Welcome from the artistic director
Welcome to the 41st Baroque Week! Our 40th anniversary course in 2017 went very well and I was truly excited by the success of our French theme. It was very sad that Christopher Bucknall, our vocal coach and conductor, had to pull out at short notice but we were incredibly lucky that Steven Devine was able to take his place and his brilliant direction of the Rameau inspired everyone to new heights. Although I hope that Chris will return at some point, I am delighted that Steven has agreed to join us again together with his partner, the soprano Kate Semmens. We also welcome back tutors Ann Allen, Satoko Doi-Luck and Jane Francis. Rachel Latham cannot join us this time but Clare Beesley returns as our flute tutor after a years break. Zoë Cartlidge is coming again as an assistant tutor and we are planning to engage a young cellist or gamba player as another assistant to join our bass team. We are also very much hoping that the wonderful Mary Collins will be returning to present another workshop on Baroque Dance, following her inspirational session in the 2017 course.
We are very happy to welcome Sylvia Ellison to our board of trustees, and very grateful for the work she is doing on exploring funding from outside sources for additional bursaries. We hope to be able to support more student and budding young professional singers, who gain so much from the opportunity to sing solo repertoire with instrumentalists and who in turn contribute so much to the enjoyment of the players and our amateur singers, whilst aiming our current funding sources principally towards instrumentalists.
Our theme for 2018 is Welcome to all the musicians. In the current climate of uncertainty as to our future relationship with the rest of Europe, I thought that it would be particularly interesting and pertinent to examine the influence that visiting composers and performers from mainland Europe had on Englands musical life during the 17th and 18th centuries.
In an age when every young gentleman (and the occasional young lady) was encouraged to undertake a Grand Tour of the cultural centres of Europe, England offered a hospitable climate for foreign musicians visiting or settling here. With its many theatres and a tradition of public concerts as well as music-making connected to the court and the church, London was a popular destination for musicians from all over Europe seeking employment and recognition. A cosmopolitan array of talented singers, players and composers influenced music here, importing new-fangled instruments and styles of composition. The virtuoso playing of the Italian violinist Nicola Matteis, and Charles IIs formation of his band of The Twenty-four Violins, in imitation of Louis XIVs orchestra in France, gave rise to the supremacy of the violin over the old-fashioned viol towards the end of the 17th century. The Belgian oboist, flautist and harpsichordist John Loeillet, brought the German transverse flute with him in the early 1700s, and Johann Christian Fischer (the lovely picture of him by his father-in-law, Gainsborough, features on our flyer) was to introduce a narrower-bored oboe later in the 18th century. The craze for Italian opera brought singers flooding to London, and Handel was not the only composer to make his home here!
As our theme covers such a broad time-span, we will not be studying or performing complete large-scale vocal works this year but rather taking extracts from important and influential pieces such as Louis Grabus Albion and Albanius, the first full-length English opera, and Giovanni Batista Draghis setting of Drydens Ode to St. Cecilia, From harmony, from heavnly harmony. We will also work on shorter pieces, right through to music by J C Bach, who together with Abel put on the famous series of subscription concerts from the 1760s onwards. For players alone there will be chances to explore concertos by the immigrant Italians, Geminiani and Castrucci, as well as other repertoire for wind and strings ranging from the mid-17th to late 18th century, so there will be lots of variety and should be plenty to keep recorder players and flautists happy!
The course is going from strength to strength with numbers much higher, so book early to secure your place! I look forward to seeing you in August.