Playford Goes North

It’s a common historical stereotype that the Puritan years of the English Republic were a grim, joyless time. I recently saw some text advertising a concert of Restoration chamber music whose preamble asserted, quite startlingly, that music ‘fell silent’ during Cromwell’s rule. To which my immediate thought was: John Playford and William Davenant might have something to say about that.

Such sweeping statements are misleading. Because yes, while theatres were closed during the Protectorate, private music making did not stop, as the appearance of the first edition of John Playford’s The English Dancing Master in 1651 amply shows. And today, I’m pleased to discover that Playford has wandered off to the far north. A new video from The Arctic Philharmonic shows the orchestra having a lot of fun with two tunes from his collections – Muy Linda and Wallom Green, arranged by their leader Bjart Eike.

This playing has such verve and energy that you might think the musicians have all had a strong cup of coffee – which, as it happens, is something else that was first introduced to the British public during those bleak Puritan years.

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