The subtitle of this documentary is "Recreating a Royal Spectacular". Peter Ackroyd chairs a group of experts as they attempt to recreate the journey made by King George I and his court upriver from Whitehall to Chelsea in the summer of 1717, accompanied by an orchestra playing Handel's newly-composed `Water Music'. (Ackroyd, in his opening introduction, talks incorrectly of floating "down the river from Whitehall to Chelsea".)
The experts are Andrew Manze (director of The English Concert); Simon Kahn (acoustician); Ken Dwan (former Royal Bargemaster); Ian Fisher (production designer); Philippa Glanville (social historian), who gets to visit the Society of Antiquaries; and Jeremy Black (political historian), who gets to visit Greenwich ... and Venice. The visit to La Serenissima is to explore the cultural, musical, and political connections - and the art of serenading.
The team succeed admirably and, perhaps, they themselves were amazed how well the whole experiment worked out. They manage to find a boat that is suitable for the re-enactment, which is then suitably decorated, whilst the orchestra learn to don period clothing, wear period wigs, read from period hand-written music sheets, as well (of course) play their period musical instruments.
The documentary lasts forty minutes, but the additional playing at night on the Thames takes sixty. The extras consist of the full concert played with the performers on screen, or instead with illustrated drawings of what the riverside would have looked like in 1717.
The disc comes with a booklet containing eight lengthy paragraphs by Donald Burrows about the circumstances of the occasion.