A (virtual) evening at the Black Bear

The Black Bear Inn, Market Street, Cambridge. Demolished in 1848.

Welcome to all our MusiCB3 followers to this reconstruction of a concert which took place here in Cambridge on Tuesday 18 February 1806, given by members of the Black Bear Music Club, based at the inn of that name off Shoemaker’s Row (today’s Market Hill) which thrived for almost twenty years from 1789. We hope you have paid your four shillings for a ticket and are all sitting comfortably with a glass of something refreshing to hand preparing to enjoy the music-making. 

Please have tickets ready on the door…

The instrumentalists are tuning up, the singers are doing their vocal exercises, and the bell has just rung. The concert is about to begin…


Handel: Overture Occasional

The Occasional Oratorio (HWV 62) was written to raise spirits during the crisis of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, and was first performed in London in February the following year. There are four movements, ending with a morale-boosting military march. 

Callcott Glee : Peace to the Souls of the Heroes

Next, a vocal number – John Wall Callcott’s glee Peace to the Souls of the Heroes, one of the hundred or so he composed. The words are taken from James MacPherson’s The Works of Ossian (but therein lies a long and tangled tale of who actually wrote what…

New Black Bear gives you two glees for the price of one. The Callcott glee starts at 1 minute 10 seconds.

Corelli: Concerto 

Corelli’s Concerti Grossi are justly popular and none more so than Op. 6 no. 8 the so-called Christmas Concerto. Sadly, we do not know which was performed by our Black Bear friends in 1806, but here is another concerto from the Op. 6 set for your enjoyment. 

Boyce Song: Softly Rise, oh southern breeze

And to complete the first half of our concert – the most glorious aria by William Boyce from Solomon. Composed in 1742, it has been compared to Handel’s Acis and Galatea in its celebration of love (the words are based on the Song of Solomon). Softly rise, oh southern breeze, is the best-known of its arias – and one can immediately see why. On this occasion, it seems that John Scarborough forsook his violin to provide the bassoon obbligato. 


We hope you are now suitably refreshed and ready for the second half of our concert! 

Vanhall:  Overture, flute and cello obbligato 

We begin with an “overture” by Vanhall. Johan Baptist Vanhall (also spelled Vanhal, Wanhal or Wanhall) was born in Bohemia and the composer of many, many symphonies (often referred to as ‘overtures’ in Black Bear days). We cannot know for sure which our Black Bear friends chose, but after glancing at Paul Bryan’s immensely helpful book Johan Wanhal, Viennese Symphonist: his life and his musical environment (MRR.28.WAN.1), it seems most likely that the work in question was Vanhal’s Symphony in F major (Bryan’s F6), the only work which appears to call for obbligato flute and ‘cello. It appears that despite having a flautist brother, Vanhal generally preferred the sound of the oboe!

John Davy : Song Just like love is yonder rose

A song once again now, but one which we will have to ask you to sing to yourselves. Feel free to sing along to our piano version. Its composer, Devon born John Davy’s story is a sad one of rags to riches, providing popular songs for West End musical theatre to rags again through alcoholism. Just like love was one of his most popular. This was Master Gray’s opportunity to shine. You can find the original song online in the Levy Collection at Johns Hopkins.

Click on the photo to hear the piano version…


Pleyel: Flute Quartet with the German Hymn. 

Now to Pleyel, another prolific composer with a canny eye to the market, arranging his music quite happily for any combination or purpose which he felt would bring more sales. We think this particular item, featuring one of the Black Bear’s talented flautists (but whether it was G. or J. Nicholls, the programme remains silent) is an arrangement of his String Quartet B349 composed in 1788, as its slow movement is a set of variations on what is called the German Hymn in early editions. 

The music doesn’t appear to have been recorded, but you can see the score on IMSLP. There is also an arrangement, which would not have been out of keeping with the spirit of the Black Bear, for cello and double bass, performed by Jorg Baumann and Klaus Stoll, of Pleyel’s hymn with variations.

Glee : To our musical Club

And now dear readers to our grand finale: a specially-crafted lockdown performance of the round To our Musical Club, a catch published in John Arnold’s Essex Harmony of 1786 (MRB.260.75.2, p. 157) – a collection of glees, songs and catches collected by Thomas Warren, Secretary of the Noblemen’s and Gentlemen’s Catch Club from its foundation in 1761 until his death. (For more on Thomas Warren for those with Raven access, see here). Here, the performance is given by members of our very own MusiCB3 team, with their extended Special Collections friends and family. A round of applause, please, to welcome them… 


Back in 1806, the musicians were led by violinist Charles Hague (Professor of Music in the University at the time), with regular players John Scarborough (violin), J. and G. Nicholls (flutes), Mr. Wagstaff (‘cello) and singers Master Gray and Messrs Adcock, Peppercorn and Taylor.  

In 2020, the Black Bear glee, and Just like love were brought to you courtesy of MusiCB3 regulars – Misses Sarah Chapman (descant and tenor recorder), Kate Crane (voice), and Margaret Jones (audio mixing, piano). Special guests included Mr. Will Hale (voice), and Miss Sophie (voice and violin), and Mr. Tim Eggington (voice).

Notes on the pieces were prepared by Mistress Susi Woodhouse.

Go well everyone and stay safe. 

SW, MJ, and the musicians of the Black Bear Club 

About mj263

Music Collections Supervisor at Cambridge University Library. Wide musical interests. Often to be found stuck in a composer's archive, or enthusing about antiquarian music.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A (virtual) evening at the Black Bear

  1. Great stuff! And how delightful that Mr Wagstaff was there on the cello!
    Hope you’re keeping well, and sane in lockdown …



    • mj263 says:

      I did wonder if they were related. Of course it’s possible that the current Mr. Wagstaff is a Time Lord….


  2. marktinkler says:

    What a wonderful idea. Complimenti to all involved!


  3. Pingback: Musical reads | MusiCB3 Blog

  4. Pingback: Sounds of lockdown | MusiCB3 Blog

  5. Pingback: A most peculiar year | MusiCB3 Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.