During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, London became a melting pot for a huge number of musical styles as artists from across Europe flocked to be part of its buzzing cultural scene. Folk music from across the British Isles influenced composers from Italy, France and Germany who in turn brought their own home-grown styles to the musical feast.
Vain and Idle Songs
Story telling has always been a vital way to educate, elucidate, commemorate. English medieval ballads, or story-songs, were used to spread moral myths, religious principles, or news of important political events. Since the music was often improvised, there are many lyrics which survive without melodies, whether they were composed by a poet, or written down after having been passed down perhaps for generations. Amyas revive these story-songs using period melodies from England and around Europe and Scandinavia, also incorporating elements of composition, in true bardic tradition. This programme tells a fascinating array of mini-stories, with dance interludes, on subjects as wide ranging as Judas’s betrayal of Christ (from a 13th century manuscript) to Chaucer’s songs of ‘love unreturned’.
The Ghost in the Machine
This programme uncovers the fascinating and little known performance style found in mechanical musical instruments (barrel-organs and organ-clocks) produced in eighteenth-century England. At this time there was a fascination throughout Europe with the mechanical replication of real life. Automata were developed which imitated animals, birds and people (including a live flautist). These were admired (sometimes even feared) for their life-like qualities, and makers of mechanical musical instruments were praised for producing instruments 'with so much delicacy and taste, as to convey a warm idea of the impression which the hand gives on the instrument.'. These mechanical musical instruments are effectively recordings of musical performances which delighted their audiences at the time they were made, but which can prove challenging both to our ears and our ideas about the ways to perform music from this period. They are undoubtedly highly virtuosic to play, and hugely exciting to listen to as they are resurrected after 200+ years
Drive the Cold Winter Away
Candlemas traditionally put the final nail in the coffin of the Christmas season. It marked the time when field labourers had to get back to work and stop enjoying the indulgences which had distracted from the miserable English winter weather. This programme, with a dizzying array of renaissance instruments and vocal numbers, begins with the dark melancholy of winter but gradually warms the cockles with songs, rousing tunes and bawdy ballads to 'Drive the Cold Winter Away'