BBC Radio 4 are putting on a concert of songs composed for Samuel Pepys by Cesare Morelli, the musician who joined Pepys’ household in the 1670s. The concert is at Pepys’ local church, St Olave’s, on 15 February 2017, and is free to attend, although you must reserve tickets (see below). The concert will be recorded for a feature on Radio 4 in the future.

Here are the details:

BBC Radio 4 present a rare opportunity to hear the music Cesare Morelli composed for his friend and patron Samuel Pepys with some of the pieces being performed for the first time in 300 years. The bass-baritone David Ireland (Young Artist at the National Opera Studio; Guildhall School of Music & Drama), baroque guitarist Toby Carr (Trinity College School of Music; Guildhall) and theorbo player James Bramley (Guildhall) led by Dionysios Kyropoulos (Guildhall; University of Oxford) will play Beauty retire (the only piece by Pepys himself), Beauty retire (by Morelli), The world’s a Bubble, To be or not to be, Amanti fuggite, Du bruit et des facheux, The Benediction, The words of the Preacher, Lord I have sinned (by Humphrey, arranged by Morelli). The concert will be recorded (audio only) for the purposes of a BBC Radio 4 arts feature about Pepys and Morelli.

Date: Wednesday 15th February 2017
Time: 8pm
Location: St Olave’s Church, Hart Street, London
Entry: Free entry, but please apply for a reservation to; some seats will also be available on the night

There’s more information about the show and performers on the production company’s website.

Because Morelli appeared in Pepys’ life after the main diary finished, we have no information about him on this site, so here’s a paragraph from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

[Cesare Morelli’s] presence in Pepys’s household provides further evidence for the latter’s wealth and prosperity in the 1670s, as well as for his abiding passion for music. A native of Flanders but trained in Rome, Morelli spoke several languages, but was initially recommended to Pepys in April 1673 primarily as one ‘who has a most admirable voice, and sings rarely to his theorbo, and that with great skill’, prompting Pepys to offer him £30 per annum, for which he expected to ‘find in him a servant not of less real use by his languages, in reading, writing, translating, or other offices depending thereon, than satisfaction to myself in his excellent qualifications in music, in which my utmost luxury still lies, and is likely to remain so’ (Tanner, 222–3). He came to England in the spring of 1675, and though he appears to have undertaken some private music-teaching, became a member of Pepys’s household. When Samuel’s second brother John died in 1677 Morelli composed a lament, which he and Pepys sang together, and he also made copies or arrangements of other people’s music. But though he provided a civilized embellishment to Pepys’s life, in the late 1670s Morelli was also a dangerous one, for he was brought up and remained a Catholic, making his association with Pepys the source of potentially lethal ammunition for someone like John James, who wanted to avenge himself on both men, and did not scruple to claim that they had said mass together. Efforts to persuade Morelli to convert to protestantism failed, and he moved to Brentwood, pursued by allegations that he was a Jesuit. Pepys remained in touch with him—in 1681 Morelli sent him some opera transcriptions and a cure for fever—and continued to pay his salary, but Morelli did not return to London, and probably in 1682 he went abroad. In 1686 he wrote to Pepys asking for help in securing a position in James II’s chapel, but nothing came of this, and the marriage to which he made apologetic reference in a letter of the following February probably helped to ensure that he stayed on the continent thereafter.

If you can go, book your free tickets and, afterwards, do post a comment below telling us what it was like!


Second Reading

Sue Nicholson  •  Link

It was an atmospheric evening in St Olave's church, with Elizabeth's memorial bust looking down from her high perch above the altar and Pepys' Victorian image gazing morosely from the South wall where the Navy pew once stood. In the nave of Pepys "own church", an expectant audience gathered.

Lucie Skeaping gave an excellent commentary throughout, with lots of interesting background detail. Music scholar Dionysios Kyropoulos introduced his work: he had discovered four leather-bound volumes in the Pepys Library containing tablature for more than 100 songs in three sections; Light, Grave and Sacred and which he has rewritten in modern musical notation. The originals were mostly by Cesare Morelli, Pepys' personal musician employed from 1675 until 1682. Dionysios speculated that he would have been an intellectual companion for Pepys in the years after Elizabeth's death. (This friendship with an Italian catholic was to lead to difficulties however in the turmoil of the so-called "Popish Plot" of 1679 when Pepys was arrested and imprisoned for alleged Catholic sympathies.)

In total, eleven pieces including one by Pepys himself, were performed by Bass-baritone vocalist David Ireland with James Bramley on theorbo and Toby Carr on baroque guitar. Most were composed in "stilo representativo" where the music serves the text; no verse or chorus, simply an expressive tune to underpin the words. Pepys wrote the famous "Beauty Retire" in this style. He was so proud of this that he had himself painted by John Hayls, holding the score in his hand. I did think however that he would have been astounded to hear it performed in church in 2017.

The concert was a delight. It will be broadcast on Radio 4 on April 4th at 11.30am and will then be available on the Radio 4 website for a further 28 days. Not to be missed!

GrahamRA  •  Link

I was pleased to attend the concert at St Olave's. A very interesting and enjoyable evening although the focus was on music composed for Pepys by Cesare Morelli who came into Sam's life in the years after the diary ends.
One song by Sam was performed - "Beauty Retire", followed by a song by Morelli on the same text.
There will be a programme on BBC Radio 4 on 'Pepys the Musician' presented by Lucie Skeaping, (who compered the concert) on Tuesday 4th April 2017 at 11.30amGMT. The programme will include audio extracts from the concert. It will be available to listen to on-line on the BBC radio 4 iPlayer for 28 days after the programme is broadcast: The instruments used were a Baroque Guitar and a Theorbo. No Vyalls to be seen!

Sue Nicholson  •  Link

I was looking forward to the BBC Radio 4 programme but found it something of a disappointment. In addition to the concert, interviews had been recorded with authors Claire Tomalin ('Pepys the Unequalled Self') and Ben Long ('The Plot against Pepys') which were excellent in themselves but resulted in too much material for just one half-hour programme. The whole thing was chopped about so that no sooner had each piece of music begun, than it was quickly faded out in favour of the interviews. On the night I also saw members of the audience being interviewed, yet none of these featured in the final programme. A case of trying to get a quart into a pint pot ?
Morelli's music, recorded at St Olave's, is available on YouTube:…

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