National Centre for Early Music

[Skip navigation]
Navigation Menu

Silver Sounds and Moody Food Conference

Silver Sounds and Moody Food: Theatre Music and Musicians 1575-1642

Theatrical entertainment was hugely popular in London in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Theatre sprang up on both banks of the Thames, playwrights, actors and musicians found regular employment as members and associates of acting companies that operated under wealthy patronage. This conference looked at all aspects of musical participation in early modern theatre, including the relevance and intent of playsongs and ballads, who would have performed them, and what they played.

Saturday 16 July 10.00am - 1.00pm
10.00am - 1.00pm NCEM, St Margaret's Church
£25.00 (students £10.00) including light lunch at 1.00pm

William Lyons - "Excellent and Expert Musicians": Who Played for the Plays in Shakespeare's London?
Lyons will examine the role of musicians in early modern theatre: the popularity of public and private playhouses and how music was employed, where it was played and who played it. He will consider the relationship between musician and actor, the role of the actor-musician, and how meta-theatrical elements such as pre show and entr'acte music shaped and were themselves influenced by the demands of the drama and the spaces in which they performed. He will also consider the way music was chosen or composed for dramas, and to what extent musical decisions were dependent on the nature of the action or stage direction. Uniquely this paper will look at the type and standard of musician employed and how this influenced musical decisions in early modern drama.

Ross Duffin - Robert Johnson and Songs for the Shakespearean Stage
Robert Johnson's songs have long been admired by those interested in early seventeenth-century English theatre. Songs by or attributed to him survive for plays by Shakespeare, Jonson, Webster, Middleton, Beaumont, and Fletcher, and many of them are simply exquisite. Is it possible, however, that our eagerness to have the original songs to the plays has led us to presume that anything that survives was used in the first production? This paper re-examines we what know of Johnson's career and of the surviving sources for his play songs, explores the limits of what we can safely claim about his settings and, in some cases, proposes alternative settings to the lyrics.

David Lindley - The Use of Music in the Plays for John Marston
John Marston, whose brief career as a dramatist was spent almost entirely with boys' companies performing in the indoor hall theatres, is one of the writers who demonstrates the keenest interest in music, and manifests a determination to prescribe clearly the effects he wished it to generate. This paper will explore the place of music in Marston's drama, focussing especially on his use of instrumental sound.

Saturday 16 July 2.00pm - 4.00pm
2.00pm - 4.00pm NCEM, St Margaret's Church
£20.00 (students £10.00) including a reviving glass of wine

David Klausner - The Performance of the Jig in the North Riding
Until very recently, the jig was the least-known performance genre of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Entirely danced and sung to the tunes of the broadside ballads, frequently intended for 'mature audiences', the jig was the stock-in-trade of the great theatre clowns like Richard Tarlton and Robert Armin. Although the bulk of contemporary documentation for the jig comes from the London theatre world, there are provincial references as well. Among these is a jig whose composition was part of a North Yorkshire village feud, which went all the way to the Court of Star Chamber, giving us far more information on the jig than we usually have. This paper traces the documentation of this jig's performances and its possible relationship to known performers in early seventeenth-century Yorkshire.

Christopher Page - The Role of the Guitar on the Tudor and Stuart Stage
Enter Antonio, with a Guittar playing. So begins an Act in Thomas Porter's play The Carnival of 1664. By the time Charles II was invited to return in 1660, putting an end to England's republican experiment, the guitar had not featured in a theatrical performance - or none that has left any record - for some considerable time. The musicians who served the Restoration theatres, however, swiftly pressed it into service. The guitar was relatively compact, cheap to buy (unless it were very ornate), fashionable, and eminently portable: the ideal stage instrument. Now that there was a king whose triumphant processions through London were some of the most theatrical events in living memory, there were to be plays in profusion, and of the many that were premiered or revived between 1662 and the close of the seventeenth century more than twenty were mounted that refer to the guitar. There may have been many more in which the instrument formed part of a continuo group to accompany the singing of actors in speaking parts, and others. This was not an entirely new departure, for there were earlier Stuart and indeed Tudor precedents; but the Restoration period saw the 'fine easie gittar' came into its own in the theatres of early modern London. Throughout the reign of Charles II theatregoers in gallery, box and pit did not only hear guitars played in the two public theatres of the capital; they saw them presented as the chosen instrument of titled ladies, gallants and fops with a recession of perspective beyond Hyde Park and the Mulberry Garden to Italy, Spain and Sicily: the lands of the serenade


William Lyons is a specialist performer and teacher of Historically Informed Performance. William has a long association with Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, having worked there as musical director, composer and historical advisor since 1998. He directs the acclaimed early music ensemble The Dufay Collective and is also the founder and director of The City Musick, an ensemble formed to explore the repertoire and performance practices of urban and court musicians in Early Modern Europe. You can find out more about this speaker here

David Lindley
is Professor Emeritus at the University of Leeds, where he worked for thirty-six years in the School of English. His academic interest in the relationship of literature and music extends from a book on Thomas Campion in 1985 to his study Shakespeare and Music in 2006. He has edited Shakespeare's Tempest for the New Cambridge Shakespeare, and 11 Court Masques for the Cambridge Works of Ben Jonson. He is currently editing the First Quarto of Shakespeare's Merry Wives for CUP, and Marston's Antonio Plays for a new collected edition, to be published by OUP. You can find out more about this speaker here

Since completing a PhD at Cambridge in 1968, David Klausner has taught at the University of Toronto, specialising in Old and Middle English, Middle Welsh and theatre history. He has edited the volumes in the series Records of Early English Drama for Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Wales; he is presently completing research for the records of the North Riding of Yorkshire. As a performer specialising in early double reed instruments, he was for twenty years a member of the Toronto Consort (with whom he played at the York Early Music Festival 1980), and he has regularly taught early music courses in the United States, the UK and Austria.

Christopher Page is a Professor of Medieval Music and Literature at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of the British Academy. He holds the Dent Medal of the Royal Musical Association awarded for outstanding services to musicology. In 1981 he founded the professional vocal ensemble Gothic Voices, now with twenty0five CDs in the catalogue. His most recent books are The Christian West and its Singers: The First Thousand Years and The Guitar in Tudor England: A Social and Musical History. You can find out more about this speaker here