Saturday, 10 November 2012

Greenwich Early Music Festival


This morning I wandered around the Royal Naval College in Greenwich on the third of three days of the International Early Music Festival and Exhibition. An expo for the period instrument community, there were two rooms full of reproduction instruments from before the 19th century. The chapel and a handful of other spaces are host to demonstrations, masterclasses and concerts.

I had no business there, though I fully expected to bump into colleagues and did (one of them also passing through to teach pupils at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire which has been resident in the College since 2005). Most of all I wanted to get some idea of the atmosphere of an early music trade fair.

Naturally, the event is dominated by instruments. From piccolo recorders to an electric gamba (!) and collection of natural trumpets that looked like a model of the Lloyds Building there's almost anything you might think of were you to be shopping for a baroque ensemble's worth of hardware.

For example, here's a table exhibiting the beautifully decorated body shells of lutes (right).

I came across another colleague rushing to buy an oboe she had tried and liked the previous day. This involved her digging through a table covered in shawms and bagpipes. There are also stalls for music, periodicals and accessories from music stands (daft and expensive) to electronic tuning devices. The stairwell to The Painted Room is choc full of keyboards from spinets to harpsichords. Bows are not short on the ground either.

Today's blue riband events were BBC Radio 3's Early Music Show live lunchtime concert broadcast presented by Lucie Skeaping (which I caught on the train home) and the final evening concert given by the European Union Youth Baroque Orchestra. For a rich but modest festival this is still a collection of events on a significant scale.

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