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date: 28 February 2020

Act music(ii)locked

  • Jack Westrup


Music specially written for the celebration of the Act at the University of Oxford in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The Act, held originally in July, was a traditional function at which candidates for degrees gave public evidence of their fitness. In 1669 it was held for the first time in the newly opened Sheldonian Theatre (having previously been held at the university church of St Mary) and was incorporated in the ceremony of the Encaenia (the dedication of the building). Composers who contributed music for the Act, which flourished particularly in the period 1699–1710, included Locke and Blow. The Act ceased to be held after 1733, but the Encaenia continued as a ceremony for the commemoration of founders and benfactors and for the conferment of honorary degrees. The 1733 Act was celebrated with music composed and performed by Handel, and in 1791 Haydn's Symphony no.92 (the ‘Oxford’) was performed at the Sheldonian Theatre when he was awarded the honorary DMus. The only music performed now is an organ recital before the ceremony....

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