Black Bear Music Club Autumn Season 1789 now open for booking

The Black Bear Inn, Market Street. Demolished in 1848

As the summer of 1789 gives way to autumn gales and the good folk of Cambridge settle into the Michaelmas Term, their collective eye may well have been caught by a little announcement in the Cambridge Chronicle which might have run something like this: “John Scarborough and Charles Hague beg leave to inform the Nobility and Gentry of the forthcoming Season of Concerts for autumn of this Year of our Lord, 1789, of the Black Bear Music Club, to be held as usual at the Inn of that name on Shoemaker’s Row.” 

The three concert will be as follows:

Black Bear concert programe October 17th 1789

October 17 1789

Overture 7thMartini
Song: ‘Arm, Arm ye Brave’ Mr. Taylor — Handel
Concerto 12thCorelli
Overture — Handel
Glee, 4 voices — Hellendaal
Violin Concerto — Mr. Scarborough — Borghi
Song — Come, come thou Goddess. Mr. Clabburn — Handel
Overture — Occasional — Handel

Mr. Handel is the composer of choice for this first concert with two of his most favour’d Overtures, the second being the ‘Occasional’. Mr. Taylor makes a welcome return this autumn and will no doubt delight his audiences once again in that most favourite of Mr. Handel’s arias from his renown’d work Judas Maccabaeus. Mr. Clabburn, also returns to give us a delightful air from the celebrated setting of Milton’s L’Allegro (Mr. Milton being a past student at our fair University in Christ’s College). Mr. Scarborough will show his prowess on the Violin with a fine performance of a Concerto by Mr. Luigi Borghi, late of Italy now establish’d in London.

Black Bear concert programme November 24th 1789

November 24th1789

Act I

Overture 4thKammell
Glee, 5 Voices, with Accompanyments. — Webb
Concerto the Second. — Stanley
Song Mr. Peppercorn. — Handel
Overture, Flute Obligato. — Vanhall

Act II

Overture. — Vanmaldire
Concerto the Sixth. — Avison
Glee, Five Voices — Wilbye
Overture in Esther — Handel

Mr. Anton Kammell’s fine Fourth Overture [symphony] opens our November event. We understand Mr. Kammell to be originally from Bohemia but now settled in England and often associating with Mr. J. C. Bach and Mr. Abel taking part in their renown’d London concerts. Mr. George Nicholls will give us his rendition of an excellent work by Mr. Johann Baptist Vanhal featuring the flute and Mr. Peppercorn will delight with ‘Let me wander, not unseen’ from Mr. Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. Our Black Bear singers will also give Mr. Samuel Webbe’s glee ‘You gave me Your Heart’ and the ever-favourite ‘Flora gave me fairest flowers’ by Mr. John Wilbye.

Black Bear concert programme December 22nd 1789

Tuesday, December the 22d. 1789.

Overture in Alexander — Handel
Trio Flute — Stamitz
Glee, Five Voices — Webb
Concerto — Corelli
Overture — Schwindle
Quartetto Clarinet — Bach
Madrigal, Four Voices — Weelkes
Overture — Vanhall

For our Festive Season event we bring, amongst other delights, the popular Concerto by Archangelo Corelli associated with this time of the year. For Mr. J. C. Bach’s Quartetto featuring the clarinet – the instrument lately made so popular by Mr. W. A. Mozart – we hope to engage none other than Mr. Anton Stadler. Mr. Handel’s stirring Overture to Alexander’s Feast which was first perform’d at London’s famous Covent Garden will open the proceedings.

Corelli Concerti Grossi Op.6 published by John Walsh [1725] MR32 001

Tickets 2s and 6d each may be had at Mr. Wynne’s, Mr. Hague’s and Mrs. Pratt’s music shops, and of Mr. Scarborough at the Black Bear. Ladies wishing to attend must be accompanied by a Member of the Club.


And as the audience makes its way home warmed no doubt with a pint or two of the Landlord’s best ale or an invigorating nip of brandy, a 21stCentury footnote is perhaps in order:

Alexander’s Feast libretto. London printed for J and R Tonson, 1739. MR463.c.70.1

The Black Bear, dating back at least to the 17thcentury and one of some 470 taverns in the City at the time, stood on the corner of Market Hill and Sidney Street, opposite Holy Trinity Church and what is now Market Passage marks its yard. In common with many such establishments, it had a narrow frontage to Sidney Street with a gateway leading to a long courtyard which gave access to the main rooms. On its first floor was a large assembly room which was used for meetings, auctions and other public gatherings as well as concerts of the Black Bear Music Club.

The University Library’s volume of programmes [Cam.a.789.1] gives a unique glimpse into the concert life of Cambridge in the late eighteenth century. We also gain a flavour of the music which was both popular and fashionable at the time (which is surely something which pertains today in our concert and recital halls), and the resourcefulness of the musicians who would not have been a large band by any means – especially given the size of the upper room in which the concerts took place – perhaps a string quartet, a keyboard and a flute or two. William Custance’s 1798 map showing the location of the Black Bear Inn is available as part of the University Library’s Digital Library Collection.

May we wish all our readers a productive and musical Michaelmas Term.

SW (for John Scarborough and Charles Hague)

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1 Response to Black Bear Music Club Autumn Season 1789 now open for booking

  1. Gerald Gifford says:

    The mention of Hellendaal is especially interesting in this context as he was of course living in Cambridge at the time and might well have been involved as a performer (as well as composer).


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