Theatre of the Ayre Projects and Programmes


First burst onto the scene in 2013 (“The York Early Music Festival will never be the same again” said the Yorkshire Post). Four members of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain joined four members of theatre of the Ayre to become known as a genre-crashing supergroup. their first programme the Devil at the Crossroads juxtaposed Robert Johnson (Shakespeare’s lute player) with Robert Johnson (bluesman) in 2013. The Wolves of St Elvis saw them branch out of the narrow confines of three hundred years to embrace music from sixteenth century Wolfenbuttel to ZZ Top via Elvis Presley and Portuguese Cancioneros, in a tour from St Davids Pembrokeshire to Buxton, Wavedon and Canterbury Festivals. Their education activities Youths, Lutes and Ukes worked with 300 children in London and York connecting early music with blues via dancing, singing and a lot of strumming.

George Hinchliffe, David Bowie Jnr, Leisa Rea, Nick Browning ukes
Liz Kenny, Clara Sanabras, Jacob Heringman, David Miller lutes

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Ayres and Dialogues

Matthew Brook and Nicholas Mulroy: male conversations from renaissance philosophers to Corydon and Mopsa. With Jacob Heringman, lutes, orpharions and other exotica.

Dowland: Anniversary Collection

Music in the Round tour of music by Dowland, Campion and Rachel Stott. With Robin Blaze, Pamela Thorby and Alison McGillivray.

Venus and Adonis

Funding from Arts Council England and underwriting from the SHM Foundations enabled Theatre of the Ayre to enter the elusive world of highly trained girls’ voices that reached its high point in Mary Davies’ performance as Venus, with her daughter Lady Mary Tudor as Cupid, in 1683.

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Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny….assembled a crack-squad of top instrumentalists.
~Gramophone October 2010

This important concert, being recorded for Wigmore Hall Live, celebrated John Blow’s Venus & Adonis (c.1683) in its proper place as the earliest surviving English opera…..Elizabeth Kenny’s meticulously prepared semi-staged production (drawing on some of the most prestigious names in British Early Music) raised it to a level fully comparable with the far more famous Dido and Aeneas of Purcell .All three main singers were excellent ….and the supporting group of shepherds and huntsmen likewise strong, notably Frederick Long. An important part is played by Cupid, attended in this production by a group of Cupids and Graces from Salisbury Cathedral School, charmingly choreographed. The supporting items were enjoyable, the French composer Michel Lambert new to me. Most of the instrumental soloists in the baroque band had significant opportunities, Alison McGillivray’s bass violin eye and ear catching, as were the plucked strings taking to guitar as well as the more usual theorbos. The balance was fine in the hall, leaving one to wonder why a dozen microphones were needed for the recording, which should become a benchmark collectors’ item.

The post-interval performance of Venus and Adonis was reinforced by a chorus of Cupids from a Southampton primari school and…girls from Salisbury Cathedral school, with 12-year-old Rebecca Lyles singing the principal Cupid role with evident enjoyment and considerable charm. The Cupids’ parents and siblings in the audience were a refreshingly youthful additino to the normal age profile of classical music audiences…
~Early Music Review, August 2010 of Southampton performance May 4th 2010

As importantly, an education package devised by Cathryn Dew of the National Centre for Early Music enabled Kenny and Theatre of the Ayre to recruit Cupids from schools in York, Southampton and Oxford. The groundbreaking work of the girls choir at Salisbury Cathedral had captured my attention, and the girls, including Rebecca Lyles as a wonderful Cupid, were the link I every performance, turning in poised and expressive singing as the core of each Cupids’ chorus.

The performances of all the professionals were impressive and highly entertaining, but the children really stole the show. Not opera as I know it but proof that it can be for all ages and tastes, and that Britain really has got talent!
~Oxford Daily Info Jan 2011

“It was funny and fun and taught me a lot of things”
Like what?
“How to spell mercenary”
Very useful.

The Masque of Moments

Features music taken from a dazzling array of 17th-century masques. Lutes, harps, viols and voices combine with singers whose sublimity vies with moments of insanity…

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The Masque of Moments was the happiest [event] … audience and performers were wreathed in smiles during the brilliantly devised masques and antimasques of English songs and instrumental music of the 17th century … [there were] exquisitely wrought variations and improvisations, and Roderick Williams, in particular, seduced the audience with his teasing tinkers’ ditties.
~The Times, June 2007

An evening of exquisite quality. Elizabeth Kenny’s achievement was to rescue from old manuscripts the rarely known music of the masques … We heard lively versions of the old songs, brought alive by singers whose vocal skill, clear diction and total dedication to their art were very warmly appreciated by the audience. The seven instrumentalists, using finely-tuned old instruments, gave us some superb examples of early English chamber music and sensitive accompaniments to the songs … Much to smile about and applaud.
~The Gloucester Echo, July 2007

Elizabeth Kenny zählt heute nicht nur zu den führendedn Lautenisten Grossbritanniens, sie ist als Solistin ebenso wie als Kammermusikerin weltweit bekannt.

BBC Radio 3 devoted two editions of The Early Music Show to a live recording of The Masque of Moments, from Blythburgh Church, Suffolk, made during the 2007 Aldeburgh Festival. There were more festival performances in Potsdam, Spitalfields, Cheltenham and Bruges, as well as concert performances in Southampton and at the wonderfully appropriate Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.

Includes songs and dances by Thomas Lupo, John Coprario, Thomas Campion, Alfonso Ferrabosco and Robert Johnson, along with later works by the Lawes brothers and Matthew Locke.

Praying for Reign: the private music of a king in waiting (developed 2004-5)

Opulent chamber music for the son the Louis XIV, the Grand Dauphin. A rarely heard combination of three voices, three recorders and continuo, in works by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The project, a collaboration between Liz Kenny and musicologists Shirley Thompson and Graham Sadler, included several first performances of virtuoso motets since the seventeenth century.

Performances at St George’s Bristol, Turner Sims Southampton, York National Centre for Early Music (Christmas Festival), Hull Chamber Music Society.

Original tour funded by Arts Council England.