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All at Sea with Admiral Jeggy
on 17 February 2012
With great dignity, Admiral Jeggy descended to the galley of his trireme, the HMS Duke of Dorset (the flagship of the period practice squadron). Sprucely, he sat in his curial chair. Facing him were the `umble players of the English Baroque Soloists, chained to their oars and looking none too nourished. The Monteverdi Choir were cowering behind them. Nearby were four wan-looking soloists who had likewise befallen catenation; the challenge ahead was known to them and fearfully so. Crispian Steele-Perkins, stationed down the back, was nervously polishing his cornet.
"Milord," an adjutant stammered, "corsairs are in the vicinity. It's probably the battle-fleet of Richter the Hun. They've been performing the Magnificat and Cantata No. 51 in a traditional style. What is thy bidding, my master?"
Admiral Jeggy picked up a back-issue of the Gramophone (featuring himself on the cover).
"England expects these poor scratchers to do their duty. Cruising speed!"
The adjutant nodded at the nearby drummer. With a groan, orchestra and choir alike launched into the Magnificat. It was a spruce affair whose fearsome speeds and the over-prominent timpani masked the absence of spirituality. As he leafed his way through the Gramophone, the sea-lord looked up occasionally to gauge the progress of his minions.
"Tut-tut!" he squawked. "Attack speed!!"
Sweat was copious. Violinists were falling over at their oars - not even the whips could prompt them to keep up with the impossible beat. The baritone and tenor added their warbles to the cacophony. Long minutes later, Admiral Jeggy casually threw away his mag.
The last movement of Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen was upon them. Even the Admiral's entourage - no strangers to horror - looked on askance as violinists toppled over like kingpins. Tonal beauty and phrasing now meant nothing to the English Baroque Soloists: in turn, each of them befriended the cat o' nine tails. Shrill and pert, Kirkby was cadaverous. Ruddier than a beetroot, Crispian Steele-Perkins hooted away. Thankfully for all concerned, an end was brought to proceedings.
"What a triumph!" Admiral Jeggy purred to himself as he returned daintily to the bridge.