Friday, December 31, 2010



Here's the program for the New Year's Day concert. Above are some pictures of the rehearsal. Concerts are 8PM Jan. 1, 2PM Jan. 2nd at the Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave. Get there early as it will possibly sell out. Doors open a 1/2 hour before concert time.

A New Year’s Day Concert

Cantata - Risoluto son gia Antonio Caldara (1671-1736)

Recitativo-Aria-Recitativo-Risoluto


Sonata "Victori Der Christen" Heinrich Biber (1644-1704)

Der Türken Anmarsch-Der Türken Belägerung Der Stadt Wien-Der Türken Stürmen-Anmarsch Der Christen-Treffen Der Christen-Durchgang Der Türken Victori Der Christen


Per commando del mio bene Antonio Caldara

Aria-Recitativo-Aria


Aria in Modi Variata Wolfgang Ebner (1612-65)


Intermission


Piéces in F# minor Jacques St. Luc (1616 – c. 1710)

Tombeau De Mr. François Ginter, Allemand-Courante-Sarabande -Menuet


Toccatina-Capriccio Ferdinand Richter (1651- 1711)


Cantata- All’ombra di sospetto Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Recitativo-Aria,-Larghetto-Recitativo-Aria, Allegro


The Musicians in Ordinary

Named after the singers and lutenists who performed in the most intimate quarters of the Stuart monarchs’ palace, The Musicians In Ordinary for the Lutes and Voices dedicate themselves to the performance of early solo song and vocal chamber music. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards have been described as ‘winning performers of winning music’. Now in their 10th anniversary season of concerts in Toronto, they have concertized and lectured across North America at institutions ranging from the scholarly to those for a more general public: the Universities of Alberta and Toronto, Trent, Syracuse, York Universities, the Bata Shoe Museum and Artists in Residence at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Their CD Sleep Wayward Thoughts, Elizabethan and Jacobean music on the various facets of slumber, is available at intermission.


Guests

Christopher Verrette is in his 18th season as a member of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, with which he is a frequent soloist and concert master both in Canada and abroad. He is a graduate of Indiana University, where he was awarded the first-ever Performer's Certificate for accomplishment on the Baroque violin and was a student of Stanley Ritchie. Since that time he has been committed to the growth of Early Music in the American Midwest as a founding member of Ensemble Voltaire (Indianapolis) and the Chicago Baroque Ensemble and has collaborated with numerous period-instrument ensembles around North America. In recent seasons he has played music from six centuries on violins, vielle, rebec, viola and viola d'amore. His recordings range from old favourites like Beethoven and Mozart symphonies and Pachelbel's Canon, to hitherto unrecorded sonatas by Bertali and other seventeenth century composers, new arrangements of Playford tunes on Throw the House out of the Windowe for Marquis records, John Welsman's score for the independent Canadian film The Limb Salesman, the soundtracks of Touchstone Pictures’ Casanova and CBC Television’s series The Tudors.


Recipient of the 2007 Montreal Baroque Prize for Audaciousness and Musicality, harpsichordist Sara-Anne Churchill is in demand as an orchestral player, chamber musician and soloist. She has recently appeared with I Furiosi Baroque Ensemble, Aradia Ensemble, Orchestra London, Niagara Symphony, Mississauga Symphony, The Musicians in Ordinary and Capella Intima. One of the first graduates of the new Advanced Certificate in Performance-Baroque Option, jointly offered by the University of Toronto and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Sara has also received instruction from Olivier Fortin, Skip Sempé, Richard Egarr, Carole Cerasi and Luc Beauséjour. While completing a Bachelor of Arts in Music at the University of Western Ontario she developed an intense interest in early music and historical keyboards and studied harpsichord with Sandra Mangsen. Sara completed a Masters of Arts in Musicology at UWO in 2006. Her thesis, a translation and commentary of a French baroque harpsichord continuo treatise, was later published in Performance Practice Review. She currently studies with Charlotte Nediger and is a candidate for the Doctorate of Musical Arts in Harpsichord Performance at the University of Toronto.



A New Year’s Day Concert

After a glut of Messiahs and other pre-Christmas concerts, the Toronto concert calendar listings, and particularly those on the Early Music calendar, get rather thin in the first weeks of the New Year. We offer again this year a selection of Viennese music as an alternative to the Blue Danubes and Tristch-Trastch Polkas of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s Day Concert and those of their imitators.


Antonio Caldara was born in Venice and was employed at St. Mark’s Church as a cellist. In 1708 he moved to Rome where he worked with Handel, Corelli and the Scarlattis. After Handel’s departure for England, Caldara followed him as Cardinal Ruspoli’s maestro di capella and in 1717 gained employment at the Imperial court in Vienna, where he was responsible for operas on the birthdays and name days of the Emperor and his consort, as well as other operas and sacred music. This enormous workload meant his salary peaked at a whopping 3900 florins, but he felt the need to supplement it by writing operas for the courts of other Austrian nobles. He is said to have died of a stroke brought on by exhaustion.


Curiously, the sonata celebrating the victory of the Imperial forces at the Siege of Vienna began life as a sonata depicting the Crucifixion composed by Biber. This rather astonishing re-application of a ‘program’ might have been made by the ‘Schmelzer’, to whom the piece is attributed in the manuscript, and who probably composed the last movement, not found in Biber’s sonata. Johann Schmelzer was a violinist at Vienna, but died before the siege, so perhaps his son Andreas was the adapter. The piece is written for scordatura violin. The three lower strings are tuned up a whole tone, but the music notates, not the pitches, but where the violinist is to put his fingers. For example, on a normally tuned violin placing the first finger on the second string gives B, but because it is tuned up, even though a B is notated, it sounds as C. The violin part, then, looks like musical gibberish.


Ebner was the organist at Stephansdom, Vienna, and was associated with the Imperial court from 1637 until his death in 1665. He was obviously highly favoured since his salary was double that of the now more famous Froberger. Ebner began as the organist for the Kapelle and later became the Kapellmeister at the Cathedral and the official composer for the ballet. Most of his music was destroyed in World War II -- the best-known pieces that survive are the variations for harpsichord based on a theme by Emperor Ferdinand III himself. Hailing from Würzburg, Richter was recognized by Pachelbel as the greatest representative of south German keyboard music. Upon his appointment as court and chamber musician to Leopold, Richter taught two future emperors, as well as Leopold’s other children.


Italian plucked string players at the court included Orazio Clementi (theorbo and guitar) and Francesco Conti (theorbo and mandolin). These men played obbligato parts in operas. The theorbo, though we might think of it as the chordal part of the basso continuo group, was still much used as the melodic bass instrument, interchangeable with the cello or viol, well into the 18th century. It is in this role we use it in the cantatas. Lutenist Jacques Saint-Luc played the French baroque lute, which then had 11 pairs of strings and was tuned to an open d-minor chord, with basses tuned to whatever scale the piece required. His pieces show that multiculturalism flourished in the Holy Roman Empire, at least as far as matters concerning instrumental music. St. Luc was born in what is now Belgium, but was then the Hapsburg Netherlands. He came to Vienna, where he was employed by Prince Eugene of Savoy. His Tombeau on the death of François Ginter (Adam Franz Günter) is in the key favoured by French lutenists for tombeaux. The lack of open strings in F# minor gives the lute a covered quality.


Antonio Vivaldi visited Vienna on the many tours he undertook towards the end of his life, some with the singer Anna Girò. The presence of her sister as chaperone on these tours did nothing to stop gossip that Anna was his mistress, and in fact suggestions were made that the arrangement was even more scandalous than just that of an old priest sleeping with a young singer. Emperor Charles VI invited Vivaldi to come to Vienna and as Vivaldi’s music went out of fashion in Venice in his last years he picked up and moved to the Austrian capital. Before he could get established the Emperor died and a period of mourning meant a moratorium of public performances. Vivaldi himself died penniless the same year and was buried in Vienna in a pauper’s grave. His house was on the site of the hotel where Vienna’s famous Sachertorte is said to have been invented.


Translations

Risoluto son gia, tiranno amore

Recitative

I am now determined, tyrant Love, to dissolve those bonds which held me a base prisoner for so long. My rational soul teaches me that you falsely betray every faithful heart. Now I am learning to scorn the proud disdain, which brought so much torment to this unfortunate soul Now your true worth awaits you, imminently. The heart will put bitter war before treasonous peace.

Aria

Arms, deceptions, arrows, chariot, you have wielded these, blind ingrate, against this injured heart. Standing firm always affects one so that fleeing with your passion, with triumph and away from fear.

Recitative

That fearful panic that spurs the soul to flight in the face of danger is mostly submission, since it recognizes the greater of that which is the danger itself, and when the unexpected calamity arrives, it enters and tears apart the ill-defended breast, which it found already weakened, which the weapons of Love at last conquer. Better is burning courage than vile fear.

Aria

War, war, to arms, to arms! Thus shall I dare to advance into the palace of glory. My heart shall hold fast to that duty until either death or victory makes my valour worthy.


Sonata "Victori Der Christen"

Der Türken Anmarsch - Advance of the Turks

Der Türken Belägerung Der Stadt Wien-The Turks Besiege the city of Vienna

Der Türken Stürmen-The Turkish Assault

Anmarsch Der Christen-The Advance of the Christians

Treffen Der Christen-The Christian Engagement

Durchgang Der Türken-Withdrawl of the Turks

Victori Der Christen-Victory of the Christians


Per commando del mio bene

Aria

By order of my beloved, my heart languishes in a thousand sufferings, but my heart cannot endure so many injuries of guilt; It is immersed in a sea of troubles, every hope of salvation from such hardship, between help and constancy, is already lost.

Recitative

Wretched! How did I sin? What did I do? If I deserved the suffering which pierces my heart, you stars, my enemies, say it, or say it yourself tyrannous Phyllis! Say it! But before you condemn me, cruel one, to such harsh martyrdom, to such heavy scorn, I protest to you and I swear to you that I am not, nor ever was, guilty. If before punishing me you had listened to me, you would know that my faithful heart could never offend you, cruel one, neither in thought, alas, nor in desire. Wretched! How did I sin? What did I do?

Aria

Innocence is worthless, faithfulness is useless, neither do I hope for pity from a thankless beauty. Cruel disdain and false pity fear constant and faithful love with cruel indifference and proud severity.


All’ombra di sospetto

Recitative

From the shadow of suspicion, my constancy, suffering, loses somewhat its confidence, and to such beautiful allurement, some trust departs.

Aria

The heart is not accustomed to the bittersweetness of love, which soothes suffering with its fegned charm. Scorn will come to those who love passionately on impulse.

Recitative

O, how many lovers, true and faithful, are deluded by shrewd flattery amid the chains of love. Many languish, and frequently blood is shed to prove true love. Formed from the ardor of charming beauty, the soul struggles each hour, and the derided lover is deceived again and again.

Aria

False happiness is the real torture of the loving follower. Merciless beauty has darts, those glances that waver with distress.



Monday, December 20, 2010


The program for the New Year's Day concert is coming together. There'll be some late 17th century music as well as some 18th century.

Hallie will be singing two cantatas with violin by Antonio Caldara who was at Vienna from 1717 till his death from a stroke, perhaps brought on by overwork, in 1736. His court duties were to provide an opera for birthday and the name day of the Emperor and his consort as well as a large scale oratorio every Lent. The 3,900 Florins he was getting a year he was getting a year for that was not enough apparently, so he took on work composing operas for other Austrian nobles on the side.

There'll be a Vivaldi cantata. Vivaldi died and was buried in a pauper's grave in Vienna. He moved there to start afresh as an opera composer just before the Emperor died. Operas were cancelled during the period of mourning, so he never caught on.

Sara Anne Churchill will play some variations by Wolfgang Ebner on a theme by Emperor Ferdinand III and Chris Verrette will be playing a sonata attributed to 'Schmelzer' (probably Andreas, since his more famous dad, Johann was dead by the event) in the manuscript which is a programatic piece on the defeat of the Turks in the Seige of Vienna. Except it's probably really a piece by Biber and the subject is the Crucifixion. There's a picture of the score above. You'll see the violin is tuned to a scordatura with the lower three strings up a tone from where they are usually. The notes on the staff tell you where to put your fingers as if the strings were tuned normally, rather than representing the pitches that come out, so the violin part looks like musical gibberish.

There might be some pieces by Jacques St. Luc for the French lute in F# minor, which apparently the French baroque lute players thought was the saddest of all keys. (Later plucked string players have attributed that quality to the key of D minor. See this video.) Many memorial pieces called Tombeaux were composed in that key by French lutenists perhaps because it has a muted, covered quality on the French lute, since there are no open strings. The viol player Marais made his Tombeau de Lully in that key too, but says if you are going to accompany it with a keyboard, you should tune up a half step and have the keyboardist play in G minor, because the temperament in F# minor would sound awful.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Tomorrow we are singing a set on the Christmas concert of St. Martin's Chorale. We'll be doing Alessandro Grandi's O quam tu pulchra es, which is a mash up of phrases from the Song of Solomon which is commonly applied to the adoration of the Virgin Mary. Then we'll do a motet that is specifically about her by Barbara Strozzi, O Maria. It uses phrases and images from the Song of Solomon more freely. Both of these sound like good old Italian love songs of the 1620s (Grandi) and 1650s (Strozzi). The groaning suspensions that Grandi uses to set the phrase, 'hurry up and come because I am languishing with love' is especially unrestrained in its graphic depictiveness.

The Counter-Reformation really worked hard to dazzle the church goers with beautiful things that would draw them into devotion, and the beautiful BVM and love songs to her were very popular for churches, and the chambers of princes. You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs, but they hadn't in church in 1630, if they were in Latin.

We'll finish off with a Cantata by Maurizio Cazzati, in Italian, so not church music if indeed the others were, and not for private devotions. It starts off 'Che fo, che tardo?' What am I doing? Why am I hanging around?' when the baby Jesus has been born. It's a great piece.



Monday, November 29, 2010


We are getting ready for a series of Advent Vespers services at the lovely chapel at St. John's Dixie Cemetery. We'll be joined by Alexa Wing, soprano, Graham Robinson, bass, and Justin Haynes on bass viol.

This week we'll be doing a Motet Psalm by William Lawes and some music from the Division Viol by Christopher Simpson.

William Lawes was killed in the Seige of Chester in the English Civil war. His Psalm settings for two trebles or tenors, a bass singer and thorough bass were published in 1648 and are dedicated to Charles I, by then deposed, but not executed, so there is a political sense to the book. As well as William's Psalms there are some by his brother Henry (who edited the book) and several elegies to William by John Wilson, Simon Ives and other composers. You can download pdfs of the part books here. There are a few of the Psalms that have been recorded, but they don't get the attention that reflects their popularity in the mid-17th century.




Tuesday, October 26, 2010



Here is the program and notes for Saturday's concert at Heliconian Hall. Click on the link for location etc. The picture above is by Gerard ter Borch. It's possible there may be one or two changes.

Songs for Anne Greene by John Danyel (1564-c1626)
Coy Daphne fled/Chast Daphne fled
Eyes looke no more
Let not Cloris thinke

Lute Lessons from Margaret Board’s Lute Book
Delyght Pavin John Johnson (d. 1594)
Delght Gallyard John Johnson
The Lady Phillyes Mask Anon.
I cannot keepe my wyfe at howme Anon.

Songs for Anne Greene by John Danyel
Time cruell Time
Thou prety Bird
Like as the Lute

Ann Twice Her Book
O let us howle some heavy note Robert Johnson (c1583-c1634)
Have you seen the bright lily grow Robert Johnson

Intermission

Eliz. Davenant Her book
Have you seen but a bright lily grow Robert Johnson
Woods rocks and mountains Robert Johnson

Songs for the Egerton Sisters by Henry Lawes (1595-1622)
Sweet stay awhile
Sweet Echo
To a Lady, singing the former Song

Lute Lessons from Margaret Board’s Lute Book
Midnight John Dowland (1563-1626)
Solus cum sola Dowland
Lady Banning her Almand John Stuart (d. 1625?)

Songs for the Egerton Sisters by Henry Lawes
The Rose
To a Lady, more affable since the War began
Tavola - In quel gelato core

The Musicians in Ordinary
Named after the singers and lutenists who performed in the most intimate quarters of the Stuart monarchs’ palace, The Musicians In Ordinary for the Lutes and Voices dedicate themselves to the performance of early solo song and vocal chamber music. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards have been described as ‘winning performers of winning music’. This is their 10th anniversary season of concerts in Toronto, and they concertize and lecture regularly at universities and museums across North America.

Before the Restoration, the English stage, was not a place where the educated woman was permitted to exercise the skills she had acquired in the sister arts of rhetoric and music. The more intimate and controlable domestic performance space, however was her’s to command.

John Danyel was the brother of the poet and playwright Samuel, who is the author of the lyrics ‘Lyke as the Lute’ and ‘Time cruell Time.’ John Danyel’s Songs for the Lute, Viol and Voice of 1606 is dedicated to Mistress Anne Greene, the daughter of a wealthy if not particualrly well-pedigreed knight, Sir William Greene. Danyel worked as a household musician for the Greene family. A few lines from his verse dedication will make clear the function of the songs in the collection.

To Mrs. Anne Grene…
That which was onely privately composed,
For your delight, Faire Ornament of Worth,
Is here, come to bee publikely disclosed:
And to an universall view put forth.

These songs, then, were written for Anne to enjoy, and probably sing in her lessons with Danyel.

Before he was engaged at court, Henry Lawes also worked as a household musician, for the more illustrious Egerton family. His duties included teaching the daughters of John Egerton, the Earl of Bridgewater, to sing. Lawes’ dedicated his Ayres and Dialogues of 1658 is to Alice and Mary Egerton, by then Countess of Carbery and Lady Herbert of Cherbury. The dedication says of the songs ‘most of them were composed when I was employed to attend to your Ladishipp’s education in musick’, that is, some 30 years earlier. Lady Alice performed and sang in Milton’s Comus, for which Lawes wrote the music. Since ‘Sweet stay awhile’ preceeds the songs Lawes wrote for that masque in Lawes’ autograph songbook, we can presume it was written when he was still teaching the girls.

While young women were not allowed to perform on the public stage in this period, we can be sure that they wanted to sing the latest stage hits at home if the contents of the songbooks written out by Ann Twice and Elizabeth Davenant are anything to go by. From Ben Jonson’s The Devil is an Ass we hear the song ‘Have you seen the bright lily grow’, and from John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi we present the dramatic ‘O let us howle.’

Margaret Board appears to have taken some lessons from John Dowland about 1620. By this time Dowland was complaining about the new musicians at court. Perhaps he assigned Margaret the pieces in here book by long dead composers like John Johnson, while she filled in the gaps with the latest masque and ballad tunes.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010


It was all TV and radio for us for the last few days. We chatted with the excellent Donna G on her program The More the Merrier on CIUT radio on Saturday about the upcoming Her Leaves be Green concert. There is a podcast of the show available at the link to her program.

On Monday were were on Daytime Toronto, where Hallie was identified as having 'the voice of an angel' by the presenter. The other presenter, Chris, was blown away, literally and figuratively, when the diminutive Hallie opened up the hood an revved it up a bity for the higher stuff in Henry Lawes and John Donne's Sweet stay awhile, he sitting on the couch next to her. He then reached over and moved the mic on the coffee table back a foot or so.

This coming Saturday we'll be doing part of the Leaves be Green show at an academic conference at University of Toronto. Prof. Deanne Williams will doing a paper called The Paratextual Girl.

At the top is Mary Wroth with a theorbo. She is pretty proud of it I think.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


The pieces for the Musicians In Ordinary season opener at the Heliconian at the end of the month (download the brochure below for more details) are pretty much set. It's hard to time things when you are actually playing them; you are concentrating on the words or getting your fingers in the right place so you forget what the minute hand was on when you started or you are so pleased you got through it you forget you were timing it or, most likely, you crash and burn and don't get through it at all.

So if a piece has been recorded you can see how long it took someone else to play it and unless they play it twice as slow or fast, that's a good enough estimate.

Thus it was that I was looking on itunes to find how long it would take to play John Dowland's pavan Solus cum Sola. The title means 'alone (masculine) with alone (feminine)' or maybe 'He and She Alone Together', and since you leave your daughter alone in a room with her lute teacher it seemed a good thing to play. You may have read in the news that Apple Inc. boss Ian Apple has been censoring slightly risque apps for the iphone and it seems that his crusade has expanded to cleanse the works of lute composers of the Jacobean era. The word 'cum' in Solus cum Sola has had the 'u' replaced with an asterisk. This also seems to be the case with all the Baroque and Classical mass movements that start with the words C*m sancto spiritu. I will never be able to listen to Bach's Mass in B Minor in the same way again.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I have been thinking for the last couple of days about the intersection of lutes and the emergency services. I have not been thinking about it very hard, because, as you can imagine, there's not many places they meet.

One is the diary entry that records that Inigo Jones, architect and designer of Stuart masques was sent to see the constable because the theorbo he was importing might be 'some engine brought from Popish countries to destroy the king.' (But it's abbreviated, so it might not even be constable.)

The other is this amazing picture from the Lute Society Journal. You can see this fireman rescuing a lute and an end table from a fire at the library in Linkoping, Sweden in 1996. According to the article inside the lute is by a maker called Raphael Mest, (c1590-after1658). The two headed arrangement which you can just about see would not be common in southern Germany, so I wonder if it was added later for a collector because the 2 peg-box arrangement looks kind of cool. Anyway, thanks to this fireman we'll never know the answer to the question 'What's the difference between a 10 or 11 course lute they'd be making in Fussen in the early 1600's and a 12-course two headed Dutch lute? (The answer, adapted from the viola joke repertoire, would be the one burns longer, but there is also 'holds more beer' etc.)


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Here is the 2010-11 brochure. Download and subscribe and donate (but where is says you get a tax receipt it is only in Canada).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Here are the set lists for the Toronto Early Music Centre fair, Sat. Sep. 25 at Montgomery's Inn, 4709 Dundas St. West, at Islington. The sets are about a half hour long each.

The words here are from Danyel's book. You can see that you can use either a pro- or anti-acquiesence text depending on your audience.

3PM Set - A Musicall Banquet
Lady if you so spight me John Dowland
O eyes leave off your weeping Robert Hales
Si le parler et le silence Pierre Guédron
Dovro dunque morire Giulio Caccini
Pavan Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder
Sir John Smith his Almaine John Dowland
In darknesse let me dwell John Dowland

4PM Set - Her Leaves be Green
Coy Daphne fled John Danyel
Lyke as the Lute Danyel
Philips Pavan Peter Philips
I cannot keepe my wyfe at howme Anon.
The Rose Henry Lawes
Tavola - In quel gelato core Lawes
2 Songs from Comus Lawes
To a Lady, more affable since the Lawes
War began


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Here are the concerts for 10-11 season. Click the blue CanadaHelps button to the right if you want to help us hire a small orchstra for New Year's Day. I'll be posting more on these in the next few days between working on getting the season brochure ready. Email us at musinord@sympatico.ca if you'd like a copy mailed to you or a pdf emailed to you.

Her Leaves be Green – Oct 30, 2010 – 8PM
The above rhyme is from the dedication of John Danyel’s Book of Ayres of 1606. We present a concert of music written for Miss Anne Greene and the Egerton sisters, students, and later patronesses of songwriters Danyel, Henry Lawes and John Bartlet. Lute pieces from the manuscript collection of Margaret Board will round out the program, and John will have prepared by practising the exercises in that book in the hand of her teacher, John Dowland.

New Year’s Day – January 1 – 8PM and 2 – 2PM, 2011
Our immensely popular celebration of the New Year with music of 17th and 18th century Vienna, with cantatas and sonatas by Conti, Vivaldi and Caldara. An instrumental ensemble will be led by Christopher Verrette.

Blame Not My Lute – February 5, 2011 – 8PM
John plays lute solos from Elizabethan and Jacobean England. Pavans, galliards, jigs, fancies and dumps.

Rococo! – March 12, 2011 – 8PM
In the Parisian intellectual salon, men like the encyclopaedist Diderot, liberal thinkers like Rousseau and even a pre-imperial Napoleon would gather, literally, at the foot of the bed of great ladies. And after a hard afternoon’s reporting to one’s patron how the encyclopaedia or the thinking or the revolution plotting was coming along, one would need to unwind with some chamber music. Hallie sings, John plays Baroque guitar and Christopher Verrette joins us on violin.

A Sa Lyre – Apr. 16, 2011 – 8PM
The Renaissance saw the lute and guitar as their substitute for the Classical lyre. Indeed, Ronsard (who the French call the Prince of Poets) wrote odes to all three instruments, using ‘lute’ and ‘lyre’ interchangeably in one poem, depending on what rhymed. This concert will see us singing settings of the great poets of 16th century France, Saint-Gelais, and Clement Marot set by Sermisy, Goudimel and others, with dances from the country that invented ballet.

The picture above is by Gerard van Honhorst. It's painted on a ceiling so it looks like the musicians are playing down to you from the balcony. There is a theorbo and another lute and a parrot outside the crop. You can see that the blonde singer supports the Boston Red Sox as does Hallie.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


This year is also the 400th anniversary of the Varietie of Lute Lessons which was compiled by Robert Dowland too. The book is a collection of, though you wouldn't think it from the word 'lessons', sometimes very difficult solo pieces by English, French, German and Italian composers. It starts off with a translation of Besard's lute method Necessarie Observations Belonging to the Lute and Lute Playing. Besard tells you to use what was to become the 'Baroque' lute technique with the thumb outside the fingers. Make a fist with your right hand as if you were hitch-hiking, then put your pinky on the soundboard of the lute and that is the new technique. The old one is to hold your pinky and thumb as if you were holding a pen so that when you alternate plucking thumb and forefinger the thumb goes into the palm of your hand. Here's the old Renaissance hand position, painted by Jan van Scorel in the early 16th century:

And here's the new hand position, with the lute player Charles Mouton painted by François de Troy in 1690:

Besard, as I say, recommends the new hand position, 'execpt thy thombe be short.' Well, mine is very short, and I think the old technique works better for the older pieces in the book. The piece you can listen to above or download here, for instance, is by Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder, who died in 1588. I think that the older technique favours the polyphonic nature of most of the works in the book, but that the corantos (actually new French style courantes) in the end of the book are better with the thumb outside. The older technique makes it easier to bring out the polyphony and the new technique brings out the treble and bass, which is more polarised and uses 'style brisé' decoration, rather than 'divisions'.

So what technique do you use for the music of John Dowland, who contributes to the book tips for how to buy strings and how to tie your frets on in the right place? (The placements come out as just about equal temperament.) There are more pieces by John Dowland than any other composer in the book. I usually play them with my thumb inside in the old manner, but he lived in a period of transition. Saying 'this is a recording of John Dowland's complete lute works with original instruments and authentic playing techniques' is impossible. In addition to the changing technique and his lute going from having six to nine or ten pairs of strings in his lifetime, there are usually several versions of his pieces.

The type of dance you hear above, the pavan, is a slow dance which is almost like a processional onto the dance floor. There are usually three sections, or 'strains' they would say, each of which are repeated. You can hear Ferrabosco's written out decorations, they would say 'divisions' in the repeats of the strains. Alfonso Ferrabosco the Elder is the composer of the piece that the crazy lord can't get out of his head in Rose Tremain's book Music and Silence which was very popular a few years ago.

Thursday, August 19, 2010




Here is another piece from A Musicall Banquet of 1610. As I say in the last post, the book has a couple of solo 'madrigals' as he termed them by Giulio Caccini. Caccini worked for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand I de' Medici.

Though his publication of 1602, Le Nuove Musiche, is taken as a watershed between Renaissance and Baroque music, the ideas that shaped its contents were very much of the Renaissance. Caccini, with his colleagues at the Florentine court, Jacopo Peri, Vincenzo Galilei and others, were creating the 'new music' in imitation of the Ancient Greeks, who they knew declaimed poetry in the rhythm and pitches in imitation of spoken text; sort of a heightened poetry reading. Since they Greeks used the lyre and kithara to accompany themselves, they developed the new instrument the 'chitarrone' (big kithara?) which Caccini specifies as the best accompaniment for the voice in his long preface to Nuove Musiche. (The name chitarrone dropped away after a few of decades and theorbo became the most widely used term for the instrument.) Other instruments could be and were used though, because Caccini has the music printed with the singing line, and a bass line, with figures from which the lute player, or the chitarrone player would make up chordal accompaniment.

Robert Dowland (or Diana Poulton thinks it may have been his dad) makes up the accompaniment for the purchaser of Musicall Banquet; I guess the skill of figured bass playing wasn't widespread in England yet. His accompaniment, which I am using in this mp3 recording (which you can download for free here), is in lute tablature which tells you exactly what notes to play and where to put your fingers. It's busier than you would make up from a bass line, especially if you were playing the cumbersome and loud and sustaining chitarrone/theorbo. Caccini might have criticised it for getting in the way of his freedom to declaim the text, because for him, it's all about the singer and the text and, indeed there are a few other manuscript sources of tablature accompaniments from Italy that are less busy.

Here's a translation. You can hear that Caccini has carefully considered how an over-emotional man might berate his lover and represented it in pitch and rhythm. The words are by Giovanni Battista Guarini.

Amarilli, my love,
Don’t you believe you are my love, heart's desire.
Believe it and if doubt assails you,
Take my arrow open my breast,
and you will find written on my heart:
Amarilli is my love.


Thursday, August 12, 2010


This year is the 400th anniversary of the printing of A Musicall Banquet. It's a collection of songs compiled by Robert Dowland, son of John. Inside the collection are 3 songs by John (Farre from triumphing court, with words by the formentioned Sir Henry Lee, Lady if you so Spight me, and In darknesse let me dwell), a bunch of songs by guys who were otherwise not known to be songwriters (Anthony Holborne, Daniel Batchelar and Robert Hales, who was Elizabeth's favorite singer and sang the formentioned His golden locks at its premier). It's also got a number of French airs de cour, some Spanish songs and some Italian, including Caccini's Amarilli and Dovro dunque with written out lute accompaniments instead of just figured bass.

The poets are given credit as well in a lot of cases. There are some by Elizabeth's lover, the Earl of Essex, and some of the 'Songs' (as opposed to sonnets) from Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella. One of these Sidney songs, In a Grove, was written to a pre-existing tune by Guillaume Tessier. Tessier's air originally set a poem by Ronsard, so Sidney is imitating French poetic meter just by using the tune as a model. (I've linked the poems so you can compare if you are skilled in the French tongue.) Sidney did this in other places in his Certain Sonnets collection.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Here's what Chris Verrette and I played on Sunday at St. James Cathedral.

Chris played with the violin in the short ribs (well, maybe not quite that low, but Matteis was said to play with it down there quite late in the 17th century).

Thomas Baltzar, Prelude
Biagio Marini, Sonata variata

Anon., Prelude
Marini, Romanesca

Anon., Prelude
Orlando di Lasso/Verrette, Divisions on Suzanne ung jour

Anon., Passacaglia from Sonate "Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern"


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Today we did an emergency concert at St. James Cathedral's Music at Midday series, since one of the performers who were booked had to go and look after a sick mom. The concert went pretty well, especially considering we only knew we were doing it 15 hours earlier. The music we performed is below.

I explained how 'His golden locks' was for the retirement celebration for Sir Henry Lee, Queen Elizabeth I's champion at the Accession Day tilt games.

There is not a picture of us playing so here is a picture of me putting a new fret on my 7-course lute this morning. You tie the fret gut on a little down the neck, then burn the ends of the knot so they bunch up and get tighter, then slip the fret up to where it needs to go. As the neck widens towards the body the fret gets tighter, so that, theoretically, it doesn't slip around and go out of tune. I can do the upper frets OK, but have still not got the hang of tying the first fret (which doesn't have as far to slip up the neck) very tight. I think that luthier Michael Schreiner uses pliers, and though I am, as you see, willing to put an open flame next to my lute, I am strangely uneasy about wielding metal tools around it. Curious.

The matches, by the way, are from the house owned by American industrialist J.P. Morgan, which is where the memorial service in the last entry was held.

Here's what we sang at the cathedral:

Unquiet thoghts - John Dowland (1563-1626)
I saw my Lady weepe - Dowland
Come again - Dowland
So, so, leave off - Alfonso Ferrabosco the Younger (c.1575-1628)
Ancor che col partire (Lute solo) - Jean-Paul Paladin (d. 1566)
His golden locks - Dowland
In darknesse let me dwell - Dowland

Monday, July 26, 2010




On Sunday afternoon we sang a short set at the pre-Evensong concert at St. James Cathedral. The songs were from Harmonia Sacra, published by Henry Playford from 1688 and later expanded editions. It has all the Purcell sacred hits including the above and the Blessed Virgin's Expostulation etc. It would have been for domestic use; to sing at home on Sunday when you are feeling pious and penitent, after singing his booze and fart joke catches on Saturday night. We did some John Blow on the concert too. I played it on the theorbo. Here's a pic of that taken by Darryl Edwards (no relation).



Saturday, July 24, 2010


Chris, Hallie and I played this week at the funeral of our good friend Leah Robinson, who lived in Connecticut. We played 19th century American hymns accompanied on the Ashborn guitar. Amazing Grace, Ps. 23 to the tune Resignation, Jerusalem my happy home (because she always had a happy home when we were gigging in the New York area and stayed at her place) to Land of Rest and Shall we gather at the river. Here is a picture of Leah and her obit.

Leah D. Robinson, 87, wife of the late David E. Robinson of Norwalk, died Sunday, July 4, 2010, in the Norwalk Hospital.

Born October 31, 1922 in Vancouver, British Columbia, she was the daughter of the late William and Mary Ruth Eaton. Mrs. Robinson attended art college in Vancouver and served in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service in London during World War II. She married David Robinson on September 16, 1946. They moved to Norwalk in 1956. In the mid 1960s, she was librarian at Kendall Elementary School. She later worked with her husband in the family business in Danbury, CT. In 2004, she took responsibility for the business, Process Measurement and Controls Inc., when her husband died. Known for her generosity, she opened her home to young people from around the world who wanted to learn English and have the experience of living in America. Some of her most cherished memories were of frequent trips to Mexico and Britain and summers at the family cabin in the Canadian woods.

She is survived by her daughters Joan Robinson of Toronto, Ontario and Mary Susan Bosch, her husband Steven Bosch, and their three children, Leah, Carter, and William, of Redding, CT. She is also survived by her sister, Grace Amanda Cooper, of Surrey, BC.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Off tonight to play at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies' appreciation party for Prof. Jane Couchman, who has been acting director this past year. Since she does Renaissance French literature we are singing some Clément Marot poems set by Claudin de Sermisy published by Pierre Attaingnant, a Basse Dance set from an Attaingnant book, a poem by Philippe Desportes set by Adrian Le Roy and a Ronsard poem about Love being stung by a bee set to music by Guillaume Tessier. Later, Sir Philip Sidney wrote his 'In a grove most rich of shade', a song from Astrophel and Stella to the Tessier's tune. That poem was published in Robert Dowland's A Musicall Banquet in 1610. We'll start off though, with an anonymous poem that tells us to Venes mes serfs et Bachus adorons... set by Clemens non Papa published in a lute version by Pierre Phalèse. The picture above is in Konrad Eisenbichler's garden from another RefRen event.

Program

Venes mes serfs et Bachus adorons by Clemens non Papa, from Hortus Musarum 2da Pars, Pub. 1553
Tant que vivray & Secoures moy by Claudin Sermisy, from Très Brève et familière introduction Pub. 1529
Ah Dieu! que c‘est un estrange martire by Adrian Le Roy, from Livre d'Airs de Cour miz sur le luth, Pub. 1571
La Magdalena-Recoupe-Tourdion by Pierre Blondeau from Dix-huit Basses Dances, Pub. 1530
Le petit enfant Amour by Guillaume Tessier, from Primo Libro d'Arie, Pub. 1582


Friday, April 23, 2010


Here are the program notes and translations for Saturday's show. And a picture of the guitar I'll be playing.

For us the guitar is a marker of direct, honest communication and non-elitist, even working class usage. 'I'll get out my guitar and play/just like yesterday/and get down on my knees and pray/we don't get fooled again.' wrote Pete Townshend. Even if the prosody worked, if he had written 'I'll sit down at my piano and play…' the meaning would have been different. For the aspiring and wealthy American of the mid-19th century however, the guitar had not yet acquired the meaning we attach to it. For them the guitar was associated with the classical guitarists of the European capitals of culture: Giuliani, Sor and Carulli. The guitar for them was a marker of civility and gentility and they demonstrated to themselves that they were just as cultured as those in the European capitals by consuming arrangements of art music and opera composed in those cities. But the burgeoning bourgeois culture of the antebellum United States was the one that left us the ballads of Stephen Foster, and unsurprisingly, some of the opera arias we present are adapted to that taste: compare the arrangement of the Barcarolle from Hérold's opera Marie (Batelier dit Lisette) to the sentimental Irish ballad Sweet Jessie was Young and Simple. There must have been a market for more bravura performances, though; who would have thought the aria Ah, non giunge from Bellini's La Sonnambula (in its English translation Ah, Don't Mingle) would have been suitable for performance in the parlor with the diminutive parlor guitar replacing the orchestra? The aria was arranged for every medium, including piano, violin and slightly later, classical banjo (sic).


P.T. Barnum (his famous circus has web presence now) brought one of Europe's most famous singers to North America in 1850. With the soprano Jenny Lind and the violinist Ole Bull, Barnum became a cultural tycoon as well as all the other kinds. Lind's success (she even performed at Toronto's St. Lawrence Hall) meant that the tag 'from the repertoire of Jenny Lind' ensured additional sales. Repertoire celebrating her was often arranged for and with guitar for those with aspirations to high culture, but without yet the means to acquire that most bourgeois of instruments, the piano.


The guitar's presence in Latin American music will be less surprising to us. Afro Latin rhythms first moved into the high art repertoire via the theatre. Many Spanish and Portuguese plays featured a stock black character, often a guitar player and often a figure of fun. One such character is told to give up his seat for a white man, but minutes later, after a performance of guitar music, gets his seat back so as to honour to the 'black orpheus.' Native Americans, too had an influence on this repertoire, participating in music making in church and vice-royal courts.


Latin American music was soon being exported back to Europe, as we hear in the songs printed in the Colleccion General and to North America with guitarists such as Delores Nevares de Goni, who taught in New York, toured both North and South America and was famous enough to have had a model of guitar named after her by C.F. Martin and Co. by the 1840s.


And where was Canada in all this? Unfortunately, we have not been able to discover what was being sung to the guitars which Martin shipped into Canada in the mid-1800s. Accomplished players left the country for the US in the last years of that century one becoming instructor of guitar at the illustrious Boston Conservatory. The National Library of Canada lists one single guitar song sheet published in Toronto and that lies in the British Library. More research needs to be done to find out whether our own parlours were as guitar friendly as those of our American cousins.


Batelier dit Lisette

Boatman, said Lisette, I wish to cross the water,

But I am too poor to pay for the boat.

Colin said to the beauty, come, come always.

And sail the vessel that bears my love.


I am going to my father, said Lisette to Colin

Well, do you think, my dear, he will grant me your hand?

Ah! replied the beauty, never stop trying.

And sail the vessel that bears my love.


After his marriage, always in his boat,

Colin was the wisest of the husbands in the hamlet;

He always repeated his faithful song,

"And sail the vessel that bears my love."


Ganinha, minha Ganinha

Ganinha my Ganinha

Ganinha my Lady

Ay la la, my heart,

To love is not worth it.


Se fores ao fim do mundo

If you go to the end of the world

I will have to go there to fetch you

Where ever you are

I cannot be without you


Por desabafar saudedes

To relieve the longing

That my heart suffers

When night falls to the mortals

I begin to sigh.


Os me deixas que tu das

The cold shoulders you give

When people touch you are so cute

I've never seen such in other girls


How I like, little lady, to tease you

When I see that you are angry with me


You get so agitated -

That satisfies me no end

And if I tell you to go


I once again imprison you

It is only to see

the cold shoulder that you give.


Homens errados e loucos

Wrong and crazy men

In what love you wrap yourself.

Of the enjoyable freedom

You remember very little.

Freedom, nothing more.

El Consejo

The Advice

Mistaken is she who brags of defeating her affection,

Because blind and cowardly Love never listens to reason.

And thus, pretty girls, flee the occasion because the little Cupid is always a traitor,

Showing his inhumane, hidden tyranny and if we search for him he distances himself quickly.

Don't trust who tells you I want your heart, since sometimes the tales are weapons that win with treason.

And thus...

Being cautious is what matters in early passion,

Since the whole world is lies, tricks and seductions.

And thus...

Pan de Jarabe

The Syrup Bread

I was your first love and now you don't let yourself be seen.

That this happens in the world to her who knows how to love.

Within your sight, my lord, I was joyful, I was happy,

But absent from your side, I didn't want to live any more.

The memory your image of calms, in part, my pain,

And the tender vows make me thankful for the illusion.

El Vejuquito

This new little tune of Veracruz has come

And it is brought by a little black girl,

Who sings it beautifully, Tai rai etc.

Behold it yourself, how nice it is. Tai rai rai etc.

They call it the Vejuquito,

And with this softness, numbs the senses.

A little Indian girl in her garden was picking flowers

And a little Indian boy was watching her and sings his love.

Tai rai rai etc.

A little Indian boy was telling her tenderly of his discomfort

“For your life, Soapile, dance for me the totaconiche.”

Tai rai etc.