Saturday, 29 June 2013

Shawm, cittern and vihuela

Well, we had a fine walk from Kingswood Bridge across to Baddesley Clinton. And we didn't get lost once (well, not really). We found the start of this section of the Heart of England Way…


We admired the host of golden, er, buttercups…


And we eventually came to the boundary of the formal grounds.


The house itself is an excellent piece of Tudorabilia, updated from time to time by the resident family, especially in the late 18th century and Victorian times.



As usual, the local National Trust staff were helpful, knowledgeable, and very proud of what has been entrusted to them. One particular feature of this house is that it was owned by a Catholic family in Elizabethan times, and used as a base by Jesuit priests. If caught, a painful end ensued for both priests and those sheltering them. There are two priest holes on view, and a good story of their use. One looks quite cosy.



The one you can view from the kitchen, but almost impossible to photograph, consisted of a cramped section of the sewer, at the bottom of the long drop below a 1st floor garderobe (toilet), accessed via a rope. 8 priests apparently hid down there for 4 hours while one search was conducted.

Other delights awaited us. A scribe was making ink out of oak-apples, and sharpening quills…


For me, however, the highlight was once again a musical one and, strictly speaking, nothing to do with the house as such, just something they were putting on as part of their Saturday. It was Chris and Sophie from Blast from the Past – they call themselves "Historical Musicians".



Not only did they play some wonderful early music extremely well, they also introduced and described their instruments. Among Sophie's was a shawm, with an oboe-type double reed that allowed for considerably more volume than her recorders – and variation of it. Chris started out with a vihuela, with gut strings and gut frets, which could be moved to allow for nuancing the tuning. Then, to accompany Sophie's shawm, he switched to a cittern, with metal strings. It was all great fun, and made my day. Chris, Sophie – thank you.

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