How have you been? Hope everything is will with you and your family. You and I haven’t had much time to speak these past few weeks, so I decided to write you this letter in order to update you on the current events that have occurred in my life recently. Two days ago, I attended a baroque sinfonia at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, directed by Adam Gilbert, director of the early music program. The program consisted of selections from The Fairy Queen, originally composed by Henry Purcell. The overall performing environment was quite outstanding. It was great that the performers were on an elevated stage, making it much easier to see and hear them. It’s always crucial to be able to make eye contact with the performers in order to establish a personal connection with them. The event was very well attended. All the seats were practically filled causing some of the audience to stand up because there was no room. Overall, the audience seemed to be educated and had a great deal of knowledge on the music that was being performed. Also, the musical program was well organized, being consisted of five acts. The program passed out to the audience consisted a libretto, a text of all the words and stage directions of a piece, which made it much more easier to understand what was occurring on stage at the moment. The instruments I encountered at this concert were the violin, viola, cello, violone, harpsichord, lute, theorbo, guitar, oboe, bassoon, trumpet and recorder. Fortunately, I had learned about most of these instruments and what they sound like in my music class, so I was able to identify which instrument was being played at a certain time. I am now going to give you more information about Henry Purcell and his work in order for you to have a better idea of what the performance was like. Henry Purcell, born on September 10, 1659 in London, was an English organist and baroque composer. For a living his father played private music for a royal family. In 1664 Henry became a chorister due to his uncle’s arrangements after his father passed away. At the age of 18, he followed his father’s footsteps and began to compose music for the king. In 1679, he composed his firth anthem called, “Lord who can tell”. It is a psalm that is read every year on Christmas day. This same year he also wrote music for John Playford at the Chapel Royal, one of them being an anthem. One year later, he was selected to be the organ player of the Westminster Abbey where he was dedicated to only composing sacred music. In 1682, two major events took place in the life of Purcell. He got married and was appointed to be the organist at an office called, Chapel Royal. In 1683, his first composition was printed, and it was called Twelve Sonatas. In 1685 he wrote two anthems for the coronation of King James 11. They were titled as “I was glad” and “My heart is inditing”. He continued with theatre music in 1687 when he composed a tragedy called Tyrannick Love. The same year he composed a march, which became very popular. His popular chamber opera, Dido and Aeneas, was performed in 1689. It is said to be the first original English opera. It was the first time Purcell had created music for a dramatic written work. The same year he began to compose private music for the king. From then on he spent most of his time composing entertaining secular music for churches, concert halls, and stages. After a while, he wasn’t able to compose sacred music anymore because the Puritan reform had changed the country and its traditions. In 1692 he composed The Fairy Queen, which was another version of Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer’s Night Dream. The Purcell Society published this piece when it was rediscovered in 1901. In 1693 he composed music for two comedies and five plays. The comedies were called The Old Bachelor and The Double Dealer. The same year he composed his first two pieces that were accompanied by...
References: Evans, M. E. Henry Purcell. Detroit: Gale Biography in Context, 2003.
International Dictionary of Opera. Henry Purcell. Gale Biography in Context, 1993.
Encyclopedia Britannica. Purcell, Henry. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 2011.
Opera Today. Purcell: The Fairy Queen. Opera Today Inc., 2010.
Encyclopedia of World Biography. Henry Purcell. Detroit: Gale Biography in Context, 1998.
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