Thursday, 19 February 2015, 1:00PM
St. Sepulchre Without Newgate

Harmony in the Lowest Home: The Guitar and the Labouring Poor

Professor Christopher Page, Ulrich Wedemeier, Timothy Reynolds

By the 1830s, guitars could be bought very cheaply at pawnbrokers’ shops, market stalls and the humblest of the ‘musical repositories’ that sprang up in response to the spread of musical amateurism. For the first time in the history of western music, the working classes, and even some members of the labouring poor – never able to afford a piano, harpsichord or harp, but only a flute or fiddle – found themselves with a fully harmonic instrument and sometimes with ambitions to match. This development, often cruelly satirised is an unwritten chapter in the history of working-class self-improvement that comprehends the rise of the mechanicks’ institutes and the spread of working people’s access to newspapers and conversation in the urban coffee shops.

Speaker_ChristopherPage_370x370.jpg

Christopher Page is Professor of Medieval Music and Literature, a Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge. He is an internationally renowned performer and writer, as well as being an experienced presenter through BBC Radio. He holds the Dent Medal of the Royal Musical Association awarded for outstanding services to musicology.

In 1981 he founded the professional vocal ensemble Gothic Voices now with twenty-five CDs in the catalogue, three of which won the coveted Gramophone Early Music Record of the Year award. The ensemble has performed in Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Sicily, Sweden, America, Israel, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Finland. London dates included twice-yearly sell-out concerts at London’s Wigmore Hall. The ensemble gave its first Promenade Concert in 1989. The group’s work has been chronicled most recently in Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music (CUP, 2007) and Richard Taruskin, Text and Act (OUP, 2006).

Professor Page’s major 350,000 word study, The Christian West and its Singers: The First Thousand Years, was published by Yale University Press in 2010. Prior to this his six other books include Songs and Instruments of the Middle Ages, Discarding Images: Reflections on Musical Life in Medieval France and The Summa Musicae: A Thirteenth-century Manual for Singers. He has edited three books of music, including Abbess Hildegard of Bingen: Sequences and Hymns.

Between 1989 and 1997, Professor Page was presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Programme, Spirit of the Age, and a presenter of the Radio 4 arts’ magazine Kaleidoscope.

Professor Page has been chairman of the National Early Music Association and of the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society (founded 1889) of whose new journal, now published by Cambridge University Press, he was a founding editor. He serves on the editorial boards of the journals Early Music (OUP) and Plainsong and Medieval Music (CUP). He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 2008.

In 2012, Professor Page was a founder member of the Consortium for Guitar Research at Sidney Sussex College, an affiliate of the Royal Musical Association.

Professor Page is currently completing a monograph on the Tudor guitar, representing the more academic side of his interest in playing guitars of the sixteenth-nineteenth centuries in a historically informed manner.

Professor Page has been appointed Gresham Professor of Music from September 2014. In this role he hopes to achieve “the ambition of all Gresham Professors; showing that a little-studied aspect of the field can have much more breadth of interest, and interdisciplinary appeal, than one might initially suppose.”

His first year as Gresham Professor of Music was a series of six lectures on Men, Women and Guitars in Romantic England:

The guitar is arguably the most widely cultivated instrument in the world. At a time when fifty or more pianos are broken up for scrap in Britain every week – sad relics of Victorian parlour entertainment – sales of guitars have never been higher. Nonetheless, it has been almost universally forgotten that there was an intense guitar craze in England between about 1800 and 1835, spanning the lifetimes of Keats, Byron, Shelley and Coleridge, and a craze whose history has never been traced. Histories of English music and society in the nineteenth century continue to be written as if it never happened, and yet the instrument was cultivated from the royal family in the person of Princess Charlotte (d. 1817) down to the poorest laundress. This is much more than the story of an instrument and its music : the rise of romanticism, the creation of an urban poor hungry for self improvement, the proliferation of newspapers, serialised fiction and printed sheet music, the social position of women and other aspects of English society and culture in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars all have a place within it.

Professor Page continues his series of Music lectures in 2017/18 lecture series entitled For Courtesan, Queen and Gallant: The Guitar in England from Henry VIII to Samuel Pepys.

Professor Page's previous lecture series' are as follows:

2016/17 The Christian Singer from the Gospels to the Gothic Cathedrals

2015/16 Music, Imagination and Experience in the Medieval World

2014/15 Men, Women and Guitars in Romantic England  

All of Professor Page's past Gresham lectures can be accessed here.

Current Gresham Professor of Music

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ulrich-wedemeier

Ulrich Wedemeier first studied classical guitar at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hannover and subsequently specialized in playing lutes and historical guitars.
Besides being active as a soloist and with renowned early music ensembles, he concentrates on CD and radio productions.
In 2004 he received an Echo Klassik award with the ensemble Musica Alta Ripa for the CD “Telemann Vol. 1”, and in 2006 again an Echo Klassik with Hamburger Ratsmusik for the CD “Lübecker Virtuosen”.
Ulrich Wedemeier is a guest at many opera houses. Concert tours have brought him through all of Europe, the USA, Southeast Asia, and Japan.
Visit his website for more information.

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timothy-reynolds

Timothy is an accomplished oratorio soloist frequently performing in both a concert and liturgical setting.

He graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Music (2007) and a Post Graduate Diploma of Teaching - Music (2009) before earning his Master of Music - Opera Performace (2013). He has also sung as a soloist an ensemble member of the Consort of Melbourne, the Gloriana Chamber Choir and the Palestrina Project and toured to Germany as a member of the Australian Chamber Choir (2010).

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Transcript

19 February 2015

Harmony in the Lowest Home: The Guitar and the Labouring Poor
Professor Christopher Page
Ulrich Wedemeier
Timothy Reynolds

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