Time to Meet ‘The Virtuous Wife’ and ‘The Fairy-Queen’

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

So-called early music is not that early: Germans started playing mammoth ivory flutes 40,000 years ago, presumably in a familiar oompah-pah style (cave people did not leave us the sheet music), so the 17th and 18th century compositions normally called “early” are pretty late.

But it’s still a very intimate and distinctive sound compared to the massive symphonic ensembles made possible by the urbanization of the 19th century industrial age.

And we are so lucky here in Pacific Palisades to have the St. Matthew’s Music Guild, which is continuing its 33rd season with a buffet of wondrous early music to sample and enjoy.

The year kicks off on Friday, Jan. 19, with one of the country’s most respected early music ensembles Chatham Baroque. (Many of their albums are top-sellers on Amazon, if you want to check them out in advance.)

Despite coming out of Pittsburgh, their program is called “Awake Sweet Love: Songs and Suites of Olde England” and will interpret the works of early English composers.

These are headlined by Henry Purcell who, in the late 17th century, created the first authentically English musik that is still massively influential today.

Pete Townsend of The Who said he wrote the introduction to “Pinball Wizard” as a homage to Purcell, arguably the only important British composer before the 20th century heyday of Elgar, Walton and Britten.

The ensemble, which includes the core instrumental trio plus Pascale Beaudin, soprano, Cynthia Black, baroque violin, David Morris, bass viol, and David Walker, theorbo and baroque guitar, will be performing arias from Purcell’s stage works “The Virtuous Wife and The Fairy-Queen.”

“The Fairy-Queen” was based upon Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and unveiled in 1692, three years before Purcell died aged around 35.

The Chatham Baroque will also go back to the generation that actually wrote music with the bard: Robert Johnson, the Elizabethan lutist who wrote the tunes for Shakespeare’s later works, including the familiar “Where the Bee Sucks” from “The Tempest.”

The acclaimed ensemble will also drop in a couple of “lollypops” (crowd-pleasers) such as “Greensleeves,” upon which Henry VIII questionably stamped his name, and the jaunty “Royal Consort Sets” by William Lawes, a regular at the court of Charles I—not that such patronage helped him.

Lawes, a believer in the divine right of kings to do what they like, was “casually shot” to death by a Parliamentarian during the English Civil War and his body “lost by poor accident.”

The ensemble, which has been impressing audiences for 25 years, has invited a number of special performers for the night at St. Matthew’s.

Soprano Beaudin began her career on stage with the Atelier Lyrique de l’Opera de Montreal.

Pascale Beaudin

She has appeared on operatic stages in Canada (Opéra de Québec), in France (Angers-Nantes Opéra, Opéra de Marseille, Opéra National de Lorraine, Opéra de Metz) and the United States (Opera Lafayette) in Mozartian roles such as Zerlina, Papagena and Fiordiligi.

Guest artists also include Black, Morris and Walker, who perform extensively with baroque ensembles from Apollo’s Fire, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the Smithsonian Chamber Players.

The performance is underwritten by the Edwin W. Pauley Foundation.

Early music is not played that often in Los Angeles: Audiences prefer the power and bombast of the “classical” music era that can fill the Hollywood Bowl and survive the lollypops of fireworks and back screen projections. So, enjoy this rare and special night.

For more information,
visit the Music Guild website at musicguildonline.org or call
310-573-7422.