Charles Dibdin and David Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee 1769, performed by Retrospect Opera

The Stratford Jubilee

This year will see the 250th anniversary of a key birthing moment for European Romanticism. Between 6 and 8 September 1769, David Garrick, Britain’s leading actor, organised a great 3-day celebration of Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon. This “Jubilee,” as Garrick liked to call it, codified much of the Romantic response to Shakespeare. Willy Shakespeare was a “Warwickshire Lad,” a product of his rural upbringing, and a “child of nature”; but he was also a sublime genius above rules and critics, and the “Sovereign of the human heart.” For Shakespeare, imagination and creation were as one: “Oh happy bard, whose potent skill, / Can give existence where it will.”

The Stratford Jubilee was an exceptionally musical celebration, with most of the music being supplied by Charles Dibdin and Thomas Arne. Dibdin’s most important contributions, including the cantata Queen Mab and such once famous songs as the joyous “Warwickshire Lad” and “Sweet Willy O,” have been professionally recorded by Retrospect Opera, with the support of BARS. The album also includes Dibdin’s later Datchet Mead of 1797, another Shakespearean piece, and one of the most beautiful British compositions of the 1790s. The CD is accompanied by a 36-page booklet containing full texts of the recorded music and essays by David Chandler and John Cunningham.

The album is available from the Retrospect website for £11.95, post free in the UK: Some events to celebrate the anniversary are planned for September: do get in touch with Retrospect if you’d like more details, and see here for more details on The Jubilee album.

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