Hesperus uses 100-year-old movies to present 500-year-old music to 21st-century audiences. It’s a crazy idea. Why’d they take so long to get started?
Colonial Williamsburg’s annual antiques forum opens later this week, Feb. 24-28, 2023. Visitors can expect to see and hear historic instruments from CW’s collection. The forum is linked to an illuminating new exhibit, using portraits and instruments to depict the life and sounds of a bygone culture in 18th-century Virginia, when music was heard seemingly everywhere.
The only known extant works for viola da gamba in British Colonial America are found in the James River Music Book, a manuscript that has resided in Virginia since the 1730s and contains 15 works for solo viola da gamba, among other musical items. The earliest layer of the JRMB holds music by Lully, Purcell, and Handel, nearly doubling the page count of surviving instrumental music from the period and contributing repertoire for viola da gamba, organ, harpsichord, violin, and voice to the music now known to have been played in colonial Virginia. This article was first published in the May 2020 issue of EMAg.