What do you get if you mix parsnips and a viol consort?

Root vegetables don’t normally feature in our concerts. To be honest, nor does anything you’re likely to find in the fruit and veg aisle. We like to mix things up a bit though, and this Winter we’re joined by Fretwork to explore ‘the cries of London’ mixing market sales patter with music for viols.


No root vegetables were harmed in the making of this 16th-century mash-up

This winter Fretwork is joined by vocal ensemble Red Byrd, performing a light-hearted 16th-century fusion of the sounds of the market (think a 1500s Billingsgate) and the music of a refined viol consort, based on ‘the cries of London’ by composers including Ravenscroft, Dering and Gibbons.

Intrigued? We were. So we’ve put together a quick-fire history of ‘the cries’:

  • The background: In 1530, London’s population was around 50,000 people, but by 1605 it had grown to over 230,000. It was one of the largest cities in the world. If you had stuff to sell, London was the place to do it.
  • What about shops? Most people couldn’t afford a shop, so they sold their wares on the street.
  • Closing the deal: With fierce competition for trade, the best way to attract passing customers was to shout out – loudly – about what it was they were offering.
  • And the music: This deafening cacophony of cries is set for voices against the backdrop of a viol consort, but don’t be fooled, it’s not a modern avant-garde early music experiment; this is 16th-century writing at its quirkiest, by English composers including Orlando Gibbons.
  • The shopping list: ‘The cries’ advertised everything from mussels, cockles, herring, haddock, to hot apple pies, chestnuts, cabbage, lettuce, turnips, and even white young parsnips. Have a listen and get a glimpse of what was on offer:

Hear it yourself: book tickets now >>


The Cries of London
Friday 4 December
Shoreditch Church (St Leonard’s)
Step back into 16th-century London >>


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