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March 11, 2003

What Were the Top 40 Hits 200 Years Ago? Colonial Williamsburg Musician Records CD of 18th-Century Standards

After 200 years, renowned 18th-century musician Peter Pelham still can be heard playing the harpsichord at Colonial Williamsburg’s Governor’s Palace. Musician and interpreter Michael Monaco brings Pelham and his music to life in concerts for guests to the 18th-century capital of Virginia. Guests now can take a piece of musical history home with the CD, “Keys of the Palace,” featuring colonial keyboard music. “These are not concert selections,” said Monaco. “These are the sort of compositions colonists would experience in the day-to-day living in Williamsburg.”

More than 20 works written by 18th-century composers were chosen for the recording. Selections include: “Minuet” by Peter Pelham; “Air” by George Friedrich Handel; “Scot’s Ground” and “Lesson by Lully” by Scottish music publisher Robert Bremner; and “Pastorale” by Charles Wesley. In addition, Monaco arranged several pieces for the CD, including “Beggar’s Opera Medley,” “Rule Britannia” and “God Save the King.”

As staff harpsichordist for Colonial Williamsburg, Monaco performs historic music on period instruments. For the CD, he used 18th-century instruments that are part of Colonial Williamsburg collections. The antique instruments include a 1758 Jacob Kirckman harpsichord, a circa 1780 James Ball pianoforte and a 1750 Adcock and Pether bureau organ.

Williamsburg’s chief musician for more than 50 years, Pelham first arrived in Williamsburg in 1751. Pelham served as the organist at Bruton Parish Church from 1755-1802. He supplemented his income as clerk for Royal Governors Fauquier and Botetourt. Royal Governor Lord Dunmore appointed him keeper of the Public Gaol, a position he held from 1771-80.

Monaco, who joined the music staff at Colonial Williamsburg in 1997, began portraying Pelham in 1998. Monaco has been a professional musician since he first played the church organ at the age of 12. He is a graduate and former faculty member of Mannes College of Music in New York City. Monaco also is the harpsichordist for the Governor’s Musick, Colonial Williamsburg’s resident performing ensemble.

Colonial Williamsburg Productions, the foundation’s in-house production company, recorded the CD in the Supper Room at the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. The CD can be purchased for $17.95 at Williamsburg Booksellers, Everything Williamsburg, the Craft House on Merchants Square, the Williamsburg Lodge Gift Shop and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum Gift Shop, as well as through 800-770-5938 and the e-commerce web site at

Known worldwide as the nation’s largest living history museum, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is a not-for-profit educational institution that operates the restored 18th-century capital of Virginia. For more information, call toll-free (800) HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s web site at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121