Musicke & Mirth

Susie Napper et Margaret Little, violas da gamba

Music for viols, from Tobias Hume to the Beatles

“Margaret Little’s sensitive playing and Susie Napper’s lively expressiveness brought out the poetic nature of this music, which leaves ample room for interpretation and creativity. Like two voices caught up in a love duet, the viols rose and fell in unison, in tune with the other’s every move.”
J.M.C., l’Indé, Perpignan, France, September 2008

Music and mirth have ever been central to English culture! Tobias Hume is purported to be the model for Shakespeare’s comic character, Sir Andrew Aiguecheek in his play Twelfth Night, a buffoon with yellow garters and the laughing stock of the household. Hume was, in fact, a mercenary soldier, active in various Danish, Polish and Spanish conflicts writing his only claim to effeminacy was his viol playing! Did he fight battles in yellow garters, viol in hand? He died a pauper in Westminster with nothing but snails and nettles to eat and not a penny to buy a decent suit of clothing, he wrote. But he left two fabulous books of viol music which play a central role in this concert.

Hume was clearly one of the first, great viol virtuosos at a time when the written repertoire was mainly consort music for multiple viols. His banner was taken up by John Jenkins, the most brilliant and prolific viol composer of his time who lived to the ripe old age of 85, surviving both the Civil War, and the Interregnum, lived to see Charles II crowned King of England. Likewise, he kept up with all the latest musical crazes of the 17th-century composing consorts, divisions and French dance suites as fashions changed. His contemporary, Christopher Simpson, not only left amazing examples of divisions for viols but also a treatise to enlighten his admirers centuries later.

Musicke and Mirth also includes one of the last known English viol duos by Finger who, like Handel, was an immigrant to the cultured Fairest Isles, and one of the newest Fantasies from the New World on now traditional British pop, the Beatles’ I Am the Walrus!

Audio excerpt : A Mery Conceit – Tobias Hume