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Performance brings masque music of Jacobean court to life

Date: 02/06/2015

Operatic music of Royal court masque balls is resounding again thanks to a group of players and singers, and a decade-long research project.

Liz Kenny, Head of Early Music at the University of Southampton and a leading lute player, will perform A Masque of Moments with her ensemble Theatre of the Ayre at the Salisbury International Arts Festival (7.30pm, 3 June) at the Italian Church in Wilton (St Mary and St Nicholas).

The concert marks the culmination of a 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 Kenny said:

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.

Find out more about the Theatre of the Ayre.

Notes to Editors

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk


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