We have a variety of programmes to offer, reflecting different corners of the consort repertoire. We are happy to modify these to suit particular occasions, and can also vary the number of players for each programme.
The Music from the Shirley Partbooks
The Newe Vialles’ inaugural programme: consort music in 3, 4, 5 and 6 parts, based on a selection of music copied by the young William Lawes into a set of partbooks intended for the Shirley family of Leicestershire and now held in the British Library. The Shirley Partbooks offer a fascinating glimpse into the tastes of a music-loving family during the reign of Charles I – a form of musical commonplace book, such collections show what Lawes’ contemporaries considered to be the ‘greatest hits’ of the golden age of consort music. Pieces stretching as far back as the mid-16th century (such as Sandrin’s Douce Memoir), textless Italian madrigals by Monteverdi, Vecchi and Marenzio, and Jacobean fantasias by William White, John Ward, Alfonso Ferrabosco II and Lawes’ teacher, Coprario, are combined with Lawes’ own experiements in the new baroque dance forms, culminating in the composer’s own great G-minor ‘sett’ of ‘ffantasie’ and ‘Inomine’. This programme is at once a microcosmic look at the development of the viol consort, an exploration of some of the greatest instrumental works of the early 17th century, a rare chance to hear Italian madrigals performed by viols (as they so often were in 17th century England), and an insight into the music that inspired Lawes’ own rhythmic and harmonic daring.
This programme can be performed in variants for four, five and six viols.
Airs and Tragic Spirits
A programme of consort song, based on the dramatic laments sung in the plays and masques put on by companies of choirboys in 16th century London. These choirboy plays featured fantastical plots, with sung invocations to ghosts, spirits and pagan gods, and tragic laments which often concluded with the refrain ‘I die, I die’, accompanied by a consort of viols. Much of the music for the plays remains anonymous, or survives with an ascription to a composer of whom we know almost nothing, so is rarely heard in modern performance. Joined by soprano Anna Dennis, much acclaimed for her performace of 17th century English song, the Newe Vialles have assembled some of the best, most affecting, and most ridiculous of these dramatic songs, alongside some much-loved consort songs by William Byrd and instrumental music by Byrd, Tye, Gibbons, and Ward.
For four or five viols, plus singer.
This programme can also be performed as The Dark is my Delight – consort music and songs for Hallowe’en.
Treading new paths
By the time the young Henry Purcell composed his fantasias for viol consort, the art of consort playing had dropped out of fashion in England – or so we are lead to believe. Purcell’s pieces, perhaps never performed at the time of composition, are amongst the best loved consort repertoire today – the last, great flowering of the English consort tradition. Purcell’s fantasias lie at the heart of this programme, framed by works by his contemporary Matthew Locke, and by the eminent viol players Christopher Simpson and John Jenkins, whose careers extended into the Restoration era. If Purcell’s fantasias raise the polyphonic tradition to new heights, Locke’s music displays the influence of the French dance music made popular at the court of Charles II, while Simpson and Jenkins’ late consort music features both virtuoso divisions and the influence of the Italian trio sonata.
For four or five viols plus lute