Monday, 29 January 2018

Friday 23 February 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery

Raleigh and his son in 1602. From a copy in Fairlynch Museum, based on the original in the National Portrait Gallery, London

London’s National Portrait Gallery has 48 portraits in which Sir Walter is the sitter, including this striking painting of Raleigh and his son Walter. And its Director Nicholas Cullinan was born in the New World, in Connecticut. So it’s good to see that the NPG is the location for the first London event to honour our great Devonian.

On Friday 23 February, from 6.30-7.30 pm, soprano Gillian Gingell Wormley joins lutenist Din Ghani, founder of the group Musicke in the Ayre. It will be the group’s sixth appearance at the National Portrait Gallery, in an event marking the 400th anniversary of Sir Walter Raleigh’s death.

Entitled ‘“Amor et virtute”: a portrait in song of Walter Raleigh’, the programme will comprise songs based on his poetry, as well as some associated with other significant personages - Queen Elizabeth, the Earl of Essex, Prince Henry to name a few - and with the New World which fascinated Raleigh.

Entry is free, and early arrival is recommended!

There will be a similar concert featuring soprano Jane Hunt at Christ Church in Frome, on Saturday 7 July, part of Frome Festival

A further concert takes place in Bath on Thursday 11 October. This is part of Musicke in the Ayre’s regular series at the Museum of Bath Architecture, and will be a duet version of the programme, with Jane Hunt and Philippa Neaverson.

Both the Frome and the Bath concerts will still have the same title: “Amor et Virtute”.  This was the motto chosen by Raleigh for his 1588 portrait in the NPG, seen above. The painting was intended as a compliment to Elizabeth I: he is shown dressed solely in black and white, the Queen’s colours. A crescent moon, representing her as the moon-goddess Cynthia, can be seen in the top left corner. It hovers over a patch of wavy water, recently discovered during conservation work, and clearly intended to be a pun on Sir Walter’s name. The motif is also found in Raleigh's poetry, and indicates his willingness to be controlled by the Queen as the moon controls the tides.

‘We are open to invitations to bring this programme down to Devon!’ Din told me. So I’m leafing through the calendar to see if they can perform on Sir Walter’s home ground.  ‘I’m a bit of a Devon girl at heart myself,’ says Gillian. She has a cottage in South Brent and trained at Dartington College of Arts 40 years ago. She’ll be running her weekend retreat for singers there in March this year. Gillian’s website is at

Musicke in the Ayre evolved from the informal lute-song workshops that Din began organising at his home in Wiltshire. It was conceived as an umbrella performing group for varying combinations of singers working with Din on lute, and sometimes with other instruments such as the bass viol, violin, or a second lute.  The musical styles range from Renaissance to early Baroque.

Din met many of the singers of Musicke in the Ayre at Dartington International Summer School over the last 10 years, having accompanied most of them in Dame Emma Kirkby’s masterclasses there.

You can hear performances at
(including some of Gillian) and at


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