Monday, 28 March 2016

A Concert and Ball in Wiltshire's Rooms 1761

David Richards who was to benefit from the proceeds of this event was a leading Bath bandleader and violinist of this time.

Wiltshire's Rooms were the Assembly Rooms on the Parades, the site is now known as Bog Island. They had been called Wiltshire since they had been taken into the ownership of the Wiltshire family in 1744. The Wiltshire's were a very wealthy and influential Bath family who made their money as carriers, transporting high-value goods between London and Bath and as bankers. In 1761, they were being run by John Wiltshire on behalf of his family.

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

The Italian Pergolesi had composed his Stabat Mater in 1736 shortly before his death at the age of 26. He was principally known as a composer of operas and, in particular, comic operas. The piece was composed for soprano, alto, string orchestra and basso continuo.

Thomas Norris was at this time singing as a soprano. Norris was born in Wiltshire but had gained his musical education as a chorister a Salisbury Cathedral and later at Oxford University.

Thomas Linley with the support of his many talented children became the leading figure in Bath music. At this time, he was known primarily as a tenor, an organist, harpsichordist and teacher.

At 5s, the ticket price was roughly £20 at today's values.

Monday, 21 March 2016

A Bouree or Fleuret Step in the 1720s

English dancing master and choreographer Kellom Tomlinson (born c.1690, died after 1753) was the author of The art of dancing explained by reading and figures. Although completed in 1724, the cost of printing the thirty-five full-page plates precluded publication until 1735.


The Bouree is composed of three plain straight Steps or Walks, except the first, which begins in a Movement, and is to be performed in the same Method, as the Half Coupee, or Coupee with two Movements, that is to fay, must always fink, at the Beginning of the Step or Walk, and rife at, or gradually before the End of it; which is the Manner in which the first Step is usually taken, in the Performance of all Steps, except Springs, Bounds, Hops, or Chaffees, &c. wherefore, for the Future, I need not say any more of the Method of beginning these Sorts of Steps, in Dancing, otherwise than to make a Movement, without mentioning how the Sink and Rife are to be made, since they have been already explained.

A Bouree or Fleuret, as I have observed, consists only of three plain straight Steps; but a Movement is added to the first of them, the Rife of which Movement, as has been said, always strikes the Cadence or Time; and, if this Step is done to a Tune of three Notes in a Measure, the first Step answers to the first Note, the second Step to the fame Note, and the third Step to the last Note of the Measure, concluding together.

You are also to note, that tho' in the Bouree there are three distinct Walks or Steps, yet nevertheless, these three Steps are to be esteem'd but as one Step, in Regard of its being a composed Step; as will appear by the Half Coupee, which, tho' no more than a single Step, is, however, a Step, because it generally takes up a Measure, but more especially in Tunes of triple Time; and it is made by a smooth and easy Bending of the Knees, rising in a flow and gentle Motion from thence; which Rising, as I have said, is upon the first Note of the Measure, the Weight of the Body being supported by the Foot that made the Step, during the Counting of the second and third Notes of the Bar.

The graceful Posture of the Dancer's Standing adds not a little to the Beauty of this Step, who, 'till the Time be expired, is to wait or rest; by which it is evident, that the Half Coupee, tho' a single Step, is equal, in Value, to any compound Step whatsoever, whether of two, three, four, or more Steps in a Measure.

But to return, the Bouree-Step may be perform'd various Ways, as forwards, backwards, sideways, crossing before, the fame behind, before and behind, behind and before, &c (e), the Explanation of which, I think, may not be improper, in this Place; and therefore I shall proceed to shew the Method of their Performance, one after the other, in the Order above set down, except the Fleurets forwards and backwards; which being so intelligible of themselves, and having Occasion hereafter to speak of this Step, by way of Grace to the Minuet, instead of saying any thing farther of them here, I shall begin with the Bouree-Step crossing before, sideways; which is to be perform'd, as follows, either with the right or left Foot: For Instance, provided you begin with the Latter, the Weight must be on the right (f); and the left Foot, which is at Liberty, commences by making a Movement and Step, to the right Side of the Room, crossing before the Foot on which the Body rests†, the Face being to the Upper Part of the Room, and it receives the Weight. The second is the right Foot, which steps the fame Way; and the third and last, which is with the left, crosses before, as at first, only without a Movement∥. The Bouree crossing behind, sideways, differs from the Former in this, that whereas that was before, this is behind; that is to fay, the Weight being, as aforesaid, the left Foot, instead of making the Movement and first Step crossing before the right, it now is made crossing behind it; and the next Step, which is with the right Foot, moves the same Way, after which the third and last Step with the left Foot is drawn behind the right, and concludes. The Bouree before and behind is, when the first Movement and Step are made crossing before the Foot on which the Weight is, whether right or left, the second Step moving sideways, the fame Way, and the third drawn behind it, facing upwards, as before. The Bouree behind and before is done in the like Manner, only the first Step is not cross'd before but behind, the second stepping sideways, and the third drawn crossing before. The Bouree, which I call twice behind, is made as follows: Suppose, for Example, you make a Movement, stepping backwards with the right Foot, into the third Position inclos'd behind the left on which the Weight is, and releasing it; upon which it makes the second Step of the Bouree, in a plain Step backwards, receiving the Weight inclos'd in the third Position behind the right, which then performs the third Step of the Bouree, in a plain Step forwards.

There are many other Ways of performing this Step, which would be too tedious to be mention'd here; and, as they are not to my present Purpose, omitting them, I shall only observe, that this Step, continued several Measures, changes the Foot, every Step, as has been taken Notice of in the Half Coupee; but with this Difference, that whereas the Half Coupee changes the Weight, every single Step, as in Walking, the Bouree or Fleuret only changes it, at the End of every third Step.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Bath Theatre and Extortion

In "The New Bath Guide, or Useful Pocket Companion; Necessary For all Persons residing at, or resorting to, this ancient and opulent City." published in 1762 we learn that:

"There are likewise two Theatres here; one situated on Orchard Street, which was built by subscription in the year 1750, by twelve of the inhabitants; the other was built by the late Mr Simpson, under his long-room; the lower part of the latter is exactly the model of Drury-Lane Theatre, and the stage is much wider than that at Orchard Street, At present this house is shut up in consideration of a yearly sum paid to Mr Simpson by Mr Palmer, who is now the chief proprietor of the Theatre in Orchard Street; where they perform (during the season) four times each week viz. Mondays, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday."

Simpson had created the Theatre in the basement of his Assembly Rooms to exploit the opportunity created by the demolition of Bath's first theatre built in 1705 by George Trim, after whom Trim Street is named, which stood at the corner of what is now Parsonage Lane. This was demolished in 1738 to make way for the Mineral Water Hospital.

In 1747 John Hippisley a successful actor on the London stage but born in Somerset suggested that Bath players and playgoers need and deserved better facilities than were provided by Simpson and his rivals in Kingsmead Street.

His proposal for a "regular, commodious theatre" was well received by everyone except the proprietors of the theatre at Simpson's Rooms, The site for the new theatre in Orchard street was chosen by John Wood,

Hippisley's sudden death created a crisis which was only overcome by the intervention of John Palmer, who a wealthy brewer and chandler he was father to the John Palmer who would become famous for his invention of the Mail Coach system.

The new theatre opened on 27th October 1750.

The Interior of the Orchard Street Theatre
There followed a period of intense commercial rivalry. A play performed at one theatre on one night would be put on at the rival establishment on the following evening or even the same night. The manager of Simpson's Henry Brown complained that his carpenter and machinist had been got dead drunk and abducted to Orchard Street. Brown himself was lured to work at Orchard street 2 years after making this complaint.

Nearly six-year on neither the new theatre nor the theatre at Simpson's was doing much more than covering their cost and John Palmer offered Simpson £600 a year to stop hosting performances. The last performance as the Rooms took place in 1756 with a performance of Henry VIII in a programme which included a farce called Harlequin's Vagaries.