Opening my favourite volume of concert programmes at random, those for the Black Bear Music Club here in Cambridge, in search of something else, my eye was caught by one of the glees performed at violinist Mr. Wagstaff’s Benefit Night on 15 Nov 1803: Sleep by Charles Hague. [Mus.47.52]
Wanting to know more, I went at once to the treasure chest which is our card catalogue wherein are many hidden delights (yes, we still have one, although the great majority of items are, of course, on Newton our online version) seeking the cards for music by Charles Hague. Knowing I’d not find the single item (we librarians have a sixth sense about these things), the lateral thinking kicked in as my eye lighted upon the promising-but-uninformative title Second collection of glees, rounds and canons for two, three, four, five and six voices composed by members of the Harmonic Society of Cambridge [note to self – a post on these gentlemen would surely interest our readers…]. Off I went, downstairs to the far reaches of our store, ball of thread in hand, to browse amongst the dusty volumes of our oldest collections at shelf-mark MUS (yes, MUS for Music…), identified the right volume, leafed carefully through…and lo, there it was. But, ohimè, such melancholy, the words reminiscent of Gibbons’ Silver Swan!
Death’s truest inmate, Sorrow’s surest friend –
Sleep, like a bride, upon my couch attend:
For oh! What charm thy lenient pow’r applies
To him, who, dying lives, yet living dies.
Surely the gentlemen and their ladies gathered in the upper room at the Black Bear on that Tuesday evening in November (for it was a Tuesday) deserved more cheering musical fare? The words are one of many translations of a Latin epigraph entitled In Somnum sometimes attributed to the Poet Laureate Thomas Warton and in this case translated by one “W.C.T.C.C.”[any clues, anyone?].
And the rest of the programme? Typical Black Bear fare with a “Quartetto” by Pleyel (a favourite at the Club), a rousing patriotic song “Old England’s banners flying”, a violin concerto played by the concert’s beneficiary Mr. Wagstaff (as to which, the programme remains silent), Handel’s Disdainful of danger (another constant at the Inn) from Judas Maccabaeus and the evening was topped and tailed by two Haydn symphonies, probably from those he wrote for Salomon and quite possibly in the arrangements made for flute quartet and continuo by Charles Hague.
By the way, the card in the catalogue has a square bracketed publication date of 1800 for the collection of glees (meaning it’s a “best guess” as there’s no information on the volume). However, two factors suggest to me that it must have been produced before 1799. The first is that Hague is described on the title page as “Mus. Bac. Camb”, and one of the subscribers is John Randall described as “Professor of Music in Cambridge”. Hague succeeded Randall as professor in 1799 and would surely have been described as such on a title page of his compositions (his 1811 Installation Ode, for example, describes him as Mus. Doc. Cam, Professor of Music in the University of Cambridge).
This post was supposed to have been a little muse on the glees that formed part of the regular fare of Black Bear concerts, but I seem to have been side-tracked and so that will have to wait until next time. It just goes to show how easy it is to be distracted from one’s original intention – but a delightful distraction, I hope you will agree.