Buxton Pump Room Talk – Water Music
Music has always been a central feature of the experience of taking the waters in Europe’s spas. Initially it was provided as a distraction from the grim business of swallowing large quantities of evil tasting water and wallowing in steamy baths. Bands played in the early mornings and late afternoons in pump rooms and bath houses as patients dutifully took their prescribed cures. Later, as spas became fashionable and attracted royalty and aristocracy, composers came in search of patrons.
Buxton has a rich history of spa music. Initially, a uniformed band provided by the Duke of Devonshire played while people took the health-giving waters. Later a 30 piece orchestra took up residence in the concert hall known as the Octagon, built in 1876 as part of the Pavilion Gardens complex. The opening of the Opera House in 1903 brought another orchestra and during the season it was possible to hear more than seven hours of live music a day.
Using letters, diaries and other primary sources Ian Bradley tells the story of music making in spas, focusing especially on Buxton, revealing romances between musicians, candid accounts of concerts and conjuring up the unique atmosphere of ‘water music’.
Ian Bradley, already known as one of world’s leading authorities on and enthusiasts for the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, is also highly active in and maintains a very high profile at summer spa music festivals.
He has broadcast regularly on music for the BBC including most recently a documentary transmitted on 25 October 2008 on BBC Radio 3 under the title ‘Water Music. He is Vice President of the Arthur Sullivan Society and honorary life president of the St. Andrews University Gilbert and Sullivan Society with whom he has performed several principal bass-baritone roles.
He has also acted as consultant to the D’Oyly Carte Company. His abiding passion for operetta and music is fitted into his more serious life as a minister in the Church of Scotland, University Chaplain and Reader in Practical Theology and Church History in the School of Divinity at St. Andrews University.
He is the author of more than 30 books.