Norfolk movie premiere about Elizabethan madrigals man John Wilbye


- Credit: Archant

He was a heart-throb musician 400 years ago - with an eye for the ladies as well as an ear for lilting lute tunes.

That is the way Elizabethan madrigals man John Wilbye is portrayed in a new movie hatched in Holt, shot in East Anglia and being premiered in Norwich soon.

The stories and intrigue surrounding the 17th century maestro inspired music-loving filmmaker Tony Britten, whose Holt-based company was behind the comedy films Chick Lit and In Love with Alma Cogan shot in north Norfolk.

But Mr Britten, who famously wrote the Champions League football theme, has a deep interest in classical music which has also seen him capture the life of Benjamin Britten for the big screen, and operas for television.

Draw on Sweet Night centres on Wilbye, who wrote music for Sir Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Kytson at Hengrave Hall in Suffolk.

It shows him having liaisons with Lady Elizabeth, her daughter Lady Mary and the beautiful Lady Arabella Stewart.

The twists and turns of his love life, as well as his music are interwoven in the film which was shot mainly at Kentwell Hall, in Long Melford, Suffolk.

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Mr Britten said historical papers showed Wilbye, who was just a musical member of staff, received lavish gifts including a profitable sheep farm - presumably from Lady Elizabeth - yet after her death went to live with her daughter, giving rise to thoughts about his liaisons.

The film was '30pc fact and 70pc storytelling' about a man who wrote the sensual soul music of his day - making him an Elizabethan Ed Sheeran, he added.

'Madrigals are not about people going 'hey nonny no',' added Mr Britten. 'It was sexy music.'

He has penned a contemporary score, using madrigal references in tunes with searing rock guitar, and the ensemble singing of I Fagionlini.

The cast features newcomer Mark Arends as Wilbye and comic actress Doon Mackichan as Elizabeth. Former Dr Who Dalek actor Terry Molloy and Mary Lincoln, both from Norfolk, are also among the cast.

Draw on Sweet Night is premiered at Cinema City, Norwich on Monday September 7 at 6.15. Tickets £8 adults, £7 students and retired, £6 children. Call 0871 902 5724 or visit

See a clip of the movie at

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