What a lovely experience, finding Dowland in the library! I stumbled across a performance of this incredible composer’s music in Muswell Hill Library, then followed the performers down the hill to Crouch End Library for a second helping. What concentrated, intimate and expressive music! And how well it came across in this unexpected setting. With performers only inches away from us, singing and playing with a naturalness that drew us in, we couldn’t miss the vitality and freshness of this music – or the devastating emotions that it contains. This level of intensity stops everyone in their tracks – and performers, audience and passers-by shared something magical amid the regular bustle of a Saturday afternoon.
Incidentally, we learned a lot about wider aspects of John Dowland’s music too! As a volume of his songs was passed around the audience, we discovered that the score was published in such a way that different parts – soprano, tenor, bass etc – faced different directions (ah, I should have taken a photograph!) – so that performers could practice ‘in the round’, gathered around the one copy – lovely! Also that the songs can be sung with either one, two, three or four-part voices, equally effectively – incredible! It was also nice to learn – unusually perhaps, where musical geniuses are concerned – that Dowland was extremely popular and successful in his own lifetime:)
This event was part of the Stroud Green Festival and there are lots more enticing events happening – see http://www.stroudgreenfestival.org.uk