Talks & Workshops

Each talk lasts between 45 minutes and 1 hour and can be tailored to suit audiences ranging from children, WI groups, Historical Societies and Music Clubs. They are erudite and thoroughly researched but presented in a relaxed and amusing manner. They all contain live musical examples demonstrating the instruments of the period.

The following report by Peter Sutton, of a paper (entitled ‘Medieval Music and Minstrelsy’) given at the Worcester Cathedral Langland Study Day (September 2015), paints a vivid picture of my style of presentation.

The morning ended with a presentation by Frances Eustace, a medieval music specialist and performer. She began by quoting Langland’s description of a minstrel who is also a baker, explaining that these roles were often combined. She showed a series of pictures from contemporary manuscripts of often fantastical people and beasts playing instruments, using them to describe the role of music in all sections of society; she also discussed the role of professional minstrels, many of whom enjoyed the conviviality of music schools during Lent, when music was silenced.

To illustrate her account, she sang extracts from medieval songs and played a wide range of reproduction instruments: pipe and tabor, bagpipes, shawm, harp and rebec, an early form of fiddle made from a single hollowed-out piece of wood. The only instrument which defeated her was the “long trumpet”, an eight-foot monster which she called on her colleague Alan Crumpler to play, and she drew the line at imitating the images of “musical” farting, another unlikely feature of both vulgar and court life referred to by Langland.

She mentioned the difficulties of reconstructing medieval music, given the shortage of scores, some of the few survivors being the “Worcester Fragments”, songs with Latin words discovered on sheets used in the bindings of books, and she concluded her very humorous session with a wooden mannequin taking the role of a dancing bear, hopping up and down at her command as she played.


Programmes

‘Hay, ay, hay, ay, Make we mere as we may’

A concert of carols, music and readings reminiscent of Christmas six hundred years ago. Not all medieval Christmas carols celebrated the birth of Jesus; some were about food, money, the battle of the sexes or more amicable couplings. This programme explores the history of seasonal carolling in a broader sense.

Carols are not just for Christmas

We have a post-Victorian, romantic, view of medieval Christmas celebrations and carolling. This talk aims to dispel this idea and give a more realistic impression of medieval carolling, not just at Christmas but at any time of year and on some very irreligious topics. (Click here for detailed PDF)

Why did Death dance in the Dance of Death?

A talk, with pictures and music, about the medieval allegory of The Dance of Death (Danse Macabre) exploring its origins, its meaning and the reason why it captured the imaginations of artists and musicians from Holbein to Saint-Saens.
(Click here for detailed PDF)

“Still Musick Plays”

An entertainment of music and readings exploring the impact of the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 on the social and cultural life of England. Readings from Samuel Pepys’ diaries and music played on viols, recorder and baroque bassoon.

Workshops

Historic Music and Dance Workshops for schools or enthusiastic adults

Each workshop lasts approx. one hour. All the workshops are presented in period dress, using authentic instruments and set in the historical and social context. Programmes can be adapted to suit all ages and abilities, including Special Needs and GCSE / A level (Music, History and Drama).

Medieval

  • Topics: Pilgrims, Crusaders and Courtly Life.
  • Instruments to include: Pipe and tabor, rebec (early violin), psaltery and bagpipes.
  • Audience participation: Summer is icumen in (round + ostinato)
  • Cantigas de Santa Maria
  • Bassedance
  • Farandole

Tudor

  • Topics: Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Dancing men (a matter of life and death)
    Instruments: pipe and tabor, bagpipes, recorders, viols, cornetto and curtal (early bassoon).
  • Audience participation: Pavane, La Volta (for the more energetic members).
  • Washerwomen’s Branle or Horse’s Branle.