Students Staff

23 February 2012

Burrows Lecture to celebrate 18th-century music

Leading champion of English classical music Professor Peter Holman will be giving this year’s Burrows Lecture on Sunday 25 March.

The talk, which is being presented in association with the Essex Book Festival, is titled ‘After Byrd: Music in eighteenth-century Essex’ and will give a unique insight into the musical life of the county. It will be followed by a short concert by soprano Claire Tomlin and Essex Baroque Orchestra featuring eighteenth-century music composed or performed in the Colchester area.

Professor Holman, who is Emeritus Professor of Historical Musicology at the University of Leeds, said: “If music features at all in histories of Essex it is usually in connection with the Elizabethan composer William Byrd, who settled in Stondon Massey and worked for the Petre family at Ingatestone Hall, and his younger contemporary John Wilbye, who lived in Colchester towards the end of his life.

“However, Essex’s musical life was much richer in the eighteenth century, when public concerts flourished in the main towns, a number of music clubs were formed for the performance of orchestral music, and groups of singers and instrumentalists performed elaborate composed music in churches and chapels, often written by local composers.”

Professor Holman will particularly focus on musical activity in the Colchester area in the second half of the eighteenth century, looking at the activities of an orchestra that met at East Hill House in the 1770s and 1780s.The orchestra’s members included Thomas Twining, Rector of St Mary at the Walls, violinist and friend of the music historian Charles Burney, and William Jones, Rector of Nayland, philosopher, church reformer and author of A Treatise on the Art of Music (Colchester, 1784).

He will also look at the activities of the composer Joseph Gibbs, born in Colchester in 1698, and his role in teaching composition to amateur musicians; local composers included Twining and Jones as well as Joseph Eyre of East Bergholt, John Carr, a grocer in Boxford, and William Cole, Colchester land surveyor, astronomer, mathematician and psalmody teacher.

Professor Holman studied at King's College, London with Thurston Dart, and founded the pioneering early music group Ars Nova while a student. He is now director of The Parley of Instruments and the choir Psalmody, and musical director of Opera Restor'd. He is a leading figure in the musical life of the Essex and Suffolk border, directing Essex Baroque Orchestra and the Suffolk Villages Festival.

The annual Burrows Lecture was established through an endowment from Major J.H. Burrows, proprietor and Managing Director of the Southend Standard group of newspapers. Each year the lecture is delivered by distinguished academics on a subject linked to the historical or present-day life of Essex.

This year, the Essex Book Festival has taken a new direction thanks to major support from Arts Council England, local partners and the University, and is now operated by an independent trust, overseen by a board of voluntary trustees, all with a shared love of literature.

Professor Holman will be at the Lakeside Theatre at the University of Essex’s Colchester Campus on Sunday 25 March at 7pm. Tickets are £3 and £2 concessions. For tickets, please call 01206 573948. For more information about the Festival, pick up a copy of the Essex Book Festival brochure at your local library or visit For more information about the Burrows Lecture go to:

Notes to editors

1. The Essex Book Festival is a month-long annual celebration of literature which takes place across the county during March. Operated by an independent trust, the Festival is supported by the Arts Council England, England, Essex County Council and the University of Essex.

2. For more information on the Festival contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone 01206 874471, e-mail A full list of all Festival events and writers taking part, including media contact details, can be found at:

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