Jolly it wasn’t, but then what do you expect when you choose to hear requiem masses, Jeremiah’s lamentations and that sort of thing?
But very beautiful it was.
I especially enjoyed the Morales, which was the main reason I booked the concert. We hear quite a lot of the 16th century English stuff, whereas the Morales felt like a rare treat.
This type of music (mostly 10 voices in five parts) works so well in the Wigmore Hall and The Cardinall’s Musick are really superb at delivering this stuff. Andrew Carwood always explains the context in detail, but not painful detail.
The audience lapped it all up and managed to coax the team back onto the pitch for an encore – I think it was the first two verses from Tallis’s Psalm 1 setting.
It was a Tuesday evening and Janie had early patients etc. the next day, so we didn’t dine together – I think Janie got home just before the heavens opened. Good job I was in the flat when the rains came – it was torrential and I had left windows open. There’d have been Jeremiah-style lamentations from me if my computer and/or baroq-ulele had got wet.
I mean that some of the items I saw this evening really did inspire awe. That rare, tingling feeling at the back of my neck when seeing an especially stunning drama unfolding in an unexpected way, or hearing a wonderful piece of music, or seeing a rare, thought-provoking and/or beautiful artefact.
This was a very interesting Gresham Society outing, albeit so close to Gresham home turf that the word “outing” seems barely appropriate. The Guildhall is just off Gresham Street and around the corner from the old Gresham College; perhaps an “innings” rather than an outing for the Gresham Society.
I hadn’t realised the diversity of subject matter contained in the collection. I knew to expect music books and I knew that the Guildhall Collection generally had a massive collection of books about London; my cousin Sidney would have been in his element for those. But also many books on food in the Gresham Collection and fascinating books about travel, inventions and mechanical devices.
After the illustrated talk, Peter then showed us around the many artefacts he had lovingly laid out around the library for us to glance at and (in the case of more robust/less rare items) examine.
Among the most interesting to me, a rare manuscript of Spem In Alium by Thomas Tallis, a favourite piece of mine. The rarity of this manuscript is two-fold. Firstly, it is documented as a “grandchild” of an original autograph – those are extremely rare for words of such antiquity and especially so for this work. Secondly, it contains a forty-first part for this forty-part piece.
One very beautiful travel book, Victorian era I should imagine, included a description and illustration of musicians in Aleppo. My slightly cack-handed smart phone image below does not do justice to the picture.
But the highlight of the artefacts was the Purcell Autograph from the Gresham Music Collection. That was the item that really made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
In order to ensure we were in the right mood for the Purcell Autograph, Peter Ross put on some suitable Purcell Music. I didn’t realise until later that he really was playing the music from the autograph we were observing; the contents of the autograph were recorded some years ago and the recording is still available as a CD or download. I have downloaded the album and am listening to it with great pleasure as I write. It can be obtained through Amazon – click here...and other places too no doubt.
Libations and nibbles were available in the lecture room, at a safe distance from the precious books. The Gresham Society people are always delightful company. I believe that the merriment continued afterwards in a nearby watering hole; I needed to retreat quite early having irritatingly accepted an early morning speaking engagement in Southampton the next day. Still, this evening at the Guildhall Library will live long and happily in my memory.