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The Alehouse Sessions

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Through the medium of these well-loved tunes, a story of the period is interwoven into the music making; creating a unique environment between audience and performer. Charismatic violinist and director Bjarte Eike and principal members of Barokksolistene, renowned for their Alehouse Sessions, make their LHF debut in this unique collaboration with the Royal Academy of Music. I feel lucky, blessed and quite humbled that I get to present this wonderful music, together with my wonderful friends, and the crowd and crew behind the cameras really engage in the whole thing. Like the “Spanish Set” with which the group encored, during which Eike walked through the crowd with his violin, it was a reminder that listening is an active process. Some of the collected data includes the number of visitors, their source, and the pages they visit anonymously.

There’s humour and plenty of back-chat in the muscular shanties ‘Haul away Joe’ and ‘Pass around the grog’, fleet-footed folk fiddling and irresistibly syncopated rhythms in the Travel Set and the Canadian Set – each weaving together a sequence of traditional tunes – while ballads such as the lovely ‘I drew my ship’ (exquisitely arranged by Eike himself for soloist Tom Guthrie and cloudy strings, bright-flecked with harmonics) give welcome moments of pause and pathos.Barokksolistene’s signature project “The Alehouse Sessions”, devised and curated by Bjarte Eike, has been made into a film for television. Part one, Purcell’s Playhouse, imagines the backroom of a bar where a makeshift theatre has sprung up to mark the end of Cromwell’s reign – and his puritanical ban on playhouses.

The rest – harmony, rhythm combination of instruments – is completely for us to reimagine, and it’s so liberating. Case in point was the “Travel Set,” which cycled through tunes from Norway, Scotland, Denmark, Shetland, and a jovial take on “The MTA Song” with ease. This was, perhaps, the greatest pleasure of seeing the Alehouse Boys in the flesh, by which the rigor and body work that goes into such a performance came across with unique authenticity. The incredible Barokksolistene musicians perform music by Purcell and Playford, mixed with sea shanties and folk songs – entirely from memory. Commissioned by the BBC and directed by award-winning director Dominic Best (AdLib Productions), the film will be premiered on BBC TV in late April 2023.The Strad’s Masterclass series brings together the finest string players with some of the greatest string works ever written. In The Best of Technique you’ll discover the top playing tips of the world’s leading string players and teachers. By evening's end, I found myself pondering the prohibitions that led to this fountainhead of creativity, and couldn't help but reflect on the current landscape of political lockdowns, scandals, and hypocrisies. This was immediately followed by a version of Purcell's “Lead Me” that was even more resolutely alive than the album version. Purchasing a ticket to this event gives you access to both Purcell’s Playhouse at 9pm and The Alehouse Sessions at 10.

A smattering of Purcell, dances from Playford’s Dancing Master, shanties, reels and ballads succumb to a nine-piece ensemble drawing on Baroque, jazz and folk styles for a no holds barred hooley of riotous improvisatory give and take…The result is more gastropub than spit-and-sawdust hostelry, but ‘cheers’ all the same! Until now Eike has kept the Alehouse Sessions strictly as live events but the project’s 10th anniversary has finally generated a studio recording. Inevitably some of that concert atmosphere, the back and-forth repartee, is gone, but instead those interactions and conversations are dissolved into the music itself.Eike and Barokksolistene bring the camaraderie of the period, the artistry and the connection between musicians and the audience to life in this production, filmed on location at Battersea Arts Centre and The George Inn, Southwark. These “Alehouse Sessions,” in both recorded and live form, are exemplary in their ability to melt the cages of censorship into tenderer weapons of humanity. A joyful celebration of 17th-century folk music, fiddle tunes, drinking songs and sea shanties, brought vividly to life by virtuoso musicians Bjarte Eike and Barokksolistene. Everyone in the Barokksolistene is expected to sing, dance, move, play multiple instruments and generally have fun.

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