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Peter Ackroyd introduces the project, which re-creates as accurately as possible the first and, surprisingly, only performance of the Water Music on the Thames. Segments with each of the experts (history, music, costumes, boats, sound, and production) lead up to a substantial final sequence of the reconstructed barge on its journey from Westminster to Chelsea and back, costumed musicians playing for all they are worth on the upper deck. In an envoi, the experts and the musicians all say the project was, as it seemed, tremendous fun. The whole thing takes just under an hour, the last third of which is almost entirely music.

From the music-lover's point of view the 'Extra Feature' may actually be the main course. It consists of a complete performance of all the music used in the show, three movements of the Suite in F and five of the Suite in D, with a choice of video footage on the side.

A still from the performance 'extra', angle/view 1 selected, showing a section of the panoramic view of London between Whitehall and Chelsea as it would have been in 1717, illustrated by Stephen Conlin (2005). © 2003-5 BBC Worldwide Ltd/Opus Arte
A still from the performance 'extra', angle/view 1 selected, showing a section of the panoramic view of London between Whitehall and Chelsea as it would have been in 1717, illustrated by Stephen Conlin (2005). © 2003-5 BBC Worldwide Ltd/Opus Arte

One can either watch the musicians on the barge [watch and listen to an extract from the 'extra' section], or shots panning gently along a panoramic watercolour painting of the river as it was in Handel's time -- a compact brick city, then open fields with the occasional house or village up to Ranelagh and the Hospital at Chelsea [watch and listen to an extract from the 'extra' section].

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Copyright © 7 June 2006 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia

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