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Recreating city's first rock concert.

ON March 30 at St Mary's Church Walsgrave, there will be a very special concert.

The Lachrimae Consort, who specialise in Elizabethan music, will play a set to celebrate Dowland's legendary visit to Caludon Castle in 1599.

John Dowland was the Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page of the day all rolled into one. He was the undisputed maestro of the lute - his concerts were legendary.

Of course no living person has heard him perform, but listen to his compositions performed by today's lutenists, and you will get some measure of the man.

Melancholy songs, that often seem to hang in the air for a split second, then disappear, replaced by a well-chosen pause that speaks volumes.

He truly was an incredibly inspired musician, songwriter and vocalist. Just in case you think I'm going over the top, I ask you to read this: "If music and sweet poetry agree, As they must needs, the sister and the brother, Then must the love be great 'twixt thee and me, Because thou lovest the one, and I the other. Dowland to thee is dear, whose heavenly touch Upon the lute doth ravish human sense."

That was The Passionate Pilgrim, written by Richard Barnfield.

Much of John Dowland's early years are unknown, he was believed to be born in London in 1562 (or possibly Dublin), and he was considered the greatest lute virtuoso and composer of the English school in the early 17th century. Despite this, he was never to gain a place in the court of Queen Elizabeth I - apparently his strong Catholic beliefs put paid to that.

Though he was demanded in many European courts, including a five-year post with the Court of the King of Denmark. This was to end in some disgrace, with frequent bouts of absenteeism (and rock stars think they were the first). Dowland returned to Britain and after the passing of Elizabeth I, he eventually made it to the court of James I.

The fact that Dowland came to Caludon, has only recently been discovered, thanks to the extensive research of Mike Ashley a lutenist himself and a member of The Lachrimae Consort.

"I wanted to trace the connection between Dowland and the Berkeley family," reveals Mike. "To try to understand why Dowland would have travelled to Caludon in the winter, when he had already been paid by the King of Denmark. Once I started digging I found a great deal of information on the Berkeleys, and particularly Henry, Lord Berkeley, who was living primarily at Caludon rather than the more austere Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.

"It turns out that Henry and his wife Catherine were both lute players, and Henry was a major sponsor of travelling theatre groups, many performing at Caludon or in Coventry."

Mike discovered the following entry in the Caludon Castle house steward's accounts: "January 24, 1599. Item given in reward to Dowland and his consort - 40 shillings."

He said: "Dowland was the most famous lute-player of his day and it is interesting to know where he was and what he was doing during his lifetime.

In this case the entry is very interesting since Dowland should have been in Denmark - he had received a year's salary in advance from the King in November, yet he appears in post-Christmas celebrations at a relatively remote Castle in England - how can that be?

"The word 'consort' at that time was used for a group of musicians and this is the only mention we have of Dowland playing with a consort - it had always been assumed that he was primarily a solo lute player, and probably a singer to his own accompaniment on the lute. Discovering the fact that Dowland came to Caludon is entirely new to the music world and I wanted my group, The Lachrimae Consort, to be the first to celebrate this.

"Clearly the castle is in no fit state to host a concert, but St Mary's is a lovely little church and is not very far from the castle itself. We plan to play music that Dowland and his Consort might have played at Caludon during their visit. Also I want to link the music to the story of Dowland, the Berkeleys, the Hunsdons and the events of the time."

Such fine music in the gloriously atmospheric surroundings of St Mary's promises to make this something extraspecial. So come along, close your eyes and imagine you are listening to Dowland himself in the Great Hall at Caludon circa 1599 - magical.

This historic concert, takes place at St Mary's Church, Walsgrave at 7.30pm on Friday, March 30. Tickets are pounds 7,50 each (concessions pounds 6). Tickets are also available on the night. For more information contact Mike at mashley256@aol.com

CAPTION(S):

LUTE MAESTRO... John Dowland (left) who played at Caludon Castle (above) in the early 17th century and (far left) The Lachrimae Consort who will be recreating the concert at St Mary's Church.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Mar 27, 2007
Words:826
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