Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Purcell at the ROM


Z and I attended a program sponsored by the ROM Library and Archives last night called Henry Purcell:  A Baroque Fantasy.  Held in a small auditorium, the evening combined two talks, music, and dance from the Baroque period, and helped paint a very holistic picture of life in that period.  

Five musicians from Toronto-area ensembles like the Toronto Consort and Tafelmusik performed on period instruments:  harpsichord (Borys Mendicky), recorders (Alison Melville and Colin Savage), bass viol (Joelle Morton) along with tenor Paul Jenkins.  We heard selections from different stages of Purcell's tragically short career, and they were joined by baroque dancers Leonie Gagne and Jeremy Nasmith during some tunes for the theatre.

The first talk was given by Brian Musselwhite, Assistant Curator.  It was illustrated with slides and covered the baroque period in general, including decorative arts, clothing and hair styles, the history at the time, and some snippets from the diary of Samuel Pepys.  This was followed by music along with some brief presentations by the musicians about their instruments.

A second talk by David Fallis described the influences on the music of the period, particularly the impact of Restoration and then the return of England to Protestant rule, putting a lot of musicians out of work and pushing Purcell towards the theatre.  He spoke about the music we were hearing and where it fit in the history of the period.  He also spoke about Purcell's wife who was bequeathed his oeuvre upon his death and (lucky for us) had most of his loose manuscripts published in a series of collections.

We both agreed that we came away with a much better understanding of the period, and enjoyed a wonderful evening of period entertainment.

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