IT’S that time of year … when everything goes Christmas-crazy, and people do funny things like dressing up in 18th century costume to perform baroque masterpieces.
We have our own wigs-and-knee-breeches outfit in the north west – the 18th Century Concert Orchestra, founded by former BBC Philharmonic double bassist Michael Escreet 15 years ago.
It includes members past and present of the Academy of Ancient Music, the English Baroque Soloists, the Hallé and the BBC Philharmonic, and is known as an advocate of less well-known repertoire as well as the established favourites.
They go for the whole Augustan rig – not just the wigs and breeches, but wooden music desks and even specially tailored shoes. And it’s not just dressing up. They perform on period instruments, and by candlelight.
Real candles, too. “A candlemaster tends the candles throughout,” Michael tells me, “while the orchestra plays concertos and suites for strings, trumpet and oboes by baroque composers including Handel, Corelli, and Purcell – which may occasionally be punctuated by amusing readings from contemporary texts.”
Concertos, arias and dance suites are interspersed with informative and witty anecdotes drawn from 18th-century histories, journals and treatises.
The 18th Century Concert Orchestra is appearing at Christ Church, West Didsbury, on December 16.
Three days later the same venue has another Christmas concert, this time by top choral group Manchester Chamber Choir. It’s titled Lux Arumque: An American Christmas, and made up of festive music and readings from the ‘other side of the Pond’. Principal conductor Jonathan Lo is in charge.