Appendices

Arne's Cantata

performed in Saskatchewan

in 2000.

 

In 2000, possibly the only performance of Arne’s Cantata Reffley Spring since it was first performance in 1756, took place in Saskatchewan Newfoundland.

 

The following  section is  taken from a transcript of a talk about the Cantata which also includes the story of how the author came across the Cantata and a brief history of the Reffley Society),that  was given to the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies/ Societe canadienne d'etude du dix-huitieme siecle on 20 October 2001 as a part of a post-banquet entertainment which included a staged performance of Thomas Arne's cantata, mentioned below.

 

The Reffley Society:

Free Speech And Bacchic Revelry in Eighteenth-Century Lynn

 

For the past few vears. I have been attempting to catalogue a genre of music which is little known today. Although the secular cantata was a very popular form of music in eighteenth-century England. it passed out of fashion in the earlv years of the nineteenth century. and it has only been in recent vears that these musical riches that have lain dormant for so long have started to be rediscovered.

 

One morning. while sitting in the small librarv of the Royal College of Music in London '[the British Librarv having gone on strike immediately after I arrived!] I happened across a copv of a little-known cantata bv Thomas Arne, called Refflev Spring: A Contata composed for the Dedication of the Water to the Deities of Love and Social Enjovment. Someone, had written on the top of the score that this work was verv rare, and this was the only copv which the individual had ever seen. Although a published work (seeminglv from 1764). it would appear that few copies were printed. To date, I have located onlv three surviving copies. The cantata is generallv unknown to scholars. and there are no records of anv performance of the work after the celebration for which it was written. As I catalogued the work, I became aware that it contained many unusual attributes. Not the least of these was a text which was essentiallv a recipe for making punch! And, unlike anv other cantata which I knew, there was also a lengthv explanation given at the beginning of the score for a pageant-like Dedication Ceremony in which Venus and Bacchus joined a High Priest in the making of the punch, complete with instructions for movement and action. Clearly, this was a most unusual work, I made a mental note to return to Arne's cantata and see what I could find out about its history at a later time.

For a long time, the mysteries of Arne’s cantata, and the Reffley Society of Brethren who commissioned it, remained in obscurity. I was convinced that the cantata dealt with a real place, and a real ceremony for small print on the second page of the cantata stated that “Reffley Spring rises in a little Wood, about two Miles from Lynn in the County of Norfolk.”  The British library had maps which showed the location of this spring close to the village of South Wootton. Alas, the library could only provide one other piece of information about Refflev Spring at Spring Farm, and this was not particularly heartening. Pevsner’s two-volume study of Norfolk contained the following brief notation. Reffley Temple. Where Temple Road now is was a plain brick building, erected -by a Friendly Society- in 1789 and enlarged in 1831. Next to it, in a small circular pond, was a tall, needle-like OBELISK. re-erected in 1768. Engulfed by a housing estate and demolished in the 1980s. My heart fell upon reading the last sentence. Enquiries at the Norfolk and Norwich Central Library proved to be much more informative, and I am much indebted to Mrs. Dianne Yeadon there for pointing me in appropriate directions, and supplying me with clippings from local newspapers. I was able to discover that the spring mentioned in Arne’s cantata had a long and distinguished history, and that it formed an important part in the rituals practised by the Reffley Society in their meetings.

 

There are few documents concerning the founding of the Reffley Sociey lor Reffley Brethren as they were also known. The group was centred in the parish of Gaywood in South Wooton. just outside of Lynn (now, King’s-Lynn). Tradition has it that the Society was founded as a response to Cromwell’s edict of 1650 forbidding gatherings of more than 30 people. Residents of the area were staunchly Royalist in their sympathies (especiallv the wealthv ffolkes family), and the formation of the society appears to have been a form of protest so that free speech and the freedom of association were protected. That said, the number of members in the Society (all men of good standing in the community) was usuallv around 25, and it has never exceeded 30. The Society met only once each year in midsummer. Women. it would appear, were relegated to the task of preparing food for the male members. The Reffley Society appears to have taken its name from a mineral spring (much impregnated with iron salts) which rose up In the woods on property owned by the ffolkes family. Water from this spring was used to make a punch of which each member of the Reffiey Brethren- had to partake at the yearlv meetings. Toasts were given by the members of the society. and if all of the punch glasses were not put down on the table at exactly the same moment, the toast had to be given again, and another glass consumed by all. Given that the punch contained a fair amount of alcohol. and each glass to be downed in a single gulp. it is likely just as well that the society did not aspire to anything more athletic than a general spirit of conviviality, good fellowship and the gentle art of insult.

 

Although, with the restoration of the monarchy, the society appears to have lost its political significance, free speech continued to be practised at the meetings. but in a somewhat unusual manner. No one was allowed to take offence at anvthing that was said at a meeting, especially during the toasts. however rude they might have been. In addition to drinking many glasses of punch, the members enjoyed card games, ate a lavish luncheon of roast lamb and lobster salad, and smoked pipes containing a special blend of tobacco. While this may sound like a pleasant holiday outing. the society was still taken seriously in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and considerable sums of money were lavished on the site of the society's rituals. At some point, an obelisk was erected at the site of the spring, and a building erected for the use of the Brethren (known as the Reffley Temple). On 24 June 1756, a celebration of dedication to “Bacchus and Venus. the gods of this place" took place. At this time, a new obelisk was erected in the middle of the spring, and not in 1768 as stated in Pesvner.* Fearing vandalism, the Brethren caused a curse in Latin to be inscribed on the base of the obelisk; “Whoever shall remove or have removed this monument, let him die the last of his Ilne,"  It was Iikely this celebration which occasioned the composition of Arne's cantata. Certainly. a celebration would have been called for, and Arne was the most famous composer of secular music at that time.**   A more permanent temple, a brick octagonal structure, was erected near the spring in 1789. and subsequently, enlarged in 1851. A few pictures remain of the site before it was vandalized in the 1970s. Guarding the entrance to the temple were two stone sphinx, and inside the temple was kept the luxurious punchbowls, glasses, chairs, and pipes. Some of these treasures can be seen in a picture, taken sometime in the 1930s during an actual meeting. The punchbowls were made in 1818, the year that a Reffley festival was held. A description of the event was set down.

 

When In August 1818 Sir Martin Browne ffolkes. Bart ... was returned to Parliament, the 'Sons of Refflev' held a sort of a svlvan celebration of the event. A bugler stationed on the confines of the wood heralded the approach of the patron, who was received by a numerous company and preceded by musicians, was conducted to the scene of the feast. The rustic board was presided over by a Mr. Marsh who 'displayed those convivial talents which he so eminently possessed'; there were toast drinking and singing. and the wood resounded with the sounds of mirth and revelry, We are told that 'utensils for the dinner were supplied by the Mayor of Lynn ... :

 

The society appears to have had some interesting members. induding a certain Mr. Robinson Cruso," a auctioneer from Lynn, who, legend has it. inspired the title of Defoe's book. Since the meetings were restricted to a small membership, and were held in an isolated wood. rumours about the nature of the yearly gatherings were bound to spread.

 

"One year Fleet Street descended on the wood. looking for orgies ... -; they were quite disappointed.

 

In 1895, the Prince of Wales interrupted a hunt for a special lunch given him at the temple, and the brewmaster subsequently sent bottles of the punch to Sandringham Castle. The prince was asked to sign the visitor's book, which he did with a simple “George”. Bruce Robinson, -King's Lynn Secret Society comes out.· Eostern Daily Press, 21 September 1985

 

* Percy A. Scholes. The Great Dr. Burney. his life. his travels. his works his family and his friends. 2 vols. Oxford: OUP, 1948, II: 328.

** When Percy Scholes visited the society in the 1930s. he discovered that there was no long-standing
tradition of musical performance, beyond the singing of “Cock Robin” at the yearly meetings. Scholes also reports that the earliest surviving document in the records of the soclety date from 1789. the year after Arne's death. There Is no mention of either Arne or his cantata,

 

Alas, the twentieth century has not been so kind to the society or its holdings. The membership declined in the second half of the centurv. and the obelisk and temple were severely vandalized in the 1970s. Even bv 1964, the housing estate planned for the area created concern in the local press. An article was published in the Eastern Daily Press on 17 July 1964 with on accompanying photograph which shows the temple to be in a deteriorated condition. That which accompanied the newspaper article of 19 February l980 shows an even greater level of decay, and the effects of vandalism. By the latter date, however. the temple was unusable. and the societv made the decision to move its belongings to a safer (and seemingly, today, unknown) location. If the society is still active today, it has become exceedlngly secretive in its meetings. Alas. I fear that it has become inactive.4 Bv great good fortune, I discovered a web site dedicated to the temple, set up by a local resident. Mr. Paul Okill.(no longer online) He had stumbled across the remains of the site (it was NOT completely covered over by the housing estate). and posed the question if anyone knew anything of its history. We communicated, and Mr. Okill was kind enough to send me pictures of the ruins of the temple and the base of the obelisk. Fortunately. Arne's cantata has survived in somewhat better condition. Since the drinking of a punch made from the mineral water from the spring was such a large part of the society's meetings. it is not surprising then that the cantata text describes a pageant dealing with the making of the punch. There is only  one solo singer, and the chorus appears only in the final section. The soloist acts as the High Priest, while actors mime the parts of Venus and Bacchus. Specific actions are given in the preface of the publication:

 

The Company being [ar]ranged near the Spring. the High Priest. standing in the centre,(Crown'd with a wreath of Ivy, MIrtle, and the Roses.) begins the Recitative. [The following actions are indicated in the various sections of the cantata bv means of numbers in the text.]

 

            1 . Here all advance to, and encircle the Spring.

  • From a charger, brim full of excellent Punch (A liquor for which this Chalybeate Water is Celebrated) a Goblet is filled. and handed to the High Priest.

  • Here a quantity of loaf Sugar is thrown into the bason [sic1. which the Water flows into.

  • Whilst the Svmphony is playing, the High Priest gives the most Beautiful Toast in the Universe. Venus. which goes round. and the Air is sung.

  • From the charger a copious Bowl is filled, and delivered to the High Priest, as before.

  • Here a Bottle of Brandy is poured into the bason.

  • Again, while the Svmphony is playing, the High Priest gives the Toast most pleasing to those “Who, impotent of thought, puff away Care”. Bacchus goes round.

  • A lemon is squeezed into the Bason.

  • Here the Bowl is again replenished, and given to the High Priest.

  • Venus and Bacchus, the Deities of Reffley United, constitute the Toast that goes round, previous to the Song.

    An account of the first performance of the cantata still eludes me; however, the
    celebrations of 1756 are the logical occasion for the commissioning of the cantata. As
    published, Arne's music is scored for a chamber-music ensemble; however, the scores hints that a larger ensemble may have taken part in the first performance. If the first performance took place at the temple itself, the transportation of the choir and orchestra to the grove from Lynn must have been something of a task, there being no road into the grove. At this time, I should like to express my sincere appreciation to the Saskatoon  committee of this conference for commissioning the editing of the score of Arne's Reffley Spring, and arranging for its performance this evening. I strongly suspect that this is the first time that the music has been played since the eighteenth century. Indeed. it may be only its second performance ever. 5    5 A commercial recording of the work will be available in 2003. I am much indebted to Dianne Yeadon. enquiry assistant in the area of Norfolk Studies. at the Norfolk & Norwich Temporary Central Library (Norwich) for providing me with copies of newspaper dlpplngs and other information from this period. Initially, the meetings were held ot Hillington Hall, after the temple was no longer usable.                                                                                             

    Copyright Paul f. Rice
    St. John's, Newfoundland

    (Permission to use this material has been obtained from the author):

    School of Music
    Paul F. Rice
    Memorial University of Newfoundland,
    St. John's. Newfoundland
    Canada

 

 

 

The performance of Arne’s Cantata in 2000 was prefaced with an Introduction specially written for the occasion:

 

 

Venus & Bacchus
are pleased to invite all nymphs and shepherds
to a special ceremony of dedication of the famed
chalybeate waters of Reffley Spring to the
Deities of Love and Social Enjoyment.

As our loyal acolytes will know, the waters of Reffley Spring have been used for many years to make a very special and most satisfying punch drink by the Brethren of the Reffley Society. The Reffley Brethren, our most loyal followers, have arranged for a special ceremony which will take place at the Reffley Temple, and will include the dedication of a new obelisk erected in the spring to our very honour. The talented Mr. Thomas Arne has kindly agreed to compose a special cantata for the occasion which will feature of a band of musicians and famed singers from the mortal realms. Prithee share with us in this celebration of love and convivial pleasure, and enjoy the double intoxications which we, Venus and Bacchus, so graciously extend to you.

 

Reffley Spring:


A Cantata composed for the Dedication of the Water to the Deities of Love and Social Enjoyment, the Music by Dr. Arne.

      Arne's cantata, Reffley Spring, is little known today, and only a handful of copies are known to exist. Modern scholarship now gives the publication date of 1764, although the date of the composition of the work is not known with certainty.1 Other mysteries surround the work, especially the celebrations which occasioned its composition.


The remaining evidence points to the work having been commissioned by the Reffley Society, a group centred in the parish of Gaywood in South Wooton, just outside of Lynn (now, King's-Lynn). The formation of this society dates back to 1650 when Cromwell passed an edict forbidding gatherings of more than 30 people. Residents of the area were staunchly Royalist in their sympathies (especially the wealthy Ffolkes family), and the formation of the society appears to have been a form of protest so that free speech and the freedom of association were protected. That said, the number of members in the society (all men of good standing in the community) has never exceeded 30. With the restoration of the monarchy, the society appears to have lost its political significance and, by the eighteenth century, the society's meetings had become social and convivial celebrations which were held yearly.


The society appears to have taken its name from a chalybeate spring which rose up in the woods on property owned by the Ffolkes family. Water from this spring was used to make a punch of which each member of the "Reffley Brethren" had to partake at the yearly meetings. In addition, the members enjoyed a candlelit meal, and smoked pipes containing a special blend of tobacco. Eventually an obelisk was erected at the site of the spring, and a building erected (known as the Reffley Temple) for the use of the Brethren. On 24 June 1756, a celebration of dedication to "Bacchus and Venus, the gods of this place" took place. At this time, a new obelisk was erected in the middle of the spring.2 One wonders if it was not this celebration which occasioned the composition of Arne's cantata. Unfortunately, the earliest surviving document in the records of the society dates from 1789, the year after Arne's death.3 A more permanent temple, a brick octagonal structure, was erected near the spring in 1789, and subsequently enlarged in 1851. Unfortunately, the obelisk and the temple were severely vandalized in the 1970s and, sadly, the site was subsequently given over to an housing estate. The society still existed in the 1980s, but reports in the local newspapers indicate that the membership had dwindled.


The consumption of a specified amount of a punch made from various liquors and the spring water was a prerequisite for entry into the temple by the brethren. It is the process of making this punch which forms the actions associated with Arne's cantata. Although not an opera, there are specified actions in the work, which make it perhaps akin to a pageant. There is only one solo singer (tenor voice), and the chorus appears only in the final section. The tenor soloist acts as the High Priest, and actors mime the parts of Venus and Bacchus. The following actions are specified in the publication, and the score contains the numbers (given in parentheses) which pertain to specific actions:

The Company being ranged near the Spring, the High Priest, standing in the centre (Crown's with a wreath of Ivy, Myrtle, and the Roses), begins the Recitative.

 

  • Here all advance to, and encircle the Spring.

  • From a charger, brim full of excellent Punch (a Liquor for which this Chalybeate Water is Celebrated) a Goblet is filled, and handed to the High Priest.

  • Here a quantity of Loaf Sugar is thrown into the bason [sic], which the Water flows into.

  • Whilst the Symphony is playing, the High Priest gives the most Beautiful Toast in the Universe, Venus, which goes round, and the Air is sung.

  • From the charger a copious Bowl is filled, and delivered to the High Priest, as before.

  • Here a Bottle of Brandy is poured into the bason.

  • Again, while the Symphony is playing, the High Priest gives the Toast most pleasing to those "Who, impotent of thought, puff away Care". Bacchus goes round.

  • A Lemon is squeezed into the Bason.

  • Here the Bowl is again replenished, and given to the High Priest.

  • Venus and Bacchus, the Deities of Reffley United, constitute the Toast that goes round, previous to the Song.



1. The earliest editions of the Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians gave the date of publication as being 1772.

2. Percy A. Scholes, The Great Dr. Burney, his life, his travels, his works, his family and his friends. 2 vols. Oxford: OUP, 1948, II: 328.
3. When Percy Scholes visited the society, he discovered that there was no long-standing tradition of musical performance, beyond the singing of "Cock Robin" at the yearly meetings.

4. I am much indebted to Dianne Yeadon, enquiry assistant in the area of Norfolk Studies, at the Norfolk & Norwich Temporary Central Library (Norwich) for providing me with copies of newspaper clippings and other information from this period.

Paul F. Rice
September 2000
Memorial University of Newfoundland
(permission to use this article given by the author.)