The Long and Winding Road: back on track...

Well, the last few months have been a little silent - apologies! Shortly after Christmas, we discovered that our landlord was planning to sell our flat (after moving in less than a year before), and offered to sell it to us. We decided to give it a go, although it was incredibly unlikely that would manage to get a mortgage post-Truss with our complicated income-streams and a recent change of job for my husband. But, after the most ridiculous amount of paperwork, and a great deal of hard work on the part of our friendly mortgage broker, we finally are home-owners! It's a little surreal, but we feel exceptionally fortunate. It means we can stay in our new area, which we love, with great neighbours, and this gorgeous cat, who is always obsessed with our car and our harpsichord.


So, since the beginning of April, when we completed our purchase, I have been playing catch-up. While finishing the PhD itself is my priority (I'm aiming for the end of August), other parts of my life have also demanded my attention. I've been pretty busy with Ensemble Hesperi: we've been working on a new website and a Friends Scheme, which should be live in the next month or so! We really value our relationships with our supporters across the world, and we want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to share in our artistic journey, and get involved with our projects.

Last month, I was delighted (and surprised!) to be invited on to BBC Radio 3's "Free Thinking" programme to talk about Georgian music and fashion with two fellow researchers, Lizzy Buckle, and Sophie Coulombeau. On the 4th May, Netflix launched its "Bridgerton" spinoff, "Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story", which explores her early life, and recreates the story of her marriage to George III in 1761. I'm fascinated by this period of Charlotte's life, and particularly by her profound relationship with music. And, although it won't feature in my PhD thesis whatsoever, the current media attention surrounding the Netflix show has inspired me to continue the research I started at the British Library and during my Georgian Papers Fellowship in 2021. My work on Queen Charlotte's own music collection is progressing fast, and I'm working towards finishing a journal article on the subject by the end of the year. Another blog post coming this weekend on that subject!


Next week, I'll be starting to plan a tour of Hesperi's project, "Then I play'd upon the Harpsichord", which was generously supported by the Continuo Foundation. This week, the film of our pilot performance in summer 2022 was reviewed by Robert Hugill, and we're looking forward to celebrating Queen Charlotte and her love of music with several more performances in 2023/2024. We're also looking forward to a collaboration this summer with the Liberata Collective - performing Handel's "Orlando" at Buxton International Festival and Lichfield Festival. Last night, Hesperi's harpsichordist, Thomas Allery, and I performed at a preview event at 22, Mansfield Street, and introduced the audience to our "chamber" sized instrumentation! I read out a rather amusing review of the first performance in 1733, by fellow Scot John Clerk, who noticed profound balance issues:

The Audience was very thin so that I believe they get not enough to pay the Instruments in the orchestra. I was surprised to see the number of Instrumental Masters for there were 2 Harpsichords, 2 large basse violins... 4 violoncellos, 4 bassoons, 2 Hautbois (oboes), 1 Theorbo, lute & above 24 violins. These made a terrible noise and often drown'd the voices.

We all laughed, but it's an interesting challenge to the idea that, as historically-informed performers, we should aim to recreate the conditions of the first performance! In fact, there were only 10 performances of Handel's "Orlando" when he was living (perhaps those 24 violins bankrupted the entire production!), and it was not revived until the 20th century. Here we are, with three of the Liberata Collective, Christian, Olivia, and Susanna. I should say that Tom and I are entirely improvising our Baroque gestures!


So, next week, back to the PhD. Over the past few months, I have managed to produce near-final drafts of two chapters of my thesis, with four remaining. A third is nearly finished, but it is has a partner chapter which needs to be written before I can finalise them both. And that's still in bullet points... So that will be next week's task. I enjoy writing so much, but I do need to be able to have a couple of hours to myself, undisturbed, to get into the groove. And that has been a rare thing in the last few weeks! But we're getting there, and I'm so much looking forward to the End. Cheerio for now.