Review by Judith Caldwell
Tenor Bud Roach sang a short concert of largely English airs by Henry Lawes and his contemporaries, with three Italian airs from the same period included for good measure. Roach accompanied himself on the 14 string Theobro, a large bass lute used in the 16th century which Roach joked about needing a wide angled lens to photograph and could, on occasion, be 14 strings of chaos. Not so today when played by a master musician. The sizeable audience were clearly anticipating a program of quality music and that is what was offered. The same program was recently performed by Roach in New York, where it was well received.
The theme of the concert was the mystery of night and the contest between night and day. On this afternoon night won resoundingly. ‘O Envious Day’ by John Wilson began the first set which then moved on to the ‘Meaner Beauties of the Night’, a beautiful song by that prolific composer Anonymous. Then Lawes and Wilson plumbed the depths of sorrow and reminded us to enjoy the day before we ‘molder in the forgotten dust’. The first set finished with Wilson’s ‘Languish and despair, my heart’ which ended in a howl of despair – desolate stuff for a dreary afternoon, even if it was beautiful music. The Italian section by Saracini, Melli and Merula was just as lovely, expressing longing and ultimate retreat, and little hope for a victory for Day. Finally in the last four songs by Henry Lawes, even though Chloris ‘our bright sun’ was presented with glorious flowers, she tormented with lost love, died and was mourned in a very moving song. The program ended with a song by Lawes brother, the more famous William Lawes, who warned us to ‘Gather ye rosebuds whilst you may’. The overall tone of the concert was dark, but the music was beautiful and the way Roach performed it showed that he clearly loves this music and wants to encourage others to do the same.
January concerts of Hammer Baroque can be found at http://www.hammerbaroque.com