6:48 PM September 26, 2022
An early music ensemble performs free concerts at Kenwood House inspired by the famous paintings on the walls.
Saraband kicks off three Sunday afternoons in the mansion’s music room on October 2 with Vermeer’s The Guitar Player. Visitors can see the Old Master with the sound of a 17th century guitar – like the one in the painting – ringing in their ears. Johan Löfving plays English, Italian, Dutch and French music of the period, as well as tunes Vermeer might have heard growing up at the Flying Fox Tavern.
The following week features music from court, tavern and theater – including works by Purcell and Locke – based on a portrait of Charles II.
Painted Ladies is inspired by 18th century portraits in the Music Room, with music for and about actresses, courtesans and milkmaids. They include John Hoppner’s portrait of Dora Jordan, William IV’s mistress, and George Romney’s portraits of opera singer Mrs. Crouch and Nelson’s mistress, Emma Hart.
Hampstead violinist Sarah Bealby-Wright will present the music with stories about paintings, personalities and the period.
“We like to play music with a special nod to the place, and at Kenwood our programs are inspired by the artwork and stories of past residents,” she said.
“It’s mostly music, but we try to bring all the personalities into these incredible portrayals and how the tunes connect to real people. We found a piece by Dora Jordan, who played lute and guitar on stage, and one written for star singer Mrs. Crouch.”
The New End alumnus, who lives on Parliament Hill, said the Music Room was where the hostess received guests in the 18th century.
“I visited Kenwood and there were all these instruments; a harp, a piano and music stands. It seemed so sad to have a nice music room without music, so I found someone who wanted to have some chamber concerts. They make Kenwood feel like a real home in a way.”
Saraband play two longer evening gigs upstairs at Holly Bush, Hampstead on 12 and 19 October.
It will be transformed into a “House of Music” with music by Purcell, Locke, Corelli, Handel and the Beggar’s Opera, as well as lyrics by contemporary writers.
Bealby-Wright says: “Before 1675 music was played in people’s homes. In the 18th century the first public concerts were held in the upstairs hall of a tavern. We found our own perfect tavern hall which was formerly George Romney’s studio, which combines brilliantly with our concerts at Kenwood.”
The ticketless Kenwood concerts are at 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on October 2, 9 and 16 and are funded by the Continuo Foundation which supports early music ensembles. Visit www.saraband.co.uk/ Holly Bush Concert Tickets https://app.lineupnow.com/event/saraband-in-the-music-house-the-holly-bush