Celebration of City's Long-Lost Composers; Work by a Little Known Composer Is Being Brought to Life by a City Ensemble Specialising in Historical Performance. Christopher Morley Reports

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Byline: Christopher Morley

EVER heard of a composer from the Midlands called Mudge? No, nor had I until Martin Perkins, curator of early instruments at Birmingham Conservatoire, brought his longneglected music into the light of day, and who is set to present it as part of a concert at the Conservatoire next week.

"Richard Mudge was an 18th century clergyman and amateur composer," Martin explains.

"He worked for most of his life at Packington, near Meriden, and as curate of St Martin's in the Bull Ring in Birmingham.

"There's a wonderful and unique chapel, built in 1789, in the grounds of Packington Hall, which is still the family seat of Lord and Lady Aylesford, whose ancestors employed Mudge - and who kindly granted us permission to perform and record there," Martin says.

"For musicians who specialise in historical performance practice, the opportunity to play music in a context associated with the composer always feels particularly rewarding.

"We released a CD from there earlier this year, including some Mudge, but also a host of other worthy Midlands composers of the 18th century, showcasing works which have never been recorded before.

"John Pixell, another amateur, was vicar of Edgbaston Old Church from the 1750s to 80s, and his collections of songs, for both devotion and diversion, contain some real gems. Alongside the church composers Barnabas Gunn and Jeremiah Clark (both organists at St Philip's), there were many other figures who contributed to the rich musical life in Birmingham."

Wednesday's concert is being given by the Musical and Amicable Society, which Martin Perkins directs from the harpsichord, and he tells me about the significance of this particular event.

"Every December for the last 10 years we've invited our core players to join us for a Christmas Concerto tour, to say thank you for all their hard work during the year. It's a chance for everyone to take the limelight - even the viola player! - and this year we're reviving our trademark Four Seasons (Vivaldi, of course) - Four Soloists."

And to return to the Packington connection, Martin explains the significance of the name of his performing group.

"The Aylesfords' patronage of 18th century musical life links directly to the activities of the society from which our ensemble takes its name - a fact of which we were unaware when we approached them about performing in the chapel.

"The Musical and Amicable Society takes its name from a music club founded by members of St Philip's choir in 1764. When we decided to form a new ensemble there were several things that mattered to us: as period musicians, we wanted to find a name that linked us to the past as well as situating us firmly in the Midlands, and we also wanted, as much as possible, to adopt a democratic ethos. …