Frolicking with the Past

– Below is an item I wrote for the Leicester Early Music newsletter – forthcoming. More information about the festival can be found at –

Photo: Phil Taylor

Performing early music sometimes can involve more time in a library than in the rehearsal room; discovering the intentions and conventions of earlier music can be an exciting endeavour yet there is a group that goes one step further: ‘The Frolick’ – a group founded in 2005 and based in London since 2006 – do more than bring notes from the page alive. ‘The Frolick exists to breathe life back into the neglected music and entertainments of 17th -and 18th-century London’. Led by the contralto Emma Curtis, with Andrew Maginley co-directing on the lute and baroque guitar, the ensemble seeks to recreate the experience of Baroque  social entertainment as one would have seen and heard in the time of Handel. Their first album ‘Calliope – volume the first’ has been released on Avie Records (AV2102) and ‘shows a broad and entertaining picture of 18th century London, reflecting the society for which it was collected, allowing us to see and feel the world and the humour in which its songs were born. Each song is its own microcosm of society and style.’

Emma kindly took the time to answer my questions about this exciting group

What compelled you to start The Frolick? Did you think there was something missing in early music performance? Both Andrew and I learned many British folk songs as children and those songs were the catalyst for Calliope. We recorded a selection of folk songs for my Grandfather as a 90th birthday present, with voice and lute/baroque guitar. They worked so well and this made us curious. So, we began to research popular tunes in 18th-century Britain. At the same time I was researching the castrato Senesino for another project and ‘discovered’ Calliope whilst following a lead. Calliope contains songs from every walk of 18th-century London life, including its folk songs, but also opera tunes, satirical songs, melancholic songs, theatre songs and even slightly smutty songs.  We felt compelled to perform these songs which were so much part of 18th-century life in Britain and of our own cultural heritages, mine being British and Andrew’s American. It is a shame that they have been forgotten and we feel they deserve to be heard. That is why we started The Frolick.

What attracts the group to the entertainment music of London particularly? London is right here, we live and work here. Yes, it’s got to be the quality of the music, there are some wonderful, very addictive and catchy tunes, but it’s also the humour and the feeling of familiarity, of belonging. These tunes may be nearly three hundred years old, but the issues and subjects are all relevant now, in 2011 – love, recession, politics, drinking, melancholy, partying and fun. These songs are part of our history, our culture as musicians in London. I was born in the City of London, I went to college there, at the Guildhall School in the Barbican, and I lived in the City for many years. It is so easy to ignore that which is close to home and yet surely that is what we understand best and most directly? I feel that in early music we often forget that which is part of our own heritage. London is my city, English my mother tongue, and my humour is certainly British, so, for me, this is personal.

I am yet to experience a performance by The Frolick – what should I expect? Expect to enjoy yourself! If you want a peak, check out our videos at

What are your next exciting projects? We have a new project under our hats at the moment, it’s in development, but watch this space (that means join our mailing list and you’ll be the first to know) – it’s going to be most enlightening and hugely fun.  Upcoming concerts for summer 2012 in the UK are Buckingham Summer Music Festival 3rd July and Buxon Festival 14th July.

More information about The Frolick can be found on their website at

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