Posts Tagged ‘British Library’

Musical Illuminations

February 11, 2012
Musical Illuminations - The Sixteen

Musical Illuminations - The Sixteen

With the hassle of buying tickets, hassle of gaining entry to an exhibition during the afternoon our tickets entitled us to, we double checked on the concert. Admission at 7pm, concert starts at 8-30pm. None of this information was on the tickets or the website, hence the reason for double checking.

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination

Bitterly cold outside. We walked to Euston Station and ate at one of the excellent Indian restaurants in a side street around the back of Euston Station.

Bit of a rush but got back to the British Library to find people hanging around outside in subzero temperature. Why are you outside, we enquired? They will not let us in. We tried to get in, explained we had been told 7pm. But no, they would not let us in.

We had to remain outside in the cold, to be let in at 7-30pm, the time on the tickets. They could have let us in to the foyer, no further, but no.

When we did get in, a man came up to me and apologised. He said he was aware of the problems we had had earlier, was very sorry we had been given wrong information earlier, and gave me a CD of The Sixteen and asked would I please accept with his apologies. He also thanked me for bringing all the problems to their attentions and said the issues raised had gone up to the highest level. He explained they had never organised an exhibition before and they were learning, and again thanked me. I in turn, said the hassles to one side, the exhibition itself was excellent.

We had an hour before the concert to look around the exhibition. It sounds good, after hours access. Not good, it was very crowded. I did wander around, but could no longer remember what I had seen, what I had not seen, and was by now very, very tired.

There was music before The Sixteen, which I was told was very good, but I missed it. Francis Kelly (triple harp) and David Miller (baroque guitar and theorbo).

The Sixteen were excellent. We were literally sat at their feet. Any closer and we would have been with the performers.

The music chosen was of the period of the exhibition. Works by Richard Davy, Henry VIII and William Cornysh.

A very informal concert. People on the stairs, on surrounding balconies, sat on the floor. There was also a good age range of those there.

I learnt what unseated means. You do not get a seat. We were one of the lucky few who had seats.

One disappointment. When I saw The Sixteen last October at Guildford Cathedral, they had a little stall with their music on sale. I only purchased Victoria, as I was not familiar with their extensive catalogue. I had in mind what I wanted to buy. Sadly no stall. I can only assume no stall as it would have competed with the British Library shop.

The Sixteen will travel to Hong Kong for the start of an Asia-Pacific tour, to be followed by their Choral Pilgrimage 2012. The music for this has already been released on The Earth Resounds, music of Josquin, Brumel and Lassus, Available not only as a CD but also digital downloads. including lossless formats eg FLAC direct from the 96kHz/24-bit studio masters, but at a price. [see mp3 v FLAC]

The Sixteen are a small early music choral group founded by Harry Christopher with associated orchestra.

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination an album of medieval and renaissance music by The Sixteen.

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination an exhibition at the British Library of illuminated manuscripts.

Hail, Mother of the Redeemer
The Sixteen – Miserere Mei Deus – Allegri
St James Cathedral – Victoria – The Sixteen
G F Handel – The Sixteen

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination

February 11, 2012
feast of Belshazzar

feast of Belshazzar

An illiterate King is like a crowned ass. – John of Salisbury

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination is an exhibition of Royal Manuscripts at the British Museum. But please do not even think of ordering tickets on-line as to do so is a nightmare.

On-line tickets for British Museum exhibition

The nightmare continues when you arrive. Tickets for a concert by The Sixteen that evening, explicitly gave admission to the exhibition. But not according to the guardian on the door. No you cannot gain access, you have to buy your tickets, your tickets are for this evening only. Absolutely ridiculous, but common sense did eventually prevail, with apologies from the British Library.

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination runs from 11 November 2011 to 13 March 2012, with associated talks, a concert by early music group The Sixteen and a three part series on BBC Four, Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings.

The British Library’s unique collection of medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts. Collected by the kings and queens of England over 800 years these treasures are outstanding examples of the decorative and figurative painting of the era. Together they are our most vivid source for understanding royal identity, moral and religious beliefs, learning, faith artistic trends and the international politics of the period.

Books within books. Athelstan shown reading a book, Athelstan shown giving St Cuthbert a book.

Note: The St Cuthbert Bible is on display in an adjacent semi-permanent exhibition which sadly we had no time to look round. The St Cuthbert Bible is only on loan and will be lost to the nation if funds are not found to purchase. [see St Cuthbert’s Bible]

Strong link between art, books, Kings and religion (the great monastic houses).

Books were revered.

Athelstan the first King to have his image in a book. Athelstan, the Anglo-Saxon King who united the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to form one kingdom, England

Edgar, had a book written by the monks of Winchester, the pages are written in gold! The king holding a book, a gold book, probably the book written in gold.

Being in the good books, had a quite literal meaning. The Anglo-Saxon monks of Winchester kept a register. If your name was listed, you would be called by Christ to enter Heaven,

I never knew Cnut was entombed at Winchester. Not quite what one would expect for a Danish King. But then would you expect Napoleon II and Empress Eugenie to be entombed in Farnborough Abbey, guarded by French Benedictine monks.

The illuminations are amazing to look at. Many of the books are huge.

The British Library has created a set of facebook albums of the illuminated manuscripts, together with detailed notes. Please feel free to share on your facebook wall and with that of your friends.

A lot to take in, after an hour or so, my head began to spin.

The books were commissioned by Kings, given as presents, received as spoils of war.

Bibles, history of the Bible or Bible historiale, history of the world, an early encyclopedia, instructions on princely behaviour, music, an atlas commissioned by Henry VIII opened at a page showing Brazil.

The Bible Histories tell Biblical stories, but the beauty of the illustrations are the clothes of the day of the illustrator.

These manuscripts are usually locked away in the vaults. We were lucky to see them. After the exhibition ends, it will be a long time before they see the light of day again. If you are able to, make the effort to visit as it is well worth it.

Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination
Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings
My Name is Red

St Cuthbert’s Bible

July 20, 2011
Saint Cuthbert's Gospel

Saint Cuthbert's Gospel

St Cuthbert

St Cuthbert

The 7th Century St Cuthbert’s Bible is the oldest European book.

The manuscript, a copy of the Gospel of St John, was produced in the north of England in the late seventh-century and was buried alongside St Cuthbert, an early English Christian leader, on the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland around 698AD.

The coffin was moved off the island to escape Viking raiders and taken to Durham, where the book was found when the coffin was opened at the cathedral in 1104.

St Cuthbert’s Bible can be seen at the British Library, but not for much longer. It is on loan from the Jesuits and the Jesuits want it back, but they have given the British Library the option of buying it. Price tag £9 million!

The British Library has launched an appeal to raise the £9 million.

Campaign to buy St Cuthbert’s Bible
The St Cuthbert Gospel
The Price of a Gospel: Saint Cuthbert’s Gospel
Whose Bible is it anyway?