How did eighteenth century readers use their miscellanies? Titles like The Evening Songster or Laugh and be Fat suggest that many were performed informally, in the home, with friends or family. To give a glimpse of that world of informal music-making, here are some clips of a house concert, performed by Alva, with a small audience who sang, laughed and drank their way through a selection of popular ballads and songs. The programme was based on a 1788 miscellany called The Yorkshire Garland, which is a typical eighteenth-century hotchpotch: gambling, racing, a pastoral idyll (set in north Yorkshire), doomed love, and deathbed confession. The miscellany itself can be viewed below.

The Ballad of John Bolton

Alva (4 mins 5 secs)

This ballad, sung to the tune of 'Fair lady, lay your costly robes aside' is based on the true story of John Bolton, tried on 17 March 1775 for the murder of his pregnant apprentice, Elizabeth Rainbow. Bolton was sentenced to execution, but strangled himself on the morning before he was due to be hanged. Like many of the 'true life' popular criminal biographies of the period, the song combines the sensational and grisly detail of the crime with a moralising condemnation of the act.

The Horse Race

Alva (2 mins 52 secs)

York and Yorkshire was famous for horse-racing, and nowhere more so than Gatherley Moor, near Richmond. Then, as now, racing was all about the wager.

In Praise of Yarm

Alva (4 mins 40 secs)

Yarm, a small town on the south bank of the River Tees, not only boasts BBC Breakfast's 'Best High Street' of 2007, but it is also, according to this song, verdant, peaceful, and affluent – the seat of the goddess Minerva. The chorus 'content, independent, serene and at ease' is sung here by the audience.

The miscellany

Site by Michael Atkinson