EASTERN EARLY MUSIC FORUM
Workshop on Purcell's Fairy Queen
The Old Baptist Chapel, Elsworth
Tutored by Peter Holman
O reach this event, I had to cycle 65km and travel 200 km by train, in the process crossing from earth's eastern to western hemisphere. It seems that the indication we were given that "Elsworth is 6 miles (9.5km) NW of Cambridge" is rather optimistic: the distance as the crow flies from Elsworth to the boundary of Cambridge is indeed 9.5km, but the road distance to Cambridge station is more like 20km, according to my bike computer. I mention all this to make the point that the trouble was well worth it. The day was a great success: not only did everyone enjoy it, but we learnt much as well.
BEFORE lunch and in the first afternoon session we rehearsed several solo and chorus items, including the famous drunken poet scene. To my ears, the best result here was the rapid improvement of the choir under Peter Holman's expert coaching. In fact, I was struck by Peter's gentle approach (I have seen him being much tougher at previous events); it seemed he only needed to remind us of things we already knew, but were not putting into practice, and the piece was suddenly much better. Such points included: dissonances should generally be stressed, don't rush the fast notes, and listen to the words. Peter was so skilled at explaining the text that he almost persuaded me that The Fairy Queen has a plot. And personally, I much appreciated the challenge of playing from an unrealized and unfigured bass, as is required by Clifford Bartlett's edition. A real highlight came in the last session when the trumpets arrived and were joined by the timpani for some of the tutti items.
PURCELL'S genius is apparent throughout this deceptively simple
score, and the event inspired me to spend the next day re-reading Peter
Holman's book about Purcell, in the process finding out more about the Dorset
Garden Theatre where The Fairy Queen was first performed. Its location was in the street behind
St Bride's church now known as Dorset Rise, but in 1747 was
ALTOGETHER it was a very successful and enjoyable day, and we are all grateful to Peter, Selene and the others who helped organize it.
Extracted from EEMF Newsletter 60, November 2005