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Mr. Jones makes a "Baroque" case for an evil society


Nell Snaidas @ Daniel Swenberg
  • Nell Snaidas @ Daniel Swenberg

The program's title was "Mr. Jones @ the Engines of Destruction -- The Grumbling Hive or How Vice is a Virtue and Vice Versa." The historical Mr. Jones was Inigo Jones who, in 1605, brought the first theorbo (that very long-necked lute I've previously described) from Italy to England. Fearing its "monstrous" appearance and its possible "papist influence," the English impounded the instrument, but it eventually made its way into the performing repertoire. The Grumbling Hive refers to a successful bee colony that "turns honest" and then dies, originally a poem by Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733).

Daniel Swenberg and Grant Herreid headed a team of eight, who took the poem and the event described above, selected tunes and texts from the later 17th century and crafted a program describing a society filled with avarice, embezzlement, gluttony, adultery and other "sins" of acquiring pleasure for its own sake. And it was successful -- the society worked, at least for the hour and forty minutes of this program.

Some of the composers represented were John Gay (of The Beggar's Opera fame), Henry Purcell, Marin Marais and Thomas D'Urfey. But Anonymous wrote far and away most of the selections. Some of the text titles which Swenberg (alias "Mr. Jones") adapted for this presentation included "A Lovely Lass to a Friar Came," "The Devil's Dream," "What Life can compare with the Jolly Town Rakes," "When young at the Bar, you first taught me to Score," "When a Man is deprived of Pleasure" and "High Change in 'Change Alley'." Clearly the verses-in-full aren't needed to fill you in. (Nor were they supplied.)

Using the instruments heard in the first two Early-Music programs -- including voices, the group's standout singer was soprano Nell Snaidas, who has sung here in previous FMS sponsored festivals and is more than welcome back. There was a bit of dancing as well; clearly the group was having fun "being sinful." And that fun was catching.

As I left IHC's Basile Theater, I couldn't help but wonder if there was a message here for our times??? June 28; Indiana History Center


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