Bury St Edmunds: Historian makes musical discovery at Market Cross building
12:00 10 December 2012
A HISTORIAN has made what he described as an “exciting” discovery when he investigated musical notes carved in stone at a building in Bury St Edmunds.
Rob Lansman believes the Market Cross building in the town centre probably reveals the oldest ‘written in stone’ musical notation of the British national anthem.
While researching his new book on public art in the town, he took a closer look at one of four panels, or reliefs, which shows the horned Greek god Pan with what looked like a page of sheet music.
After taking a photograph of it, he enlarged the image and rotated it 90 degrees, revealing musical notes.
“It took a bit of guessing, but eventually ‘that’s it’. If you sing it you come across eight bars of the national anthem. It’s not the whole anthem, it’s the second bit from ‘send him victorious’.”
Mr Lansman, who is a member of the Bury Society, said the anthem first appeared in print, with words and music, in 1745 in the Gentleman’s Magazine and the first performance is thought to have been in the same year.
The Market Cross was built between 1774 and 1780 - including the creation of the panels - with the first floor becoming a playhouse.
Mr Lansman said the appearance, 30 years later, of part of the sheet music on the building fitted well into the chronology of the national anthem and its association with the world of theatre. He said the anthem always used to be sung in theatres.
“Since there is no other reference in the country of the National Anthem in this way - put on a building - I think this is the oldest example, and that’s quite exciting I think.”
There are four carved panels at the Market Cross showing masks surrounded by musical instruments, a key and weapons.
The one Mr Lansman refers to is on the right-hand side facing the market, but there are faint traces of a similar musical notation on a ‘sister’ panel at the back.
If anyone knows of an older or similar example in the country of a stone carving of the national anthem email Mr Lansman at firstname.lastname@example.org