It’s a commonality between all civilisations, and tightly bound into our history, but something we rarely think about is where music has actually come from. What discoveries, fashions, rivalries and triumphs led us to the music we have today, and what could we have ended up with instead? With the aid of harps, lyres, a dulcimer, something called a ‘shawm’, and several more besides, Clare Goodall crafts forty-five fascinating minutes on the history of music that left her audience a little more interested, quite a bit more informed, and a lot more entertained.
Clare is like the school music teacher everyone wishes they’d had. From the moment she welcomes the audience in with the strains of a dulcimer it’s obvious you’re in the presence of a very talented musician, something she demonstrates repeatedly throughout. She’s a gifted storyteller too. Despite the multitude of instruments littering the space in the Radisson, more potent than all of them is, in fact, Clare’s own voice. Not just her singing voice (though that is also impressive) but her talent for bringing a story to life, bolstered by Rafe Beckley’s smart direction. One suspects a large part of this is Clare’s obvious passion for the subject matter. Great love for the instruments and the history behind them is what drives the show and keeps it lively (I can personally attest that Clare is the sort of person who reflexively apologises to a harp if she puts it down too roughly). The best demonstration of this came right at the end, after the bows, when she invited the audience to use the remaining ten minutes for a brief Q&A about anything that might have piqued our interest. Several people were happy to oblige and Clare proved herself to be just as verbose and knowledgeable without a script as with one, so much so that Space staff looked to be on the verge of physically dragging her out.
The show is attempting to cover a very broad subject and the runtime does leave you with the slightly frustrating feeling of having barely dipped a toe in an ocean. Even filling out the demands of the title was a struggle; we covered a lot of lyres but relatively little sex, and the barest hint of audiotape. But really, if you put this show into the simplest terms it is just a very talented and enthusiastic person sharing a huge amount of knowledge about a subject they completely love. And what is there to fault about that?