British music specialist Dorothy de Val steps into the spotlight with her English country dance music ensemble Playford’s Pleasure in “Flirting with Mr. Darcy”, the third performance in the Faculty Concert Series of York University’s Music Department. Revisit romance with an evening of lighthearted dance music from the age of Jane Austen in York’s Tribute Communities Recital Hall on February 10.
Playford’s Pleasure are inspired improvisers, putting a delightful modern spin on popular tunes of bygone times. Pianist de Val, fiddler Stephen Fuller and York music instructor, flautist Barbara Ackerman will perform songs from the era of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The program includes pieces issued by the renowned 17th-century music publisher John Playford as well as works by Henry Purcell, Nathaniel Kynaston and a host of anonymous composers.
Playford’s Pleasure will be joined on stage by The Regency Dancers, led by York graduate student, dance historian and caller Karen Millyard. The dancers will perform to the live music for several numbers including The Physical Snob (c.1800) Grimstock (1652), Shrewsbury Lasses (1765), and The Fandango (1774).
Thanks to the published instructions in dance collections and manuals of the day, English country dance is one of the earliest re-creatable social dance forms. The style is rooted in the 17th-century gentry and courts of England and France. The tunes themselves were derived from everything from ballads to operas, with a wide variety of styles spanning sweet and melodic, to melancholic, to lively and rhythmic. Though it may be more than 300 years old, the music – and the flowing, graceful social dances set to it – remain accessible and engaging to contemporary audiences. Toronto has a number of thriving clubs with monthly dances and concerts, where traditional performance mingles with the new.
“It’s been said that if you can walk and you know your left from your right, you already know the basics of English country dance,” said de Val. “And with the caller giving directions, dancers don’t need to rely on memorization. This helps account for the art form’s continuing popularity.”
De Val’s research into British folksong revival introduced her to Millyard and Toronto’s English country dance community two years ago. She formed her trio Playford’s Pleasure shortly after.
De Val studied piano in Toronto with Boris Berlin and Pierre Souvairan and graduated with distinction from the Royal College of Music performance program in London, England. Appointed to the College’s internationally renowned Museum of Instruments, she began performing on the collection’s fine harpsichords and early pianos. Her research on the folk music revival in England in the early 20th century includes publications on the scholar and collector Lucy Broadwood and the composer Percy Grainger. She taught at the Royal Academy of Music and at the University of Oxford before joining York’s Music Department, where she is professor of musicology.
What: “Flirting with Mr. Darcy” – Dorothy de Val headlines York U Faculty Concert Series
When: Tues. February 10 at 7:30pm
Where: Tribute Communities Recital Hall, Accolade East Building, York University, 4700 Keele St. [Map] Admission: $15, students & seniors $5
Box Office: 416-736-5888 | ampd.yorku.ca/perform/boxoffice
Amy Stewart, Communications, Faculty of Fine Arts, York University | 416-650-8469 email@example.com