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The Song of Arms and a Man

The cast, from left to right: Llewelyn Morgan, Elizabeth Donnelly, Matthew Hargreaves, Dame Emma Kirkby, George Sharpley, Eileen Zoratti, and Callum Armstrong

Aulos player, Callum Armstrong


13 February 2019

The Bristol Classics Hub was delighted to support the second production of ‘The Song of Arms and a Man’, a live retelling of Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’ in the original spoken Latin.

On the 9 February 2019, school students and members of the public were treated to a live rendition of extracts from Virgil’s Aeneid. The title of the event – ‘The Song of Arms and a Man’ – refers to the first line of Virgil’s epic poem, composed during the reign of the Emperor Augustus. Over the course of two hours, a spellbinding performance ensued, as the poem was declaimed in Latin by a small cast and accompanied by the sombre and atmospheric sounds of an aulos, a period-authentic wind instrument.

Knowledge of Latin was not necessary to follow the performance, as each section of the poem was prefaced in English by Latin teacher George Sharpley, the mastermind behind this epic adaptation. The text and translation were also accessible in the beautiful programme, but as the evening wore one, it became clear that few were using the programme. Hearing Latin spoken by those who have a special talent for conveying classical verse was captivating. The audience barely stirred as scenes from Troy and the underworld unfolded within an archaic soundscape. With Virgil as our guide, the performers drew us back in time to ancient struggles for power, to the battles between Aeneas and the Latins, in this most famous mythical origin story for the foundation of Rome.

Our sincere thanks to George Sharpley and The Latin Qvarter (who produced the video), as well as the excellent cast, which included no less than Dame Emma Kirkby, Matthew Hargreaves, Elizabeth Donnelly, Llewelyn Morgan, Eileen Zoratti, and Callum Armstrong, The Piper from Spielberg’s War Horse. Thanks are also due to the Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition and the Bristol Classical Association, who contributed significantly to this event, and the event photographer, Melissa Cole.

Following two successful performances, this ancient story of a refugee leading his people from the east will be coming to the University of Oxford on 15th June 2019.

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