What music might have inspired Shakespeare?
You can find out at a special Nov. 4 concert titled “Music of Shakespeare’s London” by the University of Louisville’s Early Music Ensemble. The show is part of Will in the Ville, the city-wide collaboration of more than 45 arts, cultural and educational organizations celebrating all things Shakespeare before the arrival of the national traveling exhibit, “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare.”
The concert will feature songs, dances and fantasias heard in England’s streets, pubs and common areas, as well as the stately homes of the upper class. Listeners will enjoy sounds of traditional renaissance instruments such as the viola da gamba, recorder, lute and virginal – a type of upright harpsichord – along with the cello and violin, which had just become popular at the time.
Jack Ashworth, Professor of Music History Emeritus at UofL’s School of Music and resident expert of renaissance music, is directing. There will be three guest performers, all of whom sang with the ensemble in years past and went on to highly successful careers in early music: Phoebe Jevtovic Rosquist of San Francisco, Kathleen Cantrell of New York City, and Laura Lea Duckworth of Louisville.
Ashworth said some of the songs will be the same ones Shakespeare mentioned in his plays.
“He obviously knew them and expected his audience would as well,” Ashworth said.
He also promised attendees will hear street cries – town-criers advertising wares for sale – set to music, just as those in the 17th century would have heard in the streets of London.
The music of the night will be fun and accessible to today’s audiences, Ashworth added. After all, it was largely written at the time for entertaining in people’s homes.
“It was a time of amateur involvement in music. Part of a person’s education was to read music and to sing. If you didn’t know how to do that, you weren’t considered sufficiently cultured,” he said. “The chamber music of the time – some of it quite difficult – was all intended for amateur players.”
The concert is 8-10 p.m. Nov. 4 in the School of Music’s Comstock Hall, 105 W. Brandeis Ave. It is free and open to the public.