Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 2

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478                                          ORIGIN OF ENGLISH OPERA.
Upon either the double or triple harp, music in a variety of keys might be per­formed ; but that with a single row of strings could not have more than one or two accidentals in the octave. The Hon. Roger North says, " The common harp, by the use of gut strings, hath received incomparable improvement, but cannot be a consort instrument, because it cannot follow organs and violls in the frequent change of keys; and the wind music, which by all stress of invention hath been brought into ordinary consort measures, yet more or less labours under the same infirmity, especially the chief of them, which is the trumpet."" Ambrose Philips, in his fifth Pastoral, has beautifully described the effects which the harp is peculiarly capable of producing, where he says—•
" His fingers, restless, traverse to and fro, While melting airs arise at their command;
As in pursuit of harmony they go ;           And now, laborious, with a weighty hand,
Now lightly skimming o'er the strings He sinks into the chords with solemn pace,
they pass,                     . [grass, And gives the swelling tones a manly
Like wrings that gently brush the plying           grace."
It may now be desirable to give a few particulars of the establishment of operas with recitative in this country, and of the origin of public concerts, but to do so, it will be necessary to revert to the time of the Commonwealth.
■ The first step towards the revival of dramatic music during the usurpation, was the performance of Shirley's masque, entitled Cupid and Death. It was presented (according to the title-page of the printed copy) "before his Excellence the Ambassadour of Portugal, upon the 26th of March, 1653 ;" and the music, of which there are two manuscript copies in the library of the British Museum, was composed by Christopher Gibbons and Matthew Lock. One of those copies is in the handwriting of Matthew Lock. (See Addit. MSS., No. 17,799.) ; In 1656,' Sir William Davenant obtained permission to open a theatre for the performance of operas, in a large room " at the back of Rutland House, in the upper end of Aldersgate St." He commenced with " An Entertainment in Declamation and Music, after the manner of the Ancients;" the vocal and instrumental music to which was composed by Dr. Charles Coleman, Captain Henry Cook, Mr. Henry Lawes and Mr. George Hudson. In the same year he produced the first opera, " The Siege of Rhodes, made a representation by the Art of Prospective in Scenes, and the Story sung in Recitative Musick." Prom his address to the reader, we learn that there were five changes of scenes, "according to the ancient dramatic distinctions made for time;" but the size of the room did not permit them to be more than eleven feet in height and about fifteen in depth, including the places of passage reserved for the music. There were seven performers; the part of Solyman being taken by Captain Henry Cook, and that of Ianthe by Mrs. Coleman, wife to Mr. Henry Coleman, who was, therefore, the first female actress on the English stage. The remaining five parts were doubled,—sometimes represented by one person, and sometimes by the other. They were, Villerius, by Mr. Gregory Thorndell and Mr. Dubartus ■ Hunt; Alphonso, by Mr. Edward Coleman and Mr. Roger Hill; the Admiral, by Mr. Matthew Lock and Mr. Peter Rymon; Pirrhus, by Mr. John Harding and

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III