ABO: A Festive Night at the London Theatres

I think that I’ve mentioned before that I generally have had the time or the money to go to an Atlanta Baroque Orchestra concert but rarely both at the same time. This evening was one of those rare occasions where I could afford the time and money for one of their concerts and I’m very glad I went to First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta to hear them play. I’m particularly appreciative of any music ensemble or dance company that performs non-Christmas-related works during December. As someone who has never celebrated that holiday, this can be a very dull time of year for me.

The title of this concert was “A Festive Night at the London Theatres.” Each piece on the program had been programmed somewhere in the London theaters during the ’15-’16 season…of the 18th century. Artistic Director Julie Andrijeski’s program notes paint a very colorful picture of the theater scene of the time and she prefaced the evening’s performance with a discussion of how the music was presented during that time. Sadly, having decided that eating supper at 5:30p to get there at 6:15p wasn’t appealing, I came in toward the end of her talk. When I got there, she was demonstrating — with some impressive facility — excerpts and approximations of a variety of concert dance pieces. It was hard to see below her waist from within the pews, unfortunately, making me wish that I’d remained standing in the back for the duration of her talk.

I have to admit that I came into the concert a little skeptical of the theme. It seemed a little narrow in scope and they didn’t post a program online anywhere before the show. Since I was not knowingly familiar with anything that might have been performed in the London theater scene during that time, I might honestly have given it a pass if it were not one of the only classical music performances in town to occur in December without any mention of Christmas. I’m very happy that my skepticism proved to be unwarranted because the music was all very interesting and pleasant.

Of particular note was a suite of three dances by Jean-Baptiste Lully and Henri Desmarets. I particularly liked the third dance, the Passacaille from Desmarets’ Venus and Adonis danc’d by Mrs. Santlow. It’s a very infectious piece and it was hard to remain still while it was playing.

The final piece was a suite of incidental music from five plays: The Mad Lover by John Eccles, The Island Princess by Jeremiah Clarke, The Old Batchelor by Henry Purcell, Dioclesian also by Purcell, and Fops Fortune by Gottfried Finger. These short pieces were presented with excerpts from the plays performed by the musicians. Some recitations were better than others but none were bad and the whole thing came across as clever, fun, and charming. I must applaud Andrijeski’s scholarship and ear in putting it together, along with the rest of the program; it was as pleasing as it was interesting and I’ll likely not have reservations about going to any other concerts that she programs with similarly novel themes.

Leave a Reply