'I love a ballad' - Shakespeare Songs in the 19th Century
Come gather, fine ladies and gentlemen, for an evening of song and scholarship. In this event, Oskar Cox Jensen will be discussing the subject of Shakespeare and Song in the 18th and 19th centuries, accompanied by expert performers in historical practice from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Foregoing the solemn lieder and art-song of the German and Italian traditions, the focus here is on English song in all its diversity, from rough topical ditties sung in the gutter, to the loveliest works of Arne and Linley. We will hear how theatrical composers updated and expanded the songs within Shakespeare's plays; see how Shakespeare's lyrics made their way into the street and the alehouse; and laugh and grimace at comic takes on the Tragedies from burlesques and the music hall. There will even be time to reflect that we are hardly the first to celebrate a Shakespeare anniversary with lavish and learned events, as we consider – and hear songs from – the pompous and ill-fated Jubilee masterminded by David Garrick and Charles Dibdin in 1769.
Discussion of song culture, its practitioners and audiences, and the ways in which Shakespeare was repurposed, parodied, and exploited in past centuries, will be interwoven with more than a dozen songs featuring voice, harpsichord, and woodwind, some featuring rousing choruses for the audience to help out with. All of Shakespeare’s most notable plays and lyrics will be represented, from Hecate’s song upon the heath, to the bawdy and sorrow of Twelfth Night and As You Like It, to the supreme medley of nonsense of ‘King Lear, and His Daughters Queer’.
Oskar Cox Jensen is a Research Fellow in the Music Department at King’s College London, working on the ERC-funded project 'Music in London, 1800–1851', and holds a doctorate in History from Christ Church, Oxford. He regularly gives public lectures with songs, at institutions including the British Museum, Army and Navy Club, National Maritime Museum, the Exeter Guildhall, and Hatchard's Piccadilly. Oskar is the author of Napoleon and British Song, 1797–1822, and two novels for children, The Stones of Winter and The Wild Hunt. He is currently working on a book about London's Ballad-Singers, 1792–1864, and editing a volume on the world of Charles Dibdin.