cambridge-kings_chapel

Cambridge Places of Interest

Over the coming months there will be four blog posts for each city on the Davis High School Baroque Ensemble’s 2020 England-France Tour tour: Place of Interest; Concert Venue; Music; History of the city. This week’s post, the fifth of the series, is on places of interest in Cambridge.


The second concert of the DHSBE tour will take place in Trinity College Chapel, University of Cambridge.

Places of Interest

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King’s College chapel with its ‘fan-vaulted’ ceiling

In addition to Trinity College, adjacent King’s College is of great architectural interest. Founded in 1441 by Henry VI and the earliest of the royal foundations, King’s College is worth visiting for the huge expanse of lawn extending down to the river and King’s Bridge. King’s College Chapel, is renowned for its 12-bay perpendicular-style interior and impressive ‘fan vaulting’ (1515). The chapel has 16th-century stained glass windows; a lavishly carved 16th-century wooden organ screen and choir stalls; and the altarpiece is the painting, ‘Adoration of the Magi’ (1634) by the Dutch artist, Rubens. There are regular choral services (Evensong), organ recitals, and concerts in the chapel.

 

 

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Punts on The Backs – Cambridge

‘The Backs’ is a the picturesque area, where several colleges of the University of Cambridge, including Trinity College and adjacent King’s College, back on to the River Cam. There is public access to their grounds on both banks of the river.

The flat-bottomed boats in the above photo are punts – popular with students and visitors. They can be rented from several places along the river. ‘Punting’ with a pole is fun, and not difficult to do after a little practice. One of the favorite extended outings along the river in a punt is to the nearby village of Grantchester (2.5 miles/75 minutes ‘punting’ each way + a well earned rest and afternoon-tea at the Orchard Tea Rooms, before the return trip). The Vicarage – Grantchester is a well-known poem by Rupert Brooke reflecting on being homesick for England and his sometime Cambridgeshire home and countyside: “…yet stands the church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?” Brooke died in 1915 on active service in WWI.

 

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The Bridge of Sighs

The ‘Bridge of Sighs’ is a covered bridge at St John’s College, Cambridge University. It was built in 1831 and crosses the River Cam between the college’s Third Court and New Court. The bridge is a copy of  Ponte dei Sospiri in Venice, 1600, that connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace.

 

 

Additional Places of Interest include:

Kettle’s Yard (housed in converted cottages) contains a very fine collection of mostly mid 20thc. art, notably by English artists Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and Ben Nicholson.

Fitzwilliam Museum

Fitzwilliam Museum

The Fitzwilliam Museum contains an extensive collection of English pottery and china, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities, and illuminated manuscripts. The collection of paintings includes works by Hogarth, Gainsborough, and Turner, as well as Impressionists and Dutch Masters of the Baroque including Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Rubens.

In addition to the Fitzwilliam there are several other interesting museums in Cambridge including:

The Whipple Museum of the History of Science collection includes material dating from the medieval period – 19th century, including instruments of astronomy, navigation, surveying, drawing and calculating, sundials, mathematical instruments, and early electrical apparatus.

University Botanical Gardens - Cambridge

University Botanical Gardens – Cambridge

Center for Computing History acts as a repository for vintage computers and related artefacts. On display are key items from the early era of computers, and also holds vintage games consoles, peripherals, software, and an extensive collection of computer manuals, magazines and other literature.

Polar Museum – This Museum explores Earth’s coldest, driest, windiest, highest and deadliest places, from heroes to modern climate science. It is part of the Scott Polar Research Institute, established in 1920 to study the Arctic and Antarctic.

The University Botanical Gardens, established in 1831, covers an area of 40 acres, and showcases an impressive collection of more than 8,000 species of plants from all over the world.

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Coffeehouse, London c.1700:

London History

Over the coming months there will be four blog posts for each city on the Davis High School Baroque Ensemble’s 2020 England-France Tour tour: Place of Interest; Concert Venue; Music; History of the city. This week’s post, the fourth of the series, is on the history of  London.


Standing on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. ‘Londinium’ was founded by the Romans c.47AD and lasted until until around AD 61 when the Iceni tribe, led by Queen Boudica, burned it to the ground. London was subsequently rebuilt and by the 2nd century, Roman London had a population of around 60,000. The City of London, (known as the ‘square mile’ and distinct from the larger city of London) is London’s ancient medieval core and includes the Tower of London, and St. Paul’s Cathedral). A section of the original Roman Wall is preserved in the grounds of the Museum of London in the City – together with many Roman artifacts including wood-working tools and coins.

London, was plagued by disease in the early 17th century, culminating in the Great Plague (smallpox) in 1666, which killed up to 100,000 people, a fifth of the population.The Great Fire of London broke out the following year, and quickly destroyed over 13,000 buildings, and the original St. Paul’s Cathedral. Christopher Wren proposed a a radical redesign of the City with a grid of roads, but this was never implemented, and the City was rebuilt using the original  layout of medieval streets. He did, however, build the new St Paul’s Cathedral.

The 18th century was a period of rapid growth for London, reflecting an increasing national population, the early stirrings of the Industrial Revolution, and London’s role at the centre of the evolving British Empire. Many tradesmen and skilled craftsmen from different countries came to London to trade goods.

One lesser considered aspect of 18th century England, and especially London, is that the rising middle class and the aristocracy were able to indulge their interest in music and art, and build grand country houses largely as a result of their profits from the Slave Trade.

Coffeehouse, London c.1700:

Coffeehouse, London c.1700:

In the 17thc. Coffee appeared for the first time in Europe outside the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and coffeehouses (precursors of Starbucks) were first established in London in 1650’s. They became popular (men only – coffee was not considered a suitable beverage for women), and they began to gain political importance due to their popularity as places of debate. Coffeehouses became popular in other cities, and by 1675 there were more than 3,000 in England. The famous insurance broker ‘Lloyds of London’, had its start in a coffee house in the City in 1686.

 

A Musical Tea Party - Mid 18th century

A Musical Tea Party – Mid 18th century

Tea from China was first imported to England in the early 17th century by the East India Company. It was an expensive product and often kept under lock and key. Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II introduced the ritual of drinking teas to the English Royal Court, and the habit was adopted by the aristocracy. The first tea shop for ladies was opened in London in 1717 by Thomas Twining (who also sold leaf tea for consumption at home), and slowly tea shops began to appear throughout England.

A Musical Tea Party - Mid 18th century:

Luncheon with Hot Chocolate – mid 18th century

Chocolate was introduced to England around 1600, first and foremost as a drink, and remained popular in that form for over 200 years. 18th-century hot chocolate was more bitter than our modern variations, but still intensely pleasant. Initially made with cocoa liquor (blocks of ground cocoa nibs) and water, it was popularly served with an equal mix of water and milk, spiced with ingredients including cinnamon, sugar, vanilla, chilli, rosewater, honey, pepper, jasmine or even ambergris.  Hot Chocolate, mid 18th century:

River Thames Frost Fair

River Thames Frost Fair

During the 17thc. the River Thames froze sufficiently several times for Frost Fairs to be established on the ice. In 1683/84, the  famous English writer and diarist John Evelyn described his visit to a Fair:

“Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, and from several other staires to and fro, as in the streetes, sliding with skeetes, a bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes, cookes, tipling and other lewd places, so that it seemed a bacchanalian triumph or carnival on the water, whilst it was a severe judgement on the land, the trees not onely splitting as if lightning-struck, but men and cattle perishing in diverse places, and the very seas so lock’d up with ice, that no vessels could stir out or come in.”

St Paul's Cathedral & the River Thames, Canaletto, c.1745

Baroque Music in London

Over the coming months there will be four blog posts for each city on the Davis High School Baroque Ensemble’s 2020 England-France Tour tour: Place of Interest; Concert Venue; Music; History of the city. This week’s post, the third of the series, is on Baroque music in London.


St Paul's Cathedral & the River Thames, Canaletto, c.1745

St Paul’s Cathedral & the River Thames, Canaletto, c.1745

The best known composers in England during the Baroque Period are Henry Purcell, and Handel. London was a hive of musical activity during this period with music composed and performed for the church, court, and public performance. DHSBE will almost certainly be playing music by Handel, and Purcell on the tour.

Henry Purcell is the best know English composer in the 17thc. He worked primarily for the Royal Court, and also wrote incidental liturgical and instrumental music, and music for a number of plays. He composed the opera-like ‘masques’ King Arthur, and The Fairy Queen, and what is generally considered to be the first English opera – Dido & Aeneas, c.1686 (although his less well known contemporary, John Blow, had composed his opera – Venus & Adonis, in 1683.  In 1695, Queen Mary died of smallpox and Purcell composed the music for her funeral. A few months later Purcell died, and, at the request of his musical colleagues and with permission of the King, his music for Queen Mary was rather touchingly played at his own funeral.

Chorus from Dido & Aeneas:

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Incidental music for Aphra Behn’s play Abdelazer:

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Song – Here the Deities Approve – improvisation:

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John Blow – Venus & Adonis:

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Handel

The German-born composer George Frederick Handel settled in London in 1712 after a period of studying opera in Italy; subsequently becoming a naturalized British citizen, and living in London until his death in 1752. He is probably best known for his Oratorio Messiah, and the Coronation Anthem Zadok the Priest, composed for the coronation of King George II in 1727, and played at the coronation of every subsequent British monarch. He was an organist and harpsichordist, and prolific composer of instrumental, keyboard, and liturgical music, and over 40 operas.

Handel composed Messiah in 3 weeks in 1741, apparently fueled principally by coffee:
Messiah – Hallelujah Chorus (video of the first performance of the oratorio on period instruments since the 18th century):
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Zadok The Priest – British Coronation Anthem

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The term Concerto Grosso features extensively in 18th century music – it is a form of instrumental baroque music in which the musical material is passed between a small group of soloists (the concertino), and full orchestra (the ripiano or concerto grosso). This is in contrast to the solo concerto which features a single solo instrument with the melody line, accompanied by the orchestra.

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Handel’s principal musical rival in London was the Italian-born violinist and composer Francesco Geminiani. His treatise, Art of Playing on the Violin is a valuable source of information about baroque performance style. In 1715 Geminiani played his violin concerti for the court of George I, playing harpsichord. Geminiani made a living by teaching, writing music, and dealing in art.  Many of his students went on to have successful musical careers, such as Charles Avison.

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Saint James's Church

London Concert Venue

Over the coming months there will be four blog posts for each city on the Davis High School Baroque Ensemble’s 2020 England-France Tour tour: Place of Interest; Concert Venue; Music; History of the city. This week’s post, the second of the series, is on the concert venue the ensemble will play in London.


Saint James's Church

Saint James’s Church, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and completed 1684

The first concert of the DHSBE 2020 tour will be in St James, Piccadilly, which has an acoustic well suited to the performance of baroque music.

The church, designed by Sir Christopher Wren (architect of St Paul’s Cathedral), was completed 1684. It is built of red brick (a style quite new in the late 17th century) with Portland stone dressings (a pale color stone much used for government buildings). Its interior has galleries on three sides supported by square pillars and the nave has a barrel vault supported by Corinthian columns. The carved marble font, and limewood reredos are both notable examples of the work of the Anglo-Dutch stone mason and woodcarver Grinling Gibbons (his work can also be seen in St Paul’s Cathedral, and in Trinity College, Cambridge, the venue for the second concert by Davis High school Baroque Ensemble).

The 'London Eye' with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background

London Places of Interest

Over the coming months there will be four blog posts for each city on the Davis High School Baroque Ensemble’s 2020 England-France Tour tour: Place of Interest; Concert Venue; Music; History of the city. This week’s post, the first of the series, is on places of interest in London.


The 'London Eye' with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background

The ‘London Eye’ with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background

London has a many important cultural sites including:

  • The Tower of London
  • St. Paul’s  Cathedral
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Palace of Westminster
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Trafalgar Square
  • National Gallery and adjacent National Portrait Gallery
  • Science Museum, and nearby Victoria & Albert Museum
  • The London Museum
  • Handel & Jimi Hendrix House Museum
  • ‘London Eye’
  • Covent Garden market
  • Boat trips on the Thames

Transportation in central London is easy by the ‘Tube’, and many sights are close enough to walk between them (e.g., St Paul’s, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, & Tate Modern; London Eye, Houses of Parliament, & Westminster Abbey). Oxford Street, Regent’s Street, Bond Street, & Covent Garden Market are popular areas for shopping. The historic sites – Hampton Court Palace, and Greenwich are further afield.