Fringe concert: Nothing beats the Queen’s Masque and a frying pan
“Huize Molenaar” is another beautiful period home, which has space on its ground floor to host fringe concerts during the Utrecht Early Music Festival. Like “Zuylenspiegel” and similar period locations, there are always limited seats available for the concerts taking place here. So people wanting to hear the second fringe performance of the Scroll Ensemble, had had to collect their free tickets at the special desk in Tivoli-Vredenburg, Sunday morning.
The Scroll Ensemble not only gives fringe concerts during the festival. As stated in an earlier post, the festival is an event which includes not only concerts. It has a summer school, talks, lectures, workshops, and more. The series of dancing classes is always fully booked before the festival starts. The Scroll Ensemble ensures there is life music for those who want to master dances with which Queen Elizabeth I and Jane Austen were familiar.
The Scroll Ensemble has been appearing at the festival for quite a few years now. The members may change, but the “hard core” are Robert de Bree, James Hewitt, Iason Marmaras and this time, Roberto A Molina joined in the fun. The members and guest musicians ensure each performance is a highly memorable one. Their talents are not limited to playing excellently. They excell in improvising on themes – as Robert de Bree explained in a life radio interview during this year’s festival.
The ensemble’s afternoon fringe concert at Huize Molenaar was a rework and reenactment of a Masque. They focussed on the love story of Cupid and Psyche, or part from “Loves Maistresse or The Queens Masque ”, as created by Thomas Heywood. Due to the limited time available for a fringe concert, their interpretation was a synopsis of his Masque.
Mr de Bree was in England, but the remaining gentlemen gave a performance that outdid all the ensemble’s previous performances which I had the good fortune to attend during past Early Music Festivals. The public was regularly moved to tears – of laughter. Shakespeare would have been proud of these merry men. Thomas Heywood, who created the original Masque and whose text was used, may have raised an eyebrow though.
The story of Psyche and Cupid was interlaced with music of the period and fitting in with the story. The concert started with “Mr Charles Smith’s Ground”, composed by John Playford and ended with improvisations on two pieces, a Chromatic Fantasia and a Chaconne. Songs and music composed by John Dowland and Henry Purcell, as well as more music by John Playford followed throughout the performance.
It is quite a feat to recreate a Masque with only a few instruments, a minimum of stage make-up, and three actors cum musicians. The men also used their instruments to create special effects, like rolling thunder. But what really had the audience in stitches, was the musical competition organised by Apollo, which included a beautiful concert on … a frying pan.
The frying pan won hands-down from the harpsichord. Too bad, there was no encore of the frying pan song, but regardless: this performance beat Vox Luminis and La Fénice’s “drinking song” from the semi-opera “King Arthur”. (See part 7, “King Arthur”.)
Scroll Ensemble, “Love’s Mistress – or the Queen’s Masque”, Huize Molenaar, Utrecht, September 6th 2015
Scroll Ensemble in this fringe concert:
James Hewitt – violin and acting
Roberto A Molina – cello and frying pan, plus acting
Iason Marmaras – harpsichord and acting
Text by Thomas Heywood, music included:
John Playford’s Mr Charles Smith’s Ground, Lilli Bulliero, Song of Pan
John Dowland’s Come again, Flow my Tears
Henry Purcell’s Song of Apollo
The Scroll Ensemble has a full diary, but regularly manages to host improvisational concerts in The Hague, in which members of the public can play an active part: Scroll Ensemble.