Fontanella’s repertoire spans seven hundred years of music, celebrating the long history of this remarkable instrument, performed on an array of instruments of every shape and size from a beautiful 15-piece renaissance consort to their set of Paetzold ‘square’ basses.

Equally at home with specialist early music audiences, music clubs and festivals and in the recording studio, Fontanella has performed across Britain and Europe, including special festival appearances in Italy, Iceland and Finland and concerts in all corners of the UK. The individual members of the ensemble also all have diverse and busy performing careers, ranging from working with ensembles such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and The Sixteen, film and TV recordings, historical chamber music groups and electronic music. Most recently they featured in Channel 4’s show 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown.

Their two CD recordings, Woods So Wild (BCR 014) and The Nightingale’s Response (BCR 015) together form a collection of music on the theme of birdsong and nature over the past seven centuries.

About the programme – The Delightful Companion

Robert Carr’s aptly named The Delightful Companion was written as a tutor book for the recorder, or flute, as it was often called in 17th century England. The country in the second half of the 17th century was in a period of upheaval. The unease of the Civil War resulting in the execution of Charles I led to the strict puritan rule of the Commonwealth, forcing theatres to close, and even an attempt to ban the festival of Christmas.In the 1660s Charles II came back to the UK from hiding, and restored a more liberal way of life: the arts could once again flourish, and women for the first time could earn a living from writing and acting. This respite was, however, quickly followed by the turmoil of the Plague, and the devastating Great Fire of London in 1666 which made thousands homeless and destitute.With strong parallels to our current 21st century crisis, it was understood that the only way to stop the spread of the plague was to stay home and isolate from society.

With the closure of institutions, student of Cambridge University, Isaac Newton returned home, and during this period of isolation produced a series of incredible discoveries, including mathematical breakthroughs, and revealing the colours of the optical spectrum.

Samuel Pepys, perhaps as a reaction of the remarkable events of the 1660s, decided to write a diary, providing us with a glimpse into the horrors of the Fire alongside the joys of having his first cup of tea. Robert Hooke names the Cell, after seeing the ‘tiny little rooms’ within the structure of cork, and the following year discovers Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. John Milton publishes his Paradise Lost for a payment of £5.

It is clear that despite all-consuming political and social disasters, the human brain and imagination continue to look outwards, discovering and dreaming. Perhaps after a period of strict rule under the Commonwealth, there was a new appreciation for the arts, as there surely must also be today after a period of silence in the world of performing arts.

Music in 17th century England seems to reflect both the joy of liberal artistic expression brought about by the Restoration, the new path of virtuosity in instrumental music, and the painful reflection perhaps best heard in the exquisite harmonies of Locke.

Our ‘delightful companion’ the recorder was also affected by this period of change. It transformed from a renaissance straight-bored instrument into a period of transition which would lead into the more versatile, delicate high baroque instruments of the following century. So you will hear our early 15-piece consort and later baroque models used in this programme to reflect this change in music and the science of instrument-building.

About the musicians…

Rebecca Austen-Brown

Since studying at the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Rebecca has been recognised for her work as a performer on recorders and early string instruments with an ARAM. She has recorded and toured with many ensembles; most recently The Sixteen, Glyndebourne Touring Opera, the Dufay Collective, The City Musick, I Fagiolini, the CBSO, La Nuova Musica and L’Arcangelo. She has toured with Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Young Vic, and as a regular film session musician can be heard on soundtracks including The Hobbit, Les Misérables, Grand Budapest HotelMary Queen of Scots and del Torro’s Pinocchio. Rebecca teaches at the Royal College of Music Junior Department, and is passionate about teaching at every level and age group. She is head of recorder and syllabus writer at the MTB exam board, and is in demand both as an external examiner in UK Conservatoires and as regular guest adjudicator in the UK and Hong Kong.

Louise Bradbury

Louise enjoys a rich and varied career as a performer and educationalist, for which she has been elected an Associate member of the Royal Academy of Music. With Fontanella and Passacaglia, Louise has enjoyed the privilege of performing in some of the UK and Europe’s leading venues and festivals. She has broadcast on numerous occasions on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and BBC TV including providing baroque music for Mark Gatiss’s Martin’s Close on BBC Four. Louise is supported by the Royal Philharmonic Society Enterprise Fund in association with Harriet’s Trust. Louise’s desire to encourage young recorder players has led to her teaching at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, several universities and the Junior Department of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In addition to performing, Louise is director of Little Notes, providing music workshops for families across the UK and in Amsterdam.

Sarah Humphrys

Sarah specialises in renaissance and baroque music and enjoys a varied career as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral player and teacher. She performs throughout Europe with her three chamber groups – Fontanella Recorder Quartet, Ensemble Meridiana and City Musick. Sarah also records and plays regularly in venues all over the world with period instrument ensembles such as the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Gabrieli Consort, the Early Opera Company, The Sixteen, La Nuova Musica and the English Concert. Sarah has performed as a principal player in seasons at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre since 2003 on shows such as Richard III with Mark Rylance, Nell Gwyn with Gemma Arterton and Emilia. She also worked with Damon Albarn on his opera Dr Dee. Sarah has played on soundtracks including Shrek 3 and Wolf Hall. Sarah is an experienced teacher and holds posts as recorder and baroque oboe teacher at the Purcell School where she also coaches baroque ensembles.

Annabel Knight

Annabel performs regularly on recorder and historical flutes, particularly in the field of early chamber music, with a number of ensembles including Passacaglia and Fontanella. As a freelance player she has recorded for film and TV soundtracks and has more recently explored the wonderful world of wind synthesizer as part of the group Art of Moog. Annabel is currently head of the recorder department at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and runs the annual Woodhouse Recorder Courses; she also regularly coaches for the National Youth Recorder Orchestras (NYRO) and Recorders for All. Annabel is a keen music arranger, an interest which has now grown into an online sheet music business.

Fontanella has a Website

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