Carols & Anthems of Georgian England
A good crowd was in attendance at the Vivaldi Chamber Choir's annual Christmas Concert at Trinity - St. Marks. Readings were given by LouAnn Schmidt from Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Burney and Robert Herrick, as well Washington Irving and William Harrison. Both words and music followed the uneasy accommodation struck between the Church's need to moderate the deeper pagan urges (the Roman Saturnalia) to ceding space to the modern, increasingly commercial family centred celebration.
Starting with a set from 17th Century Germany, keystoned by Michael Praetorius' "Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen," a reading of Dickens' Christmas Tree lead to Sir Walter Scott's Christmas in Olden Time and a number of popular carols as realised by 18th Century composers in England. The clock wound backwards to 16th century Spain, with the ladies of the choir singing "Gózate, Virgen Sagrada," whereupon the "off-staged" men interrupted proceedings with a truly medieval scale racket at the hall's front door.
Peter Munns as Father Christmas led the way demanding room for the "Mummers" to mount a traditional play to amuse the audience and, in a historical context, to extract some seasonal tribute from the residents of the great house so ceremoniously invaded. Peter Alexander was a haughty George who quickly dispatched a fantastically garbed Dragon (played by yer 'umble servant). This feat earned "crowns of gold" from Father Christmas and the heart of the Queen of Egypt's daughter. This last was presented by the Daughter herself - Bill Richards in outrageous drag, with heart-shaped object in hand. Yetvart Hosepyan, beautifully costumed, portrayed "Turkish Delight" who challenged George (probably with the aforesaid heart-shaped object as cause d'action) and was in turn slain, after a spirited battle, by George.
The Dragon, with Turkish Delight in the background. George threatens T.D. in their fight. All the Mummers dance in triumph!
The demise of the Delight was greeted with loud remonstrances, born of horror and regret, from Wild Sally, presented by a rouged and lipsticked Nathan Zadworny. These cries brought forth a frock-coated Doctor portrayed by Ryan Beaucage. Much curative "business" ensued, whereupon Turkish Delight, revived, urged all present to give ear to further music, Father Christmas seconding the motion with identical words of commendation. A vigorous dance followed, around the almost totally lifeless carcass of Dragon, culminating in removal of the unfortunate beast's head on the swords of the dancers and its display to an amused though appropriately horrified audience. All (Mummers, that is) exeunt, singing.
Tribute is paid here to a lively audience who entered into the spirit of the moment and laughed appropriately at all the right bits, leading to a nice feedback loop that only urged the players to greater heights of Mummery. Hearty congratulations to Tom (Graff) who conceived, researched, produced and costumed this foolery. Thanks to all!
The music continued with the men now picking up on the reading of Washington Irving's Bringing in the Boar's Head, with the singing of the English traditional "A caroll bringyng in the bores heed" and continuing with the Catalan "E la Don, Don Verges Maria." After a brief return to the 17th Century with "Christmas's Lamentation" the programme played out with more readings from earlier times and a set of Wassails again recalling the ruder traditions of a less sacred mid-winter festival.
- Alan Ryder
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