Friday 30 October 2015

Winter Journeys - St Cecilia Day concerts by the Hepton Singers

You are warmly invited to an afternoon of Russian music by the Hepton Singers, directed by Alison West, on Sunday 22 November here at Chetham's Baronial Hall.
The concerts will present music from the Baltic to the Black Sea: performing a programme of stirring song by Rachmaninov, Pärt, Bruckner and others:

Alison West, the director of the Hepton Singers said:

In November 2012 the Hepton Singers performed a concert entirely of Russian music. For our St Cecilia concert this year we are re-visiting some of the gems from that concert, in particular a group of four pieces by the contemporary Ukrainian composer Galina Grigorjeva from her exquisitely beautiful composition “On Leaving”. Although this music is recent, the influence of the music of the Russian Orthodox church, and of earlier composers such as Rachmaninov, shines through her work, and some of her harmonies are spine-tingling. We shall accompany these pieces with works by Sergei Rachmaninov, Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt, Josef Rheinberger; and an old favourite of ours, Three Graduals by Anton Bruckner.

The result is a heady mix to warm the toes and heart in the darkness of November.’
Come and hear the Hepton Singers:
Sunday 22nd November 2pm
the Baronial Hall, Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester M3 1SB

Ticket information:
£9/£6/£1 (under 18s)
available on the door and online from

Thursday 29 October 2015

How are things in London, Old Man?

Can you be an old man the moment you're born? You can if you're this week's blog-hero, John Senex (1678-1740), whose name is Latin for 'old man'.

The hand of the master engraver

Ludlow-born Senex was drawn to London for his apprenticeship to the bookseller Robert Clavell, and had set up on his own account by 1702. He was to become one of the most prominent scientific engravers, map-makers and booksellers of his age, produced a famous and influential series of globes celestial and terrain, and died a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Cataloguing at Chetham's in recent years reveals what must be true in so many libraries with significant map or scientific collections: Sensex's imprint, work and often minute engraved signature crops up in many places.  The Library is modestly famous for its early North-West and Manchester maps, and despite his London centre of operations we find Senex being commissioned to undertake work such as this map of the Irwell and Mersey, designed to explore possible locks and navigational improvements.

Detail of Senex's map of the Mersey and Irwell, 1712
We've already had a look at some more work of his in another post on this blog, when this year's eclipse panic struck back in March, although we were concentrating on Halley's astronomical achievements at that stage. At the foot of the Description of the Passage of the Shadow of the Moon over England in 1715 we find Senex reminding both astronomers and astrologers that he 'makes, and sells the newest and correctest maps, and globes of 3, 9, 12, and 16 inches diameter, at moderate prices'.

Turning over the Library's collection of maps of places further afield is what put us in mind of Senex today, however. For example, Senex worked on a splendid folding pocket-map of the major routes around the country, designed for carriage or horseback, and treating the routes as a linear set of waypoints to navigate by, and inns to refresh at:

Detail of the title page of the 18th century's version of the AA road map

London to Dover, the Ogilby and Senex way

A particularly splendid map of London from 1720 combines good survey work, clear representation and serious engraving artistry. You can see an overview of the centre section of the map here. Some of its ambition as a piece of art work is visible in the title and its decoration:

Cornucopia and dragons - streets paved with gold, but not altogether safe?

The greatest testament to the skill and application of the engraver comes when you look magnifying-glass close at the detail, covered on only fractions of an inch of paper each:

St Paul's

Westminster Abbey and the Old Palace Yard

The Tower, complete with wet moats

By the time of his death in 1740, Senex was both an enthusiastic consumer (as we know from his many subscriptions to important scientific publications) and a consummate contributor to Enlightenment England and its learning. His widow carried on his trade, and we as his readers and admirers can marvel and study for ourselves.