These Southbank Sessions Transport Audiences To 17th Century Alehouses Through Classical Music

Have you wondered what a trip to the pub tavern in 1642 would be like? Well, given that Oliver Cromwell had just shut down theatres across the country, which would remain the case for 18 years, they would end up being your prime source of live entertainment.

On September 23, visitors to the Southbank Centre will have the chance to live through the elevated status of the tavern, and get a feel for the 17th Century Alehouses through the means of music.

Image: Theresa Pewal

Dreamed up and curated by Norwegian violinist Bjarte Eike, “The Alehouse Sessions” takes audiences along on a 17th century evening of entertainment, not only with a live classical performance, but also through theatrical storytelling, folk, strings, improvisation, and dance.

In what is by no means your typical classical music concert, guests will be able to move in and out of the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer to sip on a cold drink and experience the different layers to the evening. One moment you’ll be swept away by Henry Purcell overtures, and the next bobbing along to sea shanties, all aiming to take guests back to this unsettled period of history.

Attendees can book a double-bill of tickets, with The Purcell Playhouse kicking off proceedings at 9pm in the Purcell Room, recreating the raucousness of a night at the theatre after the 18 year theatre closures under Cromwell came to an end. Then, it’s time for the Alehouse Sessions to begin at 10:30pm, with Eike and his “Alehouse Boys”, also known as  Barokksolistene, putting on a wide-ranging performance entirely from memory, and you can expect plenty of humour to be thrown in among the fervent show.

Speaking on the project, Bjarte Eike said: “The signature of this project is the interaction on stage between the players and the audience.

“If it has to be put in a historical context, the project draws its inspiration from the Shakespearian theatre where there was a direct communication between stage and hall- going in-between the story that was being told and occurring events happening in the hall.

“This is in stark contrast to the 19th century drama with dark halls looking at the “gods” on stage. It is the latter which the classical mainstream industry has adapted fully.”

“The Alehouse Sessions” has already enjoyed success in both the US and Europe, and you can get in on the action on September 23 at the Southbank Centre. Read more about the performance here, and book your tickets via the Southbank Centre’s website.