July 11, 2011

Day 4 - York: More laundry, The Festival Consort, Rose Consort of Viols, and The City Musick

Ahh, Laundromats.  Oops, I mean Launderettes.  We have gotten officially fed up with smelling like we wash our own clothes, so Allison went to a little laundry place here in York (Allison's Note:  Husband, are you criticizing my laundry-washing-in-a-tub skillz??  My arms are still sore from that adventure).  Other than the oppressive shop owner ("Excuse me madam, you are closing the dryer door too loudly, let me show you how to do it"), everything went well and we now have nice smelling clothes (As does half of York, today was a busy day at the laundromat, but most people just dropped off their dirty clothes, and most of them were bachelors.... ha!)  The do-your-own-laundry thing work for serious backpacking and was a good idea in London, but now that we have a small home base in a smaller city (and 9 days in the same place!) we decided to find other ways to be fresh-from-a-spring-meadow clean.  (Translation:  Some smells can't be scrubbed out by hand.)

Allison, Daniel and I met for lunch at The Roman Bath Pub, a little place with a 1,950 year old Roman bath in the basement!  The ruins are set up like a small museum and you pay a few pounds and you can see it and have the very helpful museum owner give you an introduction.  
The Romans never looked so Tudor
A Roman Bath.  Under a Pub.  Behind an electronics store.
It's interesting - the Roman street level was about 10-12 feet below the current York street level.  (In the museum, the ceiling above your head is current street level and what you're standing on was Roman street level.)  I suppose that makes plenty of sense but I hadn't thought about it. Anyway, it was fascinating to see things that old AND they had Roman armor you could try on in the corner. (Left the camera... sorry!)

We were busy today with two concerts, both were excellent.

The lunch time concert was the Festival Consort, a vocal quintet made up of various performers from various ensembles performing in the festival and the The Rose Consort of Viols:

This 1:00 PM concert featured the music of Peter Philips (1560-1628) and Richard Dering (1580-1630).  It also obviously featured the "Viol".  Viols are not used today in your typical orchestra but were used in early music, specifically developed during the Renaissance.  The tend to come in a few sizes as you can see below.  Such an interesting sound is produced from this type of instrument!  The first thing I noticed is how relatively soft the overall sound of the group was.  With the improvement in instrument production and the quality of materials used, our modern decedents from such instruments produce a louder sound that can be heard clearly at the back of a room.  The group's sound was light, stringy (in a good way!) and very pleasant to hear.  (The instruments have gut strings (like nylon) instead of metal - that also makes them softer.) 
From left to right: recorder, bass viol (on floor), cittern (darker guitar-looking thingy, played melody and chords), lute (lighter guitar-looking thingy, played mostly melody), the singer, bandora (mandolin-looking thingy, played mostly chords
The bandora

McSteamy playing the cittern
The concert was held at the National Center for Early Music here in York.  Their concert hall was formerly an old church but has been renovated for performance purposes.  It looked like a medieval banquet hall, with real candles and huge windows used for natural lighting rather than light bulbs.  The ceiling had a Tudor look with wooden beams stretched far above us.  Ironically, among all this period architecture and decorating, there are 21st century sound panels, similar to what I have in my band room to make the room less "live".  Hearing these period instruments in this setting makes me quite excited to see the instruments up close at Oxford University's Bate Early Music Instrument Collection.  It also makes me thankful for the improvements in instrument production that we have today.

It was nice to hear some instrumental music - it has pretty much all been vocal so far, but there's a good mix for the rest of the time, as well as several other performance halls that are really unique and REALLY old...although I'm really looking forward to our last concert in York because it's back in the cathedral!


  1. Glad you are enjoying the consorts while I have to listen to your dog whine! Reading this blog I'm learning far more than I ever wanted to know about ancient music! Keep 'em coming.

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