From Chaos to Lawes

From Chaos to Lawes

Saturday, 28 May 2022, 4.00pm

A Galway Early Music Festival Concert - Live and Online

Ruth Cunningham, voice, baroque flute and recorder – Maria Caswell, violin and vielle – Gwyneth Davis, bass viola da gamba – Phebe Craig, harpsichord, with guest narrator Adrian Tinniswood and guest performer Ingrid Nicola (violin)

The ABC is a broken consort consisting of a combination of treble and bass viols, violin, and harpsichord. Our current program, “From Chaos to Lawes”, spans about 800 years, thanks to versatile soprano and chant expert Ruth Cunningham (formerly of Anonymous 4), who also joins us on baroque flute and recorder.

We will explore the relationship of music to the sciences and liberal arts of earlier times, from the musings of Hildegarde von Bingen on wisdom, through Jean-Féry Rebel’s clever depiction of the creation (beginning with Chaos, which is then separated and refined into the four elements), to a piece originally written for Anonymous 4 by 21st century composer Richard Einhorn on a text of Galileo. In between, we visit some of Machaut’s rhythmic puzzles, pay tribute to the muses of astronomy and music in two viol consort pieces by Michael East, and present one of the Fantasia suites of William Lawes, who in spite of his name broke many of the rules of composition. We will also examine the state of medical science in the 18th century with Marin Marais’s delightfully macabre musical picture of a bladder stone surgery, “L’Operation de la Taille”. Narrative assistance will be rendered by special guest, noted author Adrian Tinniswood (The Long Weekend, Noble Ambitions). The program is rounded out by selections from Marais’s “Pièces en Trio”.

Our instrumental combination may be somewhat quirky, but we think of ourselves as the kind of group that would have existed in a multi-generational musical household in or around the 17th century, where the older members played the instruments they were used to, while the younger ones preferred the newly popular violin. ( Roger North in the late 17th century described his grandfather as playing “that antiquated instrument, the treble viol.”) They might have arranged music for the instrumental forces available to them. We follow a similar practice, performing earlier pieces written for viols, as well as later music composed for violins.

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