We all know what to expect in Seattle around the holidays: ACT’s “A Christmas Carol,” Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” Seattle Symphony’s rousing Symphony No. 9 by Beethoven, among other things.
But what was hot on London stages this time of year, oh, 300 years ago?
On Saturday, audiences can get an idea of the theater, music and dance scene in England during the 1714-15 holiday season when Seattle Baroque Orchestra (SBO) presents “A Twelfth Night Celebration: Festive Music from the English Theaters.”
Twelfth Night, in Western Christian tradition the final night between Christmas and Epiphany, takes place each Jan. 5. Historically, it also caps a particularly gala time in the arts.
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“In some cultures, Twelfth Night was also the beginning of Carnival season, so it was a very festive time,” says Julie Andrijeski, a renowned violinist in the world of early music. Andrijeski is guest conductor for SBO’s concert, which she also programmed.
“It was also a time when the English were going to the theater, reveling in the streets, drinking, eating sumptuous cakes. The program is going to re-create what a fairgoer from the 18th century would have experienced, particularly in that 1714-15 season. We have no singers and dancers and plays, but I’ve included a lot of the music from plays and dances.”
The orchestra will perform a number of works from composers both familiar and more obscure.
“As far as theatrical music,” says Andrijeski, “I have a suite including a minuet from Henry Purcell’s ‘The Old Batchelor,’ and an overture and air from John Eccles’ ‘The Mad Lover.’ Usually in 18th-century theater, you would have music played as the audience came in, then what was called the ‘curtain tune’ — what we now call the overture. I’ve taken bits and pieces of Eccles’ score and added it.”
The bill also includes music by George Frideric Handel, Giuseppe Sammartini and Charles Avision. There’s also incidental dance music from Matthew Locke’s score for a revival of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
Andrijeski, a longtime friend of SBO founders Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman, has appeared with the orchestra before. Her role as a guest this time, leading the ensemble, caps a lengthy search conducted by the Early Music Guild to replace Matthews as the orchestra’s artistic director. Andrijeski is one of seven candidates for the position; each has been given an opportunity to direct one concert.
The Guild’s board expects to make a decision within a few weeks.
Andrijeski, who plays a 400-year-old Amati Family violin, serves as director of the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, and holds principal positions with New York State Baroque, Quicksilver, Apollo’s Fire and Les Délices. She teaches at Case Western Reserve University, Juilliard, Oberlin Conservatory and Indiana University.
Andrijeski is an Idaho native with many connections to Seattle.
It was at Case Western where she discovered early music. Her previous conservatory training emphasized “playing pieces the way everybody has played them a million times. In Baroque music, you have notes on the page, but you can improvise. It was that luxury of making a piece my own that really drew me in.”
Tom Keogh: email@example.com