It is within the depths of the bubbling caldron that is 16-18th century popular music that Dapper’s Delight wish to explore, imagining a musical anti-chamber positioned somewhere between the theatre and the street, using the striking instrumentarium of the anglo concertina – surely one of the most portable and versatile keyboard instruments ever invented, and the recorder, an instrument that historically, had a foot in both the loud and soft musical instrument camps.
Our aim is to find interesting programmes for this unusual and effective combination, looking first at material that could have been performed on the street, existing in both high and low cultural sources: Broadside ballads formed an early movement of popular music, in that they were song texts, of a variety of natures, written to popular melodies. In an age with no recorded music, they were a unique way of spreading the latest songs throughout the population. They were sold in towns and villages, often being performed on the street by the vendors themselves; William Brown wrote in 1616 that a ballad monger's singing was “as harsh a noyce as ever Cart-wheele made”.
From the middle of the 17th century, tunes from Playford’s Dancing Master, and other tune books were immensely popular, both as music to dance to, and as popular tunes to play on a variety of instruments. In fact over the 77 years of its publication, we can almost speak of a country dance craze, which must have provided a welcome alternative to the stiff formal dances of the elite.
Other tunes from our programmes come from the 17th century Masques and 18th century ballad operas. We also make arrangements of dances and tunes of a rustic, or popular character from what might be termed: art music sources.
Different versions of the same tunes are found in the many sources, showing signs of a continuous state of flux (consider the modernisation of modal tunes over the course of the many editions of The Dancing Master).
This, together with the lack of notated harmonisation, confounds ideas of a 'definitive version', challenging our notions of authenticity. By using an ‘inauthentic’ instrumentation, we are forced to concentrate on engaging the minds of listeners with our arrangements and performance more than on reconstructing the physical aspects of an ‘authentic’ performance. The pieces are arranged and notated in advance, but are played from memory to further encourage a freshness in playing and to allow a degree of extemporisation.