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Early Music Concert

July 22, 2017 @ 7:30 pm
St John's Church
Chester CH1 1SN

The Magic of Medieval Music

Ian Pittaway is a man on a mission. Having played medieval and renaissance music in historical buildings, on TV (he’ll be in the follow-up series to The White Queen, aired in the USA from April 2017 and in the UK this year or next) and on various stages, he now wants to promote the music he loves on a short solo tour. His reputation goes ahead of him, with plaudits such as “Ian’s instrumental virtuosity cannot be faulted, masterful on anything he turns his frets to” (English Dance & Song magazine).

Medieval music? “Yes,” he beams, “these songs and tunes are so full of life. The melodies and instruments are so different to anything you’ll hear in modern music. The DJ John Peel used to say, “I want to hear something I haven’t heard before”, and there are lots of opportunities for that in medieval music.”

Keen to recreate the sound of the middle ages, Ian plays on replicas of medieval instruments. “On this tour, “ he explains, “I’ll be playing a beautiful mellow 13th century harp, and a bray harp from the 15th century. The bray harp has wooden dowels which the strings vibrate against, creating a buzz. I’ll also be playing the lovely lute, which was on the rise in the late medieval period; a gittern, like a smaller lute; and a koboz, the eastern European fretless gittern. And singing, of course.”

Did people sing about the same themes as in modern music? “Yes,” Ian laughs. “Medieval composers sang so much about lost love. A favourite theme was ‘I love her, she doesn’t want me, I want to die!’ Nothing has changed on that score, but they did it with such poetry and beauty. There are also some surprises and gems of humour. The two earliest complete surviving secular songs in English are both about the weather. I’ll be singing those, and a fabulous 13th century song about a miraculous pork chop.”

Communication is clearly important to Ian, as Warwick Folk Club noted in a review of a gig: “Ian engages the audience … an object lesson in talking about the songs in an entertaining way.” A review by Folk at the Fold tells you to expect a “beautiful set … a brilliant performance enthusiastically presented by a master musician to an appreciative and attentive audience that, quite simply, loved it. Wonderful.”