To mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, members of Leeds Baroque perform music linked to the famous commemorations held at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1769
Join members of Leeds Baroque to hear a performance of the music composed for the turbulent 18th century celebration of Shakespeare.
In 1769, in a bid to market their small town to a wider public, a delegation from the Borough of Stratford-upon-Avon asked David Garrick, the most celebrated Shakespearean actor of the age, to open the new town hall. Garrick suggested a Shakespeare festival to place the town firmly onto the eighteenth-century tourist map. This was to be a three day spectacular with a parade of Shakespearian characters, a horse race, dances, and music provided by the complete orchestra and chorus of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, of which Garrick was the manager. He wrote an ode with, at its centre, ''Thou soft flowing Avon' set to music by Thomas Arne, the leading English composer of the day. Other native composers, such as Charles Dibdin, also contributed new works.
As sometimes happens in Britain the whole thing became a shambles when it rained non-stop for the entire festival: Garrick lost over £2,000 and never returned to Stratford again. However, rather than waste all the effort, he determined to mount the entertainment at Drury Lane and this became a major success. Much of this success was down to Dibdin, who composed "The Jubilee" with 'New scenes, Dresses, and Decorations' said to feature 320 persons, 3 horses, and a dog! Much of the Stratford pageant was resurrected and, although music critics were sniffy, audiences were delighted by the spectacle and it set a stage record for the period, being performed 153 times between 1769-1776.