It was on 27th April 1749 that the ‘Musick for the Royal Fireworks’ composed by Mr Handel was first performed in Green Park in London. This was a major event in the city – even the rehearsal, held a week earlier in Vauxhall Gardens, attracted more than 12,000 people, each paying half-a-crown (12½ pence – just over £15 in current-day money value), and the event caused major traffic jams on London Bridge! If only classical concerts attracted the same attention nowadays – but this astonishing response was because the music was indeed the ‘pop music’ of its time. With our modern categories of ‘classical’, ‘pop’ and numerous other genres, this work is now firmly in the classical category, but it remains one of the most popular of all works from the baroque era.
It is a major piece for double-reed players – the original performance featured 24 oboes and 12 bassoons (multiple players on each part), and the work is one of the earliest to incorporate the contrabassoon. Exactly 270 years (to the day) after this legendary first performance, BDRS will be promoting a performance of this great music in London to commemorate the anniversary – and if you play oboe or bassoon, YOU could be a part of this historic event!
This will be on Saturday 27th April and it will be held in the Duke’s Hall at the Royal Academy of Music. There will of course be the original Handel oboe and bassoon parts, which are suitable for players of around grade 7-8 upwards, but if you are not quite at this level, you can still come and play. The performing edition which I have prepared for this from Handel’s original also includes some easier parts for players of between grades 3-6 standard. All parts will be put up on the BDRS website in March for you to download, print and practice in advance.
Please note: this performance will be on modern instruments playing at A=440
Here is the outline timetable for the day:
Saturday 27th April
1500 Arrive at Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Rd, London NW1 5HT
1530 Rehearsal of Handel ‘Musick for the Royal Fireworks’
1730 Informal public performance (free admission to audience)
1800 Event ends
This schedule enables players from many parts of the UK to travel and take part – the start and end times fit with train services to and from many destinations.
Event fees: There are of course numerous costs involved in promoting an event of this kind, but we have kept fees down to a minimum – and interestingly, they are fairly similar to what people paid to come and listen in 1749!
Adult non-members £20
Adult members £15 ( including those joining on the day)
Full-time students £5 (no BDRS discount, as this is already subsidised)
Application: Please go to the menu options at the top of the BDRS home page, click on BDRS MUSIC COURSES and in the drop-down options click ‘Music Course Application Form’. Places on this event are limited by the size of the Dukes Hall platform, so book soon! Places need to be booked in advance – for security reasons, you need to be on the players list. If you turn up on the day without prior booking, you may not be able to take part – sorry!
Updates: Plans and details are still evolving for this event, so please do keep a close eye on the BDRS website for updates and any possible changes. The one detail that will not change is the finishing time – it will not go beyond 6pm on that day.
Be there! This is arguably one of the most important historical events in the calendar for oboe and bassoon players. It’s a fantastic celebratory piece to play, and will undoubtedly be a unique, special and very memorable day for everyone involved. So, make sure that YOU are a part of this!
We are very grateful to the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department for kindly hosting this event.
Photo credit © Gerald Coke Handel Foundation