I felt a little foolish at the end of the Gresham Society soiree in December, when Professor Cox asked me, after seeing my Renaissance guitar and vocal performance of Innsbruck – reported here and below, why he hadn’t seen me at Christopher Page’s lectures on 16th and 17th Century guitar…
…the answer, quite simply, was that I hadn’t even noticed that they were happening. I know I’m supposed to be finding more time for the things I want to do now, but I hadn’t even skimmed the Gresham College lecture list for the 2017/18 year.
Of course, one of the many wonderful things about Gresham College these days is that the lectures are all archived on-line, including in video form.
So over Christmas I caught up with Christopher Page’s series, by watching the first two lectures on-line.
I found both lectures absolutely fascinating. I was particularly taken with the notion, which Christopher Page stated very clearly in the first of the lectures, that the Tudor guitar was, to all intents and purposes, a baritone ukulele; i.e. “my” instrument.
I learnt a lot watching those two lectures and/but I realised that such lectures, with live performance included, would be far more stimulating and enjoyable live…
…especially in the beautiful setting of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate…
…which is, after all, within even easier reach of the Z/Yen offices than Gresham College itself (by a few hundred yards).
So I booked out the remaining four dates in my diary and resolved to try my very hardest to organise my City working days around those slots.
I’m glad to report that my plan worked for lectures three and four.
17 January 2018 – The Guitar in the Age of Charles I
This was a wonderful lecture, not least for the diversity of the performances that peppered the lecture. Not only several different stringed instruments – the period covers the transition from four-course gittern-type Tudor instruments to five-course Baroque guitars of the Spanish variety – but also some performance with castanets which was a very pleasant surprise and addition. Christopher Page himself played a bit during this lecture.
So I commend the YouTube below if you can spare the time to watch it – most enjoyable as well as informative:
I picked up a few ideas for my playing at this lecture, not least realising that even I can muck around with the later Folia progression.
A charming lady sat next to me during this lecture – a visitor from Canada – who was strolling the City – had never heard of Gresham College and had simply wandered in having seen the sign outside the church. She was absolutely transfixed by the lecture and the whole idea of Gresham College. She chatted for a while with me, Professor Francis Cox and Frieda after the lecture; it turned out she was also named Francis.
7 February 2018 – An Englishman (with a Guitar) Abroad
I actually did a slightly better job of organising my work around this day, but that did mean that I really was squeezing in the lectures time slot, but still I was able to get to the church in time to grab a decent seat.
At the time of writing (9 February 2018) the video has not yet been uploaded, but the other resources are there and the lecture will go up in full eventually I am sure – click here for the available resources.
Again the lecture and the performances were fascinating and interesting.
My fun takeaway from this lecture was a vignette about Charles Stuart (soon to become Charles II) spending 50 livres to transport one guitar and 18 tennis rackets from France to England (presumably in expectation of the Restoration).
This possibly says something about Charles’s relative levels of interest in those two hobbies, but probably says more about his relative playing styles and the fact that broken tennis rackets cannot be repaired in quite the same way that guitars can be restored.
It brought to mind one of my favourite pictures from a busy day a year or so ago when I indulged both hobbies on the same day:
The rest of that day was littered with early music coincidences, which took me back thirty years and involved the Hilliard Ensemble and even Christopher Page’s Gothic Voices project too. Truly weird. Watch this space for a retroblog piece on’t.