600 years of music in only 90 minutes? Ready, get set, go Green Matthews at Pocklington Arts Centre on Friday

Chris Green and Sophie Matthews: Speeding through 600 years of tunes, songs and humour

ADVENTUROUS musicians Chris Green and Sophie Matthews pack 600 years of musical history into 90 minutes at Pocklington Arts Centre on Friday night.

Beginning in the Middle Ages, ending up in the 20th century and incorporating everything in between, Green Matthews’ fun and fast-moving show undertakes a whistle-stop tour of Western musical history.

Featuring long-forgotten songs, tunes and jokes too, Chris and Sophie paint a vibrant and vivid picture of our musical DNA, mixing the familiar and the obscure, the raucous and the reflective and the courtly and the commonplace.

“A Brief History Of Music combines the vigour of the medieval period, the musical intricacy of the Renaissance, the grandeur of the Baroque and the pomp and bombast of Victoriana,” say Green Matthews.

“Add to that the wit of Blackadder and 1066 And All That and the stage is set for a veritable musical feast, complete with a bewildering array of instruments such as cittern, rauschpfeife and virginal – and that’s just the first 100 years!”

CharlesHutchPress asks Sophie Matthews to give a brief guide to A Brief History Of Music.

How did you choose what to put in and leave out of A Brief History Of Music?

“We try to take the audience on a musical journey, taking a snapshot of each different period using both music and instruments to paint a picture as we go.”

What drew you to doing such a marathon task of a show?

“We love music from all different periods of history, and it was tough deciding on one to do a whole show on, so we didn’t – we did them all.”

Green Matthews: “Taking a snapshot of each different period using both music and instruments to paint a picture as we go”

Why do you finish in the 20th century when we’re nearly a quarter of a century into the 21st?

“We feel that when you move into the 20th century, music becomes more about nostalgia than history, and also music in the 20th century moves so very quickly in a way that it doesn’t with earlier periods. Perhaps that’s a whole other show to be explored.”

How did you research long-forgotten songs?

“There are some really interesting resources both digitised online and in libraries around the country. However, a lot of the research starts by hearing someone else playing something that inspires us. You can then go on to find other things.”

How do Blackadder and 1066 And All That play a part in the show?

“We love the humour that they both bring to history. Our presentation is very light hearted and we love to make people laugh. We never take ourselves too seriously.”

What instrumentation do you use in the performance? What, for example, are the ‘rauschpfeife’ and ‘virginal’?

“I am a woodwind player and Chris plays fretted strings and keys, which work well together. The rauschpfeife is a woodwind instrument from the 16th century with a reed like an oboe inside a cap to blow through. It’s really loud and it died out because there’s no control over the volume.

“The virginal is a kind of small harpsichord. The difference between the harpsichord and the piano is that a piano has hammers inside that strike the strings and you can do that hard or soft, making it louder or quieter, and the harpsichord has quills inside that pluck the strings. But here, again, there’s no control over the volume, so it died out.

“We also have more familiar instruments such as recorders and lutes and three different kinds of bagpipe! And we both sing.”

Green Matthews: Return to the NCEM in the pipeline

How, when, where and why did you start performing with Chris?

“At a medieval banquet in Nottingham. One of us was Maid Marion, one was a court minstrel (we’ll leave it to you to work out which was which!), and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Do you have a favourite musical age?

“The 18th century. It’s a really interesting time where folk music and art music come together. The tunes are lively and vibrant and the songs are varied and interesting.”

Any early news on whether you will be returning to the National Centre for Early Music in York for another Christmas performance in 2024 after A Christmas Carol In Concert in 2023?

“Yes! We’ll be back there with our expanded Christmas line-up, Gaudete!, on December 11, when we’ll be joined by Richard Heacock on violin and Emily Baines on early woodwind to play new arrangements of winter songs and folk carols.”

Do you have album release plans for this year?

“There’ll be a live Gaudete! album out in time for the December tour.”

Green Matthews: A Brief History Of Music, Pocklington Arts Centre, February 23, 8pm. Box office: 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Green Matthews’ poster for A Brief History Of Music