behind his musical achievements; I find his enchanting melodies, which would affect the development of the music during the ‘Baroque’ era, very affecting. His musical notations allowed his colleagues to desire improvising joyously, while admiring one of the most famous musicians of their time.
He dubbed himself “Semper Dowland, semper Dolens” – always Dowland, always doleful! He understood the fashionable state of ‘musical melancholy’ during his day, when local lads believed…
‘To disport in some pleasant plain, park, run up a steep hill sometimes, or sit in a shady seat, must needs be a delectable recreation’.
The re-founding of the traditions of the Chapels Royal following the Restoration to the throne of King Charles II (1630 – 1685), brought music of excellence before the public in the tradition of Masque and Ceremonial Odes, held on state occasions.
Charles II spent his years of exile in France 1651-1660, following the beheading of his father, enjoying leisure and pleasure together at the Chateau of Versailles.
Eventually restored to the English throne, Charles brought back to England with him the French influence to bear on art, design, music and style. The French court ballet in particular, exerted significant influence on the English masque, which took its name and some of its early character from the Italian masquerade in carnival entertainment.
The public rejoiced in the opportunity to hear sacred and secular musical entertainments on such a grand scale. Charles II also brought an even richer flowering of theatre music, led by English composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695), who was both inventive and original.
Purcell achieved a complete medium of expression and unity of form and material with his music, which was born of an exciting free imagination. A leading figure in the renewal of English music, following the drought filled years of Cromwell’s Commonwealth in 1665 Henry Purcell at six years of age had been placed under the guardianship of an influential uncle when his father died.
He became a chorister in His Majesty’s Chapel at London and remained a member until his voice broke aged 14, when he was made assistant to the keeper of the King’s wind instruments.
Purcell was 18 years of age when appointed organist at Westminster Abbey – never before had such a youthful musician held such promise of works to come.
Purcell and his friends enjoyed informal lively sessions of music and conversation in the popular coffee houses and the alehouses of his day. He particularly delighted in composing bawdy songs and rounds for their many alehouse sessions.
He became well-known and loved throughout his short career for his light-hearted music. His Dido and Aeneas, written for a girls’ school at Chelsea is among the finest of all seventeenth century operas.
Henry Purcell wrote for the church, the stage, the court, and private entertainment. His decorative flair and theatrical understanding meant the characteristics infused in his music placed him at the forefront of helping to continue developing an ‘English style’, through a thriving concert life in the secular sphere.
One of the most important musical developments in Restoration London would be the gradual establishment of regular public concerts, during an age when bold harmonic forms combined with effortless elegance was an important innovation.
A concert meant musicians coming together to play for other people and their pleasure and they started in Violinist John Bannister’s house in Whitefriars in 1672. By the first decade of the eighteenth century, music societies promoting public concerts had been formed, of which the earliest was the Academy of Ancient Music, established in 1710.
It would be toward the end of the seventeenth century when English playhouses made one of the most important changes in the structure of theatres; changing the shape of the stage. This happened c1696 when the manager of Drury Lane Theatre removed a large part of the previously huge stage to provide room for the orchestra in a new place, front of house. This in turn changed the shape of entertainments to come.
A German composer in the Italian style, Georg Friederich Handel (1685 – 1759) went to London in 1711 and helped to fill the void brought about by Henry Purcell’s tragic early demise.
He became King George III’s favourite composer, providing suitable music for all the important occasions during the Kings’ reign. He imbued his music with sounds of unparalleled intensity.
His adoring crowd loved his massive choirs, majestic motets and incredible richness of a sound, which reached a pinnacle of modern oratorio in a setting designed to impress.
In the years since his death, his admirers have only grown,
Am looking forward to hearing Jane Sheldon’s rendition of Handel’s ode to sleep, the ravishing ‘Gentle Morpheus, son of night’, from incidental music that survives from a lavish production of the opera Alceste. Originally intended for performance at Covent Garden, all we know is the production collapsed in 1749 soon after rehearsals began.
Through what is an outstanding program of very special music cleverly brought together by Paul Dyer, combined with the extraordinary abilities of contemporary circus performers under Yaron Lifschitz guidance, English Baroque with Circa is sure to have us all cheering in the aisles! Can’t wait!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2019
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
English Baroque with Circa
Various Dates and Locations in May, 2019
Paul Dyer Artistic Director
Yaron Lifschitz Artistic Director, CIRCA
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Performers of CIRCA
Jane Sheldon soprano
The Court (Ayres for the English Court)
Curtin Tune (Timon in Athens)
Behold a wonder here
Overture to King Arthur
How Blest are Shepheard’s
Three parts on a ground
The Bedroom – Forest (sleepless night)
Dido & Aeneas
Overture in C
Air in C
The Triumphing Dance
Dido & Aeneas
Ritornelle in D
Thanks To These Lonesome Vales
Dance in D
Gentle Morpheus, son of Night
Concerto grosso in D Op 6/4 Adagio – Allegro
Dixit Dominus VIII – De torrente
Organ Concerto in g Op. 4/3, HWV 291: I. Adagio
The Theatre Fairground
Matteis Ground on the Scotch Humour
Trad (arr AP) Scarborough Fair
Trad (arr HR) Wallom Green
Purcell Curtain Tune (Timon of Athens)
Trad (arr AP) The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby
Trad (arr HR) Hole in the Wall/Abdelazer Hornpipe
Trad (arr HR) The Virgin Queen
Trad (arr HR) An Italian Rant
Trad (arr HR) Paul’s Steeple (Walsh version) (TUTTI)
as at 25 March 2019