Monday, July 30, 2012

Celestial music

Last night we went to a concert with a difference, celebrating the life, work and music of William Herschel, the famous astronomer. It was held at Keswick's newish Theatre by the Lake, which does exactly what it says on the tin, being a theatre right by the side of Derwentwater - and a very nice venue at that. We'd never been before but thoroughly enjoyed our comfy seats at the top of the stalls with a grandstand view of the stage.

The concert itself consisted of ten different pieces of chamber music by Herschel, his friends, relatives and contemporaries, played by The 18th Century Orchestra. They specialise in playing (hardly surprising) 18th century and Baroque music, on instruments authentic to that time, by candlelight, while wearing 18th century costume. It was different, fascinating, colourful and fun, and gave a great impression of what music concerts would have been like in the days before microphones and stage lighting. In between the pieces of music an actor took the part of John Herschel, William Herschel's son, to read out snippets about the astronomer's life, discoveries, work, and music, all in a wry style that was very amusing.

As to Herschel's music, we didn't even know he'd composed any and it soon became apparent why it doesn't get played much. You could even say it was a good job he didn't give up the day job, except that astronomy is actually a night job! Even so, it was a thoroughly entertaining evening and something completely different. Well done to the organisers of the Lake District Summer Music festival for including something so unusual in their repertoire.

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