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Sweete was the Song

Traditional Carols for Voices and Instruments


Tuesday, 13 December 2011 at 7.30pm

The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth


The Carols we might hear now in our cathedrals and colleges most often have their roots in ancient, simple melodies. For this concert, the singers of Musica Contexta, accompanied by early wind and string instruments, takes us back to the origins of some of these favourite carols. The folk and gallery traditions, which gave birth to these words and melodies  may be less sophisticated than modern arrangements, but the instrumental and improvisational practices which they embrace make them no less colouful or immediate.


So, we present no fewer than four versions of While shepherd’s watched (including one by Handel, the one which entranced a bull in Thomas Hardy’s Tess, and one which has been sung in a number of Yorkshire pubs for more than a century). Our historical and geographical tour takes in seven centuries and several counties: even an excursion to hear a Neopolitan shepherd’s pastoral which Handel may have heard on his travels and introduced to England in Messiah. Lending colour to these arrangements are baroque and modern violins, serpent, dulcian, pipes and flutes.


Warning: audience participation may be encouraged after an interval glass of wine.



This concert takes place in the Conventual Church of the Order of Malta, Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, Grove End Road NW8, just a stone's throw from St. John's Wood tube station.


If you wish to find out more about Musica Contexta's future concerts, please email concerts@musicacontexta.com.



The concert is a prelude to the forthcoming St John's Concert Series 2012, which will raise funds and awareness for the only independent Hospice in Central London.