Christmas Gambols

Charles Dibdin | Christmas Gambols

Two of Dibdin’s famous one-man shows – an ideal seasonal stocking filler


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“This is a splendid CD of little-known music extremely well performed…which deserves many listens for pure enjoyment”

Roger Blackburn | MusicWeb International

“Mr Butteriss is well capable of wringing every bit of theatre from this type of work and in doing so is ably assisted by Mr Higgins.”

Paul Jackson | British Music Society Newsletter

This is the first album devoted to the songs of Charles Dibdin. Having written and composed the most successful English operas of the 1770s, and achieved fame as an actor and singer, Dibdin developed his own one-man show, allowing him to display all his talents. He called these shows, in which he stood or sat at a piano, ‘Table Entertainments’. His songs were written to be presented dramatically in these shows, and Retrospect Opera have recorded the songs as they were originally meant to be heard, in the first ever recreation of the Table Entertainments. The Musical Tour of Mr Dibdin is a shortened version of Dibdin’s first Table Entertainment, from 1787, while the main piece, Christmas Gambols, is a complete Christmas show from 1795. Christmas Gambols, a celebration of traditional Christmas games and festivity, offers the fullest picture of an eighteenth-century English Christmas available anywhere.

Charles Dibdin’s Christmas Gambols, a delightful musical celebration of an eighteenth-century Christmas, was recreated for us by the inimitable Simon Butteriss and is accompanied by an abridged version of The Musical Tour of Mr Dibdin of 1788. This is the first ever recreation of the sort of one-man musical show, or ‘Table Entertainment’, for which Dibdin was famous. Simon, accompanied by Stephen Higgins on a replica eighteenth-century fortepiano, recorded these works between 19-22 June, at the Proper Music Studios, London, and the CD is now available to buy in our online shop.

Charles Dibdin

Charles Dibdin (1745-1814) is a gigantic figure in the history of English song, probably the most important composer of English comic operas in the late 1700s, and, in addition, he was the most versatile entertainer of his age.

Dibdin sprang to fame at the age of nineteen, playing the part of Ralph in Samuel Arnold’s opera, The Maid of the Mill(1765). Three years later he established his reputation as a composer with The Padlock (1768), an opera in which he stole the show himself, playing the black servant, Mungo. James Boaden recalled: ‘Dibdin, by his music, and still more by his acting in a comic opera, called the Padlock, produced that degree of sensation in the public which is called a rage.’ His fame secured, in the 1770s Dibdin began writing his own librettos, producing both words and music for the two most enduringly successful operas of the decade, The Waterman (1774) and The Quaker (1775), both of them still being revived a century later. Despite all his success in the London theatres, though, Dibdin was touchy and quarrelsome, finding it increasingly hard to work in co-operative environments. Recognising this, in 1787 he staged the first of his one-man musical shows, or ‘Table Entertainments’ as he called them, Readings and Music. Back in 1767, Dibdin had been the first musician in Britain to perform on a piano in public. His interest in the instrument had continued, and in his Table Entertainments he stood, or sat, at a piano, telling dramatized stories and playing and singing songs. This format allowed him to display all his talents and became Dibdin’s principal means of engaging with his public. He opened his own little London theatre, called Sans Souci, in 1791, and continued to perform until 1809. During these decades, Dibdin wrote hundreds of songs, most of them introduced in his Table Entertainments, including the most famous of all, ‘Tom Bowling,’ originally part of The Oddities (1789). Dozens of these songs were still regularly sung decades later: no other eighteenth-century composer contributed more to the nineteenth-century English song repertoire.

(c) 2016, David Chandler

Christmas Gambols

Despite Dibdin’s immense importance in the history of English song and musical theatre, very little of his music has been recorded. The full scores of all but one of his operas have, unfortunately, perished, and most of his Table Entertainments would be impossible to recreate, as the spoken parts exist only in very fragmentary form. But one of Dibdin’s shorter Table Entertainments does survive relatively complete: Christmas Gambols of 1795. This was designed specifically as a Christmas show and includes superb examples of the different song types Dibdin specialised in: the patriotic song (‘England’s Tree of Liberty’), the sentimental song (‘Love at Fifty’), the humorous song (‘The Margate Hoy’ and ‘The Rustic Orpheus’), the popular ballad (‘Jacky and the Cow’), and the song with naval interest (‘Ned that Died at Sea’). They are sung by different characters in Dibdin’s irresistible shaggy dog story, with a background of Christmas festivity in the mansion of a fine exemplar of Old England, Sir Alfred English. There are references to kissing under the mistletoe, playing blind man’s buff, Father Christmas, and decking the hall with boughs of holly. Christmas Gambols affords a delightful glimpse into late eighteenth-century popular entertainment and notions of Christmas long before Charles Dickens and Christmas cards.

(c) 2016, David Chandler

The Musical Tour of Mr Dibdin

Charles Dibdin (1745-1814)

Baritone | Simon Butteriss
Fortepiano | Stephen Higgins

1 | Introduction: Nothing Like Grog – Ladies and Gentlemen
2 | The Cape of Good Hope – I shall now introduce you to
3 | Nothing like Grog (reprise) – ‘May our sea of delight’
4 | Ned that Died at Sea – They then talked of authors
5 | The Siege of Troy – Our company did not conceive
6 | The Return of Ulysses – Surprised by this effusion
7 | Zounds, Sir! – The song over, the actors returned
8 | Jack at the Opera – The company being all lovers
9 | Conclusion: Nothing Like Grog

Christmas Gambols

Charles Dibdin (1745-1814)

Baritone | Simon Butteriss
Fortepiano | Stephen Higgins

10 | Ladies and Gentlemen
11 | England’s Tree of Liberty – It will be proper to notice
12 | Love at Fifty – Scarcely had Alfred made his father
13 | The Rustic Orpheus – ‘Well, Stingo,’ said the Baronet
14 | The Pedlar – ‘Well, but Stingo,’ said the Baronet
15 | The Margate Hoy – ‘But, hollo! you Stingo’
16 | Jacky and the Cow – ‘But see,’ said Stingo
17 | A Song of Songs

Christmas Gambols Friends | 1 anonymous donor | The Ida Carroll Trust | The Rt Hon the Lord Heseltine and Lady Heseltine (Life Members) | Howard King | Sue Lowe | Maria Serafica (Life Member) | Roger Turner (Life Member) | Judith Waddicor (Life Member)

Christmas Gambollers | Jeremy Barlow | Frederick Burwick | Jane Girdham | Eiichi Hara | Øyvind Erik Jensen (Life Member) | Deborah Pfuntner | Michael Sharp | Janet Snowman | Strictly Jane Austen Tours | Allan Sutcliffe | Gillen Wood |

Christmas Gambols Sponsors | Nahoko Miyamoto Alvey | Karen Arrandale | Kaori Ashizu | Paul Blake | Hugh and Alison Chandler | Tania Chen | Penelope Corfield | John Dibdin | Paul Douglass | Stephen Gill | Todd Gilman | Teiko Hatsui | Richard Haynes | Dick Hill | Natsuko Hirakura | Derek Hughes and Janet Todd | Yuki Isaka | Piet de Jong | Mamiko Katayama | Kathryn Kimball | Ichiro Koguchi | Michael John Kooy | Dame Felicity Lott | J & J Lubrano Music Antiquarians LLC | Mark Lussier | Robert van Mackelenberg | Kaori Mizuno | Tomoya and Haruko Oda | Peter Otto | Seamus Perry | Andrew Pinnock | Robert Reynolds | Leslie Ritchie | David Shuker | Tony Strangis | Carl Thompson | Hirohisa and Akane Tsuji | Min Wild | Duncan Wu

Christmas Gambols Supporters | 1 anonymous donor | Miharu Abe | The Jane Austen Society of Australia | Graydon Beeks | Andrew Bennett | Jacqueline Bratton | Jonathan Brewer | Gavin Budge | Sally Bushell | Eric Christen | Steve Clark | Colin Coleman | Emma Dibdin | Pam and Tony Dignum | Jamie Findlay | Christina Fuhrmann | Hikaru Fujii | Noriko Fujino | Chikako Fukuoka | Harriet Guest | Keith Hanley | Hiroshi Harata | Ellen T. Harris | Masayo Hasegawa | Judith Hawley | Takao Imamura | Felicity James | Nanako Konoshima Kanamori | Kazumi Kanatsu | Yorimichi Kasahara | Noriko Kato | David Kennerley | Chiharu Kikuta | Hidemi Kobayashi | Mark Lockett | April London | Jon Mee | Meiko O’Halloran and Jon Quayle | Michael O’Neill | Joseph Ortiz | David O’Shaughnessy | Michael O’Shaughnessy | Joel Pace | Judith Page | Judith Pascoe | Lynda Pratt | Nicholas Roe | David and Sheri Rollison | Simon Sanada | Toru Sasaki | Rebecca Shaw | Christopher Simons | Jane Sutherland | Masashi and Mitsuko Suzuki | Ruriko Suzuki | Sae Takeuchi | Fiona Tomkinson | Neil Vickers | Ayako Wada | Alex Watson | Irene Wiltshire | Yasuhiko Yoshida | Saeko Yoshikawa”This is a splendid CD of little-known music extremely well performed…which deserves many listens for pure enjoyment”

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by Retrospect Opera | Work In Progress