Purcell's Dido & Aeneas


On behalf of the department and all the students involved, it gives me enormous pleasure to present a mini rendition of Purcell's Dido & Aeneas, performed by Year 12's A-Level Music class choir, with support from our Year 8 Quartet and accompanying illustrations by Selin, Year 13.

The Year 12 A-Level Music class has gone above and beyond to form a class choir specialising in earlier music to further develop their aural and reading skills. This has culminated in a mini rendition of Purcell's Dido & Aeneas, first performed at Josias Priest's Girls' School in London, 1689, to a libretto by Nahum Tate. The scenario is based on Book IV of Virgil's Roman epic The Aeneid and was updated by Tate and Purcell to be more acclimatised to late Stuart society.

This update produced some interesting plot differences, such as the inclusion of the Sorceress and fellow witches rather than a full and active complement of Roman gods. Virgil had himself remodelled history in The Aeneid by taking the legend of the Trojan War and connecting it directly via Aeneas to what would become his own contemporary Augustinian Rome, thereby securing an ancient heritage for Augustus and allowing him to consolidate his position as the first Roman emperor. Moreover, in the Dido & Aeneas episode specifically, Virgil planted mythological roots for the Punic Wars in Dido's dying curse on Aeneas and his descendants.

In Purcell's opera, Dido's lament, sung in the moments before her death, became a standalone sensation. It is built on a ground bass that outlines a chromatic descending fourth, also known as a passus duriusculus. The tradition of including a lament for the tragic operatic heroine was born in Monteverdi's enormously popular Lamento d'Arianna, which is the only part of his opera l'Arianna (1608 and based on the story of Ariadne's abandonment by Theseus on Naxos) to survive.

The Overture is performed by the Year 8 Quartet, formed this term and anticipating many more years of playing as a chamber ensemble.

Above all, our greatest thanks go to Selin, who is leaving Year 13 this year to pursue art, and whose swan song has been producing a set of seven illustrations for the project. Having taken A-Level Music as well as Art, we were delighted to commission her to produce these illustrations, allowing for a combined music and art experience. You will see Selin's illustrations as part of the video and they can also be viewed separately below.

We have enormously enjoyed embracing Dido's story and once again, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all who participated, giving many hours of their time to rehearse their repertoire. My thanks also go to Mr Johns, Miss Sturge and Miss Shipley for their extraordinary level of dedication and commitment to music at Tiffin Girls’.

Yet again, none of this would have been possible without the support we receive from The Tiffin Girls' Music Society. TGMS have contributed so much to the department in every aspect; morally, technically and most crucially, financially. Without their commitment, the department would not have had the means to purchase the professional grade recording equipment that we've had the pleasure to use to record these performances, nor the Mac hardware vital in the post-production process.

I would like to thank them hugely; we have needed every last ounce of their support, as much now as ever before.

In order that we can continue making music to the high standards we set for our students and ourselves, I must -as before - make a heartfelt plea for your financial support. There are multiple ways in which you can help us make music an inclusive, welcoming and stimulating part of school life; the easiest is by making a donation to TGMS, the details of which are as follows:

  • To donate £10, please text TGSMUSIC to 70191

  • To donate a larger amount, please visit http://easydonate.org/TGSMUSIC

  • You can also support us in the longer term by becoming a member of TGMS or through EasyFundraising

To all who read this, thank you for watching and also for your support and encouragement of the students in their many endeavours. Please do consider becoming a member of TGMS, as well as making a donation; all membership subscriptions and contributions go directly to the department, giving us much needed funds required to realise these amazing opportunities, and more, for all our students.

By doing so, you directly help to shape the future of music at this wonderful school.

Mr Meryon

July 2021

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