Performance revives masque music tradition of Jacobean England
Operatic music of Royal court masque balls is being brought back to life by a group of players and singers led by a University of Southampton musician. Head of Early Music and leading lute player Liz Kenny will perform A Masque of Moments with her ensemble Theatre of the Ayre at the Salisbury International Arts Festival.
The concert (7.30pm, 3 June at the Italian Church in Wilton, St Mary and St Nicholas) marks the culmination of a decade-long research project into the now rarely performed music of the ‘masque’ – a form of lavish, spectacular courtly entertainment which flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries, involving music, dance and theatre.
Liz says: “There are very few complete scores in existence of this kind of music from this period. My research has concentrated on how the music may have been arranged for the singers and different instruments involved in performances of the era – examining how they interacted and played alongside each other. Our performance brings these elements together and promises to be a unique, colourful and dramatic experience in a striking setting.”
Opera singers, lute players, viol players and violinists will join choristers from Salisbury Cathedral to showcase prominent pieces of music from the genre, which was most popular during the Jacobean and Caroline eras. Appropriately, it will include pieces by Henry and William Lawes – successful composers who grew up near Salisbury and became musicians in the court of Charles I in the 1630s.
A Masque of Moments evolved from a research project which began in 2005 and received further funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council in 2014. This helped establish and support the group Theatre of the Ayre, which specialises in 17th century music. It also supports research exploring how plucked instruments of the time were played together, such as lutes, harps and ukuleles and in part involves collaboration with members of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.
A CD recording is planned for A Masque of Moments at Wilton, with the aim of taking the music to new audiences worldwide in 2016.