St George’s Church,
31 October 2019
This rather delightful conceit was an engaging night of music and historical exposition, with Niall Ashdown as a bedbound Purcell slipping in and out of dreams as his fevers take hold and leading us on a merry jaunty around his memories.
Musical director of Ceruleo- Satoko Doi-Luck has chosen fine pieces of Purcell’s music and some rather superb sopranos Emily Owen and Jenni Harpe who’s lyrical brilliance filled the warm acoustic of St Georges. We rediscover joy in some of his most perfect songs, removed from their more problematic homes and allowed to blossom here, shorn of wider meaning and just given a space to shine, worked into the narrative, Purcell giving them context and the narrative an underscoring of personal meaning as well as giving space to explore his relationships with his wife and other women.
Full listing of the music of this event can be seen here
Ashdowns Purcell is all flapping bed gown, intimate asides and convincing confusion as his fever matches on. We’re taken to his childhood at the beginning of the great plague, his mother speaking louder to drown out the daily calls to ‘bring out your dead’; he talks of the cobblestones on the streets all grassed over, as the dead pile up all around. We learn of his family, it’s changes and disruptions and also of the Great Fire of London where Purcell was a chorister in Westminster and an eye witness to the ragging firestorm which destroyed 80% of London. Kate Conway playing viola da gamba and Toby Carr on the impressive theorbo and also guitar keep the music of 17th century England alive and throbbing as the narrative unfolds and twists like the bed-sheets on stage.
Ending with perhaps one of Purcell’s most famous pieces, ‘Thy hand Belinda… When I am laid in earth’ from Dido and Aeneass ent us off into the trick and treating nights of Kemptown full of seasonal crepuscular thrills.
“When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.”
For more info about up and coming BREMF events see the website here.