That history repeats itself is a truism so widely known that we tend to ignore it.
The Taliban we read about endlessly in the newspaper is a case in point. Here are a bunch of irrational Islamists determined to overthrow secular government in the name of a radically fundamentalist religion. They seem animated by a hatred of art, culture, normal civility and all the good things we value in civilization.
Except that we’ve seen it all before.
In mid-17th century England, puritan fundamentalists high-jacked Parliament, murdered the king, and instituted a dictatorship called the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. They suppressed the theatre, banned most music as a sinful distraction from the constant duty to serve God, and generally sought to make life miserable for everyone.
Interestingly, the one area of musical life they left alone was music performed among friends for private enjoyment, so it is not surprising that the era encouraged chamber music and saw a great flourishing of songs accompanied by small groups of viols.
It is this tradition that will be explored in ArtSpring’s Feb. 7 concert Perchance to Dreame.
The concert features Les Voix Humaines, the Quebec viol duo of Susie Napper and Margaret Little, which for many years has been one of Canada’s pre-eminent interpreters of the music of the 16th and 17th centuries. They are joined by Montreal lutenist Sylvain Bergeron and famous British tenor Charles Daniels. Daniels has made a long career as a Baroque singer, having collaborated on over 25 recordings with The King’s Consort.
Together, the musicians will perform music from before, during and shortly after the reign of the British Taliban, starting with music composed by Christopher Simpson, John Jenkins and the brothers Lawes, and ending with the very well known music of Henry Purcell. Purcell was the one who spearheaded the return of music to the public world after the death of Cromwell and the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II.
As a bit of a libertine and a fun-loving fellow, Charles II was quite a contrast to the dour Puritans he replaced. He believed in leaving the arts alone and allowing them to flourish so pleasure could return to people’s lives. It was an attitude that led to the great golden age of English music.
Apart from the historical interest of Perchance to Dreame, why should people come to the concert?
For one thing, the music is lovely. For another, these are some of the best musicians specializing in this seminal era in the history of European music.
If that’s not enough, think of it as a chance to strike an oblique blow against the forces of barbarism in our own time. Each time we acknowledge beauty, and beauty’s long continuance through time, we protect something precious — the independence of civilisation.
Of course this is not a matter of duty, but of pleasure and joy.
Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert on Friday, Feb. 7 are available from the ArtSpring Ticket Centre at 250-537-2102 and online.
The concert is preceded by a pre-concert chat with the musicians at 6:30 p.m.