A while ago, Mirinda noticed that there was planned a recital at Chawton House Library. Naturally I was ordered to book a couple of tickets. And tonight was the night.
Of course being a Thursday, Mirinda had to make sure she was home early enough and I had a Talking Newspaper which fortunately finished in plenty of time. We had a quick salad for dinner then headed off for Chawton.
One of the real pleasures of living so close is that we can go to these sorts of things. The chance to attend a recital in a room where Jane could easily have attended just such a recital herself is an indescribable delight. Add to that the fact that the recital we saw was the same sort of thing she’d have seen and the delight knows no bounds.
The evening started with a glass of wine and a general mill around before we all entered the room with the piano in it. I don’t know what the official name of the room is so I’m just going to call it ‘the room with the piano in it.’ (To be completely honest, it might have actually been a fortepiano but I don’t know the difference so we can ignore that.)
The room was set up with chairs and a big screen. We took two very comfy chairs next to a chap who turned out to be, John Howell Morrison, the composer of the music for the final piece. He also did the techy stuff which was slightly out of keeping with the Regency style evening but did allow us subtitles for the Italian songs. He also employed Mirinda as a runner – her job being to half close the door for him. I don’t know why.
We started off with a brief introduction from Vivian Montgomery of the Longy School of Music, followed almost immediately by Megan Dirr, Ketti Muschler and Susannah Thornton, a trio of young girls giving us a rendition of Haydn’s My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair. All amazingly talented young American girls also from the Longy School.
The next song was hilarious. Emily Gray who has an amazingly gift for the sombre face etched with irony, had us in fits as she told us of her life as The Indignant Spinster. Great delivery, great face, great voice.
Then followed Catherine Bott, the woman who Jennifer Ehle mimed to in P&P. She told us the very funny story of how this came about. Actually, her delivery was funny rather than the actual story. She then proceeded to tell us about Emma Hamilton and Horatio Nelson, insisting that we all go and see the exhibition at the Maritime Museum, something I’ve been telling Mirinda ever since I went. Maybe she’ll listen to Ms Bott.
She then proceeded to sing some songs from Emma’s Songbook along with at least one of her Attitudes.
The highlight of the evening came after a short pause during which the piano was retuned. We’re used to guitarist doing this but it’s the first time we’ve stopped for a piano retune.
Not that the retune was the highlight. No, the highlight was a musical version of Jane’s juvenile book, The History of England, named Jane’s History of England (2014).
It certainly was the highlight. It was also hilarious and beautifully performed. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Actually the entire evening was thoroughly enjoyable. It was like going back in time to witness a typical evening in Chawton around the turn of the 19th century without the inconvenience of non-flushing toilets, uncomfortable clothing and smelly people.