Vauxhall Gardens, ca. 1784 Watercolor with pen in black and gray ink over graphite on cream wove paper 13 3/6 x 18 ¾ in. (34.5 x 47.6 cm.) (sheet) Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection B1975.4.1844

Today’s post comes from Emily MacLeod, class of 2012 and Art Center student docent.

From the pleasure gardens at Vauxhall to the sitting rooms of the elite, from pubs and theaters, halls and street corners, music in the Georgian age was everywhere. London was in an economic boom, population was on the rise and the arts were more popular and accessible than ever. Newspapers were starting to publish reviews, gossip about artists and list concerts in their social calendars. The British were fascinated and entertained by the Italian opera, and composers like John Gay with his tremendously popular Beggar’s Opera in 1728 emulated and satirized the Italian opera using traditional English folk music as well as classical tunes to tell a story with characters and situations very familiar to the public. Thomas Arne, whose music is featured in our upcoming event Georgian England in Song: Vocal Music from the Time of Thomas Rowlandson, was a leading theatre composer for the theatres at Drury Lane and Covent Garden, much like those depicted in Rowlandson’s work. He set many Shakespearean verses to classical music, reflecting the British reverence for Shakespeare at the time, as well as the popular vocal style. He also wrote Rule Britannia, the patriotic song that exemplifies the nationalist spirit at this time, as Britain was building her empire and “ruling the waves.” The music to be performed in this program is beautiful and entertaining, showing the wit and lyricism of the day, with hints of influence from both Italian art songs and British folk songs. It provides a perfect glimpse into the time of Rowlandson, the attitudes and rituals of popular society. Please join us at the Art Center on Thursday, May 12th at 6PM to share in this delight of the Georgian period.

For a preview of one of the selections for Thursday night, here is a recording of Isobel Baillie singing “Where the bee sucks”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tyba1Gl52t4

For more information regarding music in Georgian society, see Concert Life in London from Mozart to Haydn by Simon McVeigh

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