The Alehouse Sessions
Music by Trad, Purcell et al
Barokksolistene/Bjarte Eike
Rubicon Rubicon RCD 1017

From punchy, percussion-rich Purcell and terpsichorean tid-bits from Playford’s English Dancing Master, to lusty anonymous a cappella drinking songs and atmospheric ballads, The Alehouse Sessions is a riotous recreation of Cromwellian pub entertainment. Masterminded by Norwegian baroque violinist Bjarte Eike, the project is now in its tenth year – hence this celebratory recording.

Bringing together a group of largely Scandinavian musos, Eike and his merry band perform at festivals and various formal and informal venues. The live performances also include dancing and audience participation in the form of singing and the imbibing of artisanal beer, the concept inspired by the fact that during Cromwell’s time professional musicians, unable to find work with the theatres shut and church music forbidden, performed in pubs for pay.

Ideally The Alehouse Sessions needs to be experienced live. But this live recording is the next best thing, the playing full of risk and verve, yet musically and technically impeccable, the singing raw, tender and passionate. The sea shanty Pass Around The Grog, sung a cappella with chorus members egging on soloists is glorious; but so is the heartbreakingly beautiful ballad I Drew My Ship Into The Harbour. As for the instrumental numbers, the Curtain Tune from Purcell’s Timon of Athens and Hole In The Wall, the Hornpipe from his Abdelazer, are as foot-tappingly vibrant and folk-infused as one could wish for in this context. Terrific fun.


 

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