In the Streets of London: A 17th Century Musical Pub Tour
PRISMA (Elisabeth Champollion (recorder), Franciska Anna Hajdu (violin, voice), Alon Seriel (lute, mandolin), Soma Salat-Zakariás (viola da gamba, voice)), Murat Coskun (percussion)
rec. 2022, Palazzo Sangiovanni, Alessano, Italy
Fuga Libera FUG814 [58]

I wish I could have visited a London pub in the 17th century. I wonder how the beer might have tasted: probably strong, judging by this music, often raucous and wild, and great fun. One of the collectors of such music was John Playford (1623-1686). He published The English Dancing Master and The Division Violin. Many of the anonymous pieces in this programme come from his publications.

Henry Purcell, it seems, was very popular. It is known that people sang his catches – none recorded here – in coffee and drinking houses in the 1680s and 1690s. It was my unexpected pleasure to discover his beautiful (and justly famous) Music for a While. The melody is played on a mandolin, complete with suitable tremolandi.

The brief booklet essay sets the mood and atmosphere. It is not only the London streets of yesteryear that PRISMA want to bring to life. They include a magical arrangement of Ralph McTell’s iconic Streets of London from the 1960s; the melody also starts the entire programme. Even now, a London busker might play the Skye Boat Song (with roots in the 18th and the 19th century). I heard it last year on the streets of Dundee. And does a later track contain a quick quote from Celine Dion’s My Heart will go On?

Mind you, some of this music is suitable for more intimate settings. Take John Eccles’s lovely Slow Air and Purcell’s Curtain Tune (from his incidental music to Timon of Athens) which segues out of it. Neither would really have caught on in a pub, but it is good to have them here.

PRISMA play recorder, violin, lute, mandolin and viola da gamba, and they invited a percussionist. There are few vocal items for Franciska Anna Hajdu and Soma Salkat-Zakariás; the texts are in the booklet. The music has been arranged, naturally. I assume that the group worked that out between themselves, as had been the custom in past generations. Each arrangement is different, colourful and imaginative. The final track in particular shows the performers’ virtuosity and enthusiasm: the last tune turns into a fun ‘jam session’ for all.

Gary Higginson

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The New Hornpipe / Johnny, Cock Up thy Beaver / Newcastle
Trip It Upstairs / My Wife Is a Wanton Wee Thing / 9th of July / Dusty Windowsills
Archibald MacDonald of Keppoch / Daphne
The Star of County Down / Interlude: Musical Priest / Cooley’s / The Swallowtail
All in a Garden Green
Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
If Love’s a Sweet Passion
Hornpipe / Hole in the Wall
Ralph McTell (b. 1944)
Streets of London
Carolan’s Draught
Thomas Ford (1580-1648), arr. Dávid Budai
Cate of Bardie
Henry Purcell
Music for a while, Z583
John Eccles (1668-1735)
Slow Air
Henry Purcell
Curtain Tune
Skye Boat Song
Niel Gow’s Lament for His Second Wife
Londonderry Air / Danny Boy
Upon a Summers Day
Drive the cold winter away
Nicola Matteis (1650-1713)
Groud After the Scotch Humour
Henry Purcell
The Sailor’s Wife / Jenny’s Wedding / The Green Fields of Rossbeigh / The Kerry / Tatter Jack Walsh