Saturday, December 31, 2011



Here's the revised program for the New Year's Day concerts.

Sonata a Tre, Op 1, No. 9 in G Major Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)

Sonata in C maj. for violin & continuo Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

Passacaglia in g minor Georg Muffat (1653-1704)

Fantasia No. 10 in D Maj. Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)

Sonata Prima a Doi Violini Biagio Marini (c1597-1665)

Intermission

Ceccona Giovanni Zamboni (fl. early 18th c.)

Sonata Pisendel

Gulliver Suite Telemann
Intrada-Lilliputsche Chacconne- Brobdingnagische Gigue-Reverie der Laputier, nebst ihren Aufweckern-Loure der gesitten Houyhnhnms & Furie der unartigen Yahoos

Sonata a Tre, Op 1, No. 10 in G minor Corelli

We begin and end our concert with some of the most influential music of the period. It is impossible for us to overstate the popularity of Corelli’s trio sonatas, so we should leave it to Roger North, writing in the early 18th century, to tell us what the sonatas did, at least, to English musical culture. They ‘cleared the ground of all other sorts of musick whatsoever’ and ‘are to the musitians like the bread of life’ and contributed, with opera, to the ‘circumstances which concurred to convert the English Musick intirely over from the French to the Italian taste’. Corelli’s Opus 1 and 3 sonatas are scored for two violins, organ continuo with ‘violone or arciliuto’ as the melodic bass instrument.

As well as this suite on Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels Telemann wrote other ‘programmatic’ including orchestral suites depicting life on the river that runs through Hamburg, the battles of the Frankfurt stock exchange and the tales from Cervantes’ Don Quixote. We print the scores of two of the movements which show the tiny note values he uses for the Lilliputians (they are 256th notes, or, we think, demisemihemidemisemiquavers) and the huge time signature and note values he uses for the giant Brobdingnagians (their jig is in 24-1). Telemann’s unaccompanied violin Fantasias are far less famous than Bach’s solo violin works.
Vivaldi needs little introduction to concert goers. The sonata we present here comes from a manuscript which was owned by Charles Jennens, who wrote the libretto for Handel’s Messiah. Thus it also demonstrates how Italian music dominated England in the 18th century. Vivaldi wrote many sonatas for the violin virtuoso Johann Pisendel who worked at court in Dresden. It seems very possible these pieces have already been played on the same program.
Muffat was a much travelled musician who on his travels had met the masters of the Italian and French styles – Lully and Corelli. He wrote a manual for a German readership which discusses the difference between the styles, contemporary violin techniques (which you hear put into practice on this concert) instrumentation and many other topics of interest to we who are aiming for historically informed performance.

Printed in Lucca in 1718, the Sonate d’intavolatura di leuto Zamboni, a Roman who was lutenist at Pisa Cathedral, represents the swansong of Italian solo lute music, though the instrument continued to be used as a continuo instrument and as an obbligato instrument in operas and oratorios till the end of the baroque.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Out of the mists of the annual pre-Xmas concert and church service glut, the seasonal sniffles and family time absences the program for New Year's Day has emerged.

2PM Jan. 1st, 8PM Jan. 2nd
Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave. (near Bay Subway)
Tickets at the door, $25/$20 students & seniors,  Doors open a 1/2 hour before concert time.

Hallie Fishel – Soprano
John Edwards – Archlute
Christopher Verrette and Edwin Huizinga – Baroque Violins
Lysiane Boulva - Organ

We'll be doing a cantata, or 'Serenata' as it's labeled in the original manuscript, by Alessandro Scarlatti which starts with the words Correa Nel Seno Amato. It's for soprano, two violins and continuo. After comparing the modern edition we have to the original manuscript available on the excellent IMSLP site we found an number of changes made by the editor to rhythms so once again that site is a life saver.

We'll also be doing a Motet for the Blessed Virgin by Francesco Antonio Bonporti, which Chris Verrette, who's playing violin on this show, recorded a few years ago. It's the Feast of the Circumcision after all when Mary dropped of Jesus at the temple.

Chris will be playing a Vivaldi violin sonata and Edwin will be playing a Telemann Fantasia for unaccompanied violin. Also by Telemann is a suite on Gulliver's Travels for two violins without continuo. Pictured above is the Chaconne for the Lilliputians, which as you can see is in tiny note values to match the diminutive people who it is named for. There's also a jig for the Brobdingnagians in giant note values and a time signature of 24-1.

I will play another Ciaconna for archlute solo by Giovanni Zamboni. You can read about the archlute at wikipedia in the entry I created for it a number of years ago. It has been heavily edited since then, though, so please ignore the stupid bits (which I am not saying are not me). You will read there about Corelli's trio sonatas Op. 1 and 3 which has partbooks labelled violin 1&2, organ and 'violone o arciliuto'. The melodic bass part has the fugal entries and just as many continuo figures (which tell the player what chords to play above the bass) as the organ book, which would not be harmonized by a bowed bass instrument.

And Lysiane will also play a ground bass, a Passacaglia for organ by Muffat. Because as Frank Zappa said 'for people who don't understand what's going on in the rest of the song there's always the bass line.'

Friday, November 4, 2011


Hallie shows the correct 17th cent. etiquette as she curtsies to York U's Laura Pietropaolo

Yesterday had Hallie and me doing a lecture demonstration at York University for Laura Pietropaolo in the Italian Department on the early opera libretto. I played the chitarrone (or chittarone, it’s spelt both ways) or theorbo as it came increasingly to be called in the beginning of the 17th century.

We started with Dovrò dunque morire from Giulio Caccini’s Nuove Musiche of 1601. The poem, by Ottavio Rinuccini, has the poor/lucky protagonist protesting about his imminent death several times in the 2 ½ minute long song. This showed the dramatic force of the ‘new music’ at the beginnings of the Baroque.

We continued on with the Prologue to Dafne, which is sometimes called the first opera. Well a good chunk of it is recycled from one of the intermedi from a play for a Medici wedding and is very masque-like (that is to say, more about the spectacle and dancing rather than being a music-drama). The words for this were also by Rinuccini. Jacopo Peri sets the prologue, where the poet Ovid addresses the audience to the accompaniment of his lyre, in a much less dramatic style than the Caccini we had done. Indeed, the prologues to early operas are very often like that. The immortals and goddesses and personifications who populate the prologues are one dimensional (though I’m sure they had fabulous costumes and scenery): Ovid here, explaining that the opera will be in the ‘ancient style’, and the explanations of what is to follow that Tragedy and Music give at the beginning of  Peri and Caccini’s Euridice and Monteverdi’s Orfeo.

From this we moved to Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna from his opera for the Gonzaga court. All the music that has survived from L’Arianna is this lament, and even that is missing the punctuations of a chorus of fishermen who comment on Ariadne’s fate and a string ritornello. Monteverdi explains why he is able to provide such dramatic music for Arianna (now she’s angry for being dumped by Teseo, now she’s sad about being away from her parents, now she’s scared of the wild animals) in a letter to another librettist. She was a woman, not a disembodied personification or force of nature. Monteverdi writes –

‘I have noticed that the interlocutors are winds…And that the winds have to sing!... How, dear sir, can I imitate the speech of winds, if they do not speak? And how can I, by such means, move the passions? Arianna was moving because she was a woman, and similarly Orfeo because he was a man, not a wind.’

After performing this (with me playing a short passacaglia bass as a little ritornello to replace the fishermen) we sang the beginning of a contrafactum of the same piece this time with words making it a Lament of the Blessed Virgin, from a collection of Monteverdi’s sacred music.  So the opera libretto and its depictions of the passions of a jilted woman, influences a Counter-Reformation motet text. To prove this ‘operafying’ was not a one off, we sang a setting of Song of Solomon snippets set by Monteverdi’s vice-maestro at St. Mark's, Alessandro Grandi. Grandi’s dramatic love song wouldn’t be out of place in an early opera, except its being in Latin.

We then sang an aria by Stefano Landi, sung by Thetis, announcing the birth of the wine god Bacchus. Landi has got around the dramatic problem of the one-dimensional personalities of gods and goddesses by adopting a characteristic that was creeping into opera as it became a commercial entertainment, rather than a courtly one. Thetis’s air is just a beautiful tune, rather than cleaving close to the intellectual ideal of imitating speech as Ovid had done a few numbers earlier. Though Landi’s song was not for a commercial performance, it’s such a good tune it would certainly have sold tickets and put bums on seats.

And we finished  the operatic portion with another lovely tune from Sartorio’s Giulio Cesare the libretto of which was recycled into Handel’s opera of the same name. The Sartorio aria Pietà del mio languir is in the form of a tiny high Baroque aria (ABA or Da capo) except without a big orchestral ritornello and accompaniment.

For fun we finished off with a couple of non-operatic airs on ground basses (the standard chord patterns of grounds were increasingly used in mid century operas by Monteverdi and Cavalli).  S l’aura spira by Frescobaldi was a special request for Laura (the breeze-l’aura/Laura pun goes back to Petrarch’s girlfriend of that name) and is built on the Italian Folia. The funky Cantata sopra la Ciacona by Sances is always just plain fun. It’s been a long time since we’ve done that with the theorbo rather than the guitar.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This morning we did a guest lecture and sang some songs in a class studying Taming of the Shrew for Prof. Deanne Williams at York University.

We talked about how, for the Renaissance, the lute took the place of the Ancient lyre, using these pictures. Compare how the listeners to Orpheus the lyre player and Francesco da Milano (who died in 1547) are in nearly the same poses. (This is from an article by Roger Harmon in the Lute Society Journal in 1996.)








So what aristocrat, or socially climbing wannabe aristocrat merchant, wouldn’t want to get lute lessons to make his daughter more marriageable? All of the great and the good were imitating the Ancient Greeks and Romans - that’s what the Renaissance were re-birthing after all. The suitors in Shrew pose as Latin teacher and lute teacher to get close to the ladies, but they’re both peddling the same thing – a classical humanist education.

We sang Coy Daphne and Chaste Daphne from John Danyel’s songbook, which is dedicated to his student Miss Anne Greene. This has the tale of Daphne being chased Phoebus Apollo from Ovid (so she gets her classical myth lesson with her music lesson). In one set of words the listener is left wondering why she would not just acquiesce to his pursuit, but in the second, no doubt preferred by Anne’s dad, who was paying for the lessons and the dedication, she is praised for preferring to be turned into a tree rather than be ravished by the god. We then sang Like as the lute, the text by John’s brother Samuel, which is set like a needlepoint sampler of musical terms as Sam’s poem compares musical effects to his love. Then we sang Eyes look no more which seems like it may have been made to order when Anne or dad Sir William said ‘that Dowland song Flow my tears is very popular. Can you do us one like that?’

We then went on with some manuscript collections from a bit later, collected by Anne Twice and Elizabeth Davenant. These have lots of play songs which you might imagine a young woman being excited to sing, having just heard them in the theatre. Elizabeth’s songbook particularly has lots of written out ornaments as you might hear a pop diva now embellishing the Star Spangled Banner. Maybe Elizabeth’s book has a didactic bent too, to teach her how to ornament.

We finished with songs from the youth of the Egerton sisters, daughters of the Earl of Bridgewater, a major aristocrat, composed by their teacher Henry Lawes. We sang the saucy Sweet stay a while (do you really want your teenage daughter thinking about what the protagonists of that have been up too?) and then a song ‘To a Lady singing the Former Song’.  Here Lawes pats himself on the back mostly, while praising his student. He throws in more comparisons of himself to myths from Ovid, so the girls get another Latin literature lesson. But it also makes you think about how at the same time, the music teacher is master and servant in a society that is very concerned with hierarchy. He's the 'maestro' but is still thanking you for his pay at the end of the day.


We finished off with Lawes’s setting of the table of contents from an Italian songbook (complete gibberish of course, set in the dramatic Italianate style) no doubt to make fun of those less educated who didn’t have a clue what they sang, but wanted repertoire in the fashionable Italian style.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Here's what we think we'll be doing at the Classical Revolution event at Dave's Restaurant, 730 St. Clair Ave. West. Our set will be about a half hour and will start at 8PM.

Hallie will be singing, I'll be playing the Baroque guitar. (We don't have the little Renaissance guitar as pictured for Hallie, but her birthday's coming up. I can't find one on the ebay, though.) Chris Verrette and Edwin Huizinga will be 'adapting in real time' (ie. improvising around) certain stock ground basses of the early 17th century after various examples for ritornellos between the verses of the songs. Every instrumental collection has a few of these grounds in.

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) - Eri gia tutta mia - Ritornellos on Bergamasca (famous from Ancient Airs and Dances by Respighi) 

Alessandro Grandi (1586-1630) - Gioite, danzate, ridete - Ritornellos on Folia (an older 'alla Italiana version, not the Folies d'Espagna that Corelli, Marais and Rachmaninov set.)

Stefano Landi (1587-1639) Odi glorie - Ritornellos on Romanesca (the changes from the second half of
Greensleeves. This song's on the birth of Bacchus, who was born in Phrygia and Hallie notes it's in the Phrygian mode.)

Giulio Caccini (1551-1618) - Dalla porta d'Oriente - Ritornellos on the ground Ruggiero (Probably most famous from Byrd's keyboard version)

Giovanni Felice Sances (c. 1600-1679) - Cantata A Voce Sopra La Passacaglia - Ritornellos on the passacaglia (the four descending notes of Hit the Road Jack, the last bit of Stairway to Heaven and many others)

Sances - Cantata a voce sola sopra la Ciaccona - Ritornellos on the ciaccona (which Monteverdi's Zefiro Torna is possibly the most famous version of)

Friday, October 7, 2011

 

This still life with rotten fruit and musical instruments was taken at today's rehearsal for the Apt for Voices and Violins. 8PM, Sat. Oct. 8th at Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave. near Bay Subway in Toronto. Tickets $25 and 20. Doors open at 7:30. Here's the program:


Welcome black Night John Dowland (1563-16 26)
Though Amarillis William Byrd (1540-1623)
Paduan – Aria Dowland, arr. Thomas Simpson (1582-c. 1630)
La Sirena Thomas Morley (1558-1602)
Die not before thy day Dowland
Ambroses Pavin Ambrose Lupo (d.1591)
Galliard to the pavin before
What if I never speede Dowland
Lachrimae Pavaen Dowland, arr. Johann Schop (c. 1590-1667)
Ne reminiscaris Domine John Wilbye (1574-1638)
When to her lute Corinna sings Thomas Campion (1567-1620)
Weepe you no more Dowland
Ronda – Represa Anon. from the Lumley Partbooks
Brandenberges – Represa

Intermission

Lady if you so spight me Dowland
Sorrow come Dowland, arr. William Wigthorpe (c.1570-1610)
La Rondinella Morley
Pavana Bray, Volta Byrd, arr. Francis Cutting (c1550-1596)/Anon.
Sweet stay a while Dowland
Pavana – Gallyard –Dance Anon. from the Lumley Partbooks
Fuga Dowland
If fluds of teares Dowland
Come to mee grief forever Byrd
Delacourt Pavan Anon.
Markantonyes Gallyard Mark Anthony Galliardello (d. 1585)
Cease these false sports Dowland

Hallie Fishel - Soprano
Christopher Verrette - Violin and viola 
Edwin Huizinga - Violin 
Eleanor Verrette - Viola 
Laura Jones - Bass violin
John Edwards - Lute


A string band arrived in England in the reign of Henry VIII. Wind instruments had been played in ‘choirs’, corresponding to soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices for some time, but the application of this concept to stringed instruments had first occurred to Isabella d’Este and her sister-in-law Lucrezia Borgia in Mantua and Ferrara respectively. The string playing families, such as the Lupos and the Galliardellos, who turned up at Henry’s court appear to have been Jews who were escaping resurgent persecution in Italy. 
     
The word ‘viol’ seems to have been used in Elizabethan and Jacobean times for both the drop-shouldered, 6-string ‘da gamba’ family and that family of stringed instruments we now see in symphony orchestras. The print of Morley’s ‘Consorts Lessons’ for example has ‘treble viol’ on one of the partbooks, but pictures of that kind of ‘broken’ consort always show a treble violin played ‘da braccia’, on the arm. Though the repertoires of viol and violin were largely interchangeable there was a social difference between players of the two instruments. Though the viol increasingly took over the position of the lute as the instrument of the amateur, the violin was always played by professionals, and was the main ensemble for courtly dance music. 
    
The Epistle to the Reader of Byrd’s Psalmes, Sonets, & songs of sadnes and pietie tells us that several of the songs in that collection were ‘originally made for Instruments to expresse the harmony’ and, though all the parts are texted for maximum performance options (and sales to partsong singers), he helpfully labels the melody ‘the first singing part’ in those songs where instruments are expected. As well as some of these pieces from Byrd’s publication we present some from manuscript sources. We present a consort song arrangement of Dowland’s lute song Sorrow stay with its secular words, though the manuscript of the string version gives a sacred contrafactum where the singer rises to heaven, rather than falls into the pit of despair with Dowland. Ne reminiscaris is a setting of the antiphon of a penitential psalm. It appears that string consorts were often used in chapels, perhaps where organs were too expensive or mice had chewed the leather bellows.  
     
What we think of as ‘lute ayres’ were commonly printed with optional four-part versions for voices, or, as the title page of Dowland’s Third Book of Songs says ‘to sing to the lute, orpharion or viols.’ Again, maximum flexibility for performance is offered. 

In the early 17th century England began exporting string players back to the European continent. Dowland, Thomas Simpson and William Brade all worked at the Danish court where Johann Schop was also a violinist. (The ceiling painting on the cover of our brochure is from a Danish palace of this period. Could that be Dowland peeking over the balcony?) Simpson’s arrangements of Dowland with continuo and the string quartet scoring with two violins rather than plural violas represent the beginnings of the baroque, though Dowland did offer one galliard ‘with two trebles’ in his own collection of string music.

Ne reminiscaris Domine
Remember not, Lord, our offences, neither those of our fathers:
and do not wreak vengeance for our transgressions.
Spare, Lord, spare your people, whom you redeemed with your precious blood:
lest you be angry with us for ever.

Monday, October 3, 2011


This is John Dowland's 'own hande' in a friend's autograph book. The music is a puzzle canon and the second part comes in where the sort of backwards 3 is over the first line. Is it music or just a puzzle? We can't decide (see the picture below of Chris Verrette and Edwin Huizinga trying to play in 6 flats and 5 sharps at the same time). You can hear it at our season opener, Apt for Voices and Violins, 8PM, Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave. Tickets $25 and $20. Hallie will be singing Byrd consort songs and Dowland ayres with strings (the two pictured, plus Eleanor Verrette and Laura Jones). And there'll be some lute songs too. 


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Download the MIO 2011-2012 brochure by clicking below.
MiO Brochure

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Here is our 2011-12 season. Robert Cecil here says you better come. He looks serious about it.


“Into a most delicate and pleasant garden they came, led by the king, who there, with true curiosities, had crowned himself in making that place the crown of all pleasure, yet, was not sufficient, but yet must be inly adorned with other sorts, as music. Music there was of all sorts, yet the king thought that the best was not yet, wherefore he told the emperor that voices, he thought, did excel all these kinds of music.”
– from Mary Wroth’s The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania

We agree with the king that music, and vocal music in particular, is the crowning pleasure. Join us at the Heliconian Hall for this most intimate repertoire of song.

All concerts at Heliconian Hall
35 Hazelton Avenue (near Bay Subway)
Single tickets available at the door $25, $20 for students and seniors.

Apt for Voices and Violins
8pm, October 8th, 2011
Consort songs, dances, lute songs and solos from the Elizabethan and Jacobean courts. Christopher Verrette leads a Renaissance violin band. Music by Byrd, Dowland, Campion and others.

A New Year’s Day Concert
2pm, January 1st, 2012 8pm, January 2nd, 2012
Don’t like polkas and waltzes but looking for a concert on New Year’s Day? This is the concert for you. With guests Christopher Verrette and Edwin Huizinga, and others. All new repertoire from the late Baroque including Vivaldi and his contemporaries.

When Tircis Met Chloris
8pm February 18th, 2012
The amours of shepherds Tircis, Corydon etc. and nymphs Chloris, Phyllis and others are laid bare in Baroque duets and dialogues from the time of Monteverdi with guest Bud Roach, tenor and Baroque guitarist.

Sero sed Serio
8pm, March 17th, 2012
Our last concert has as its title the motto (Late but in Earnest) of Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who died 400 years ago this spring. As Elizabeth and then James’ “prime minister” Cecil had his finger in every pie, including the musical one. Songs and lute pieces by Dowland, Lanier, Thomas Robinson and others.

Friday, May 27, 2011



Monday was the Victoria Day holiday, and we played a house concert the with an Oxford theme as the audience had as its nucleus a group going to a choir workshop/historical holiday there next month. We narrowed it down to circa 1600 so I didn't have to bring too many lutes or a choir.

John Dowland obtained his Bachelor of Music from the college of Christ Church in 1588, so there was plenty to choose from. Since Robert Burton wrote his Anatomy of Melancholy while he was student at Christ Church (that's equivalent to fellows at most colleges there) we sang Flow my teares of course. After quoting Burton's opinion that 'the poets did well to feign all shepherds lovers', and melancholy ones at that, since they are idle and solitary while grazing their flock all day, we sang A shepheard in a shade. The pastoral theme was augmented by an anonymous setting of Goe my flock the Ninth Song from Sidney's Astrophel and Stella. Sidney was also a Christ Church grad, and Astrophel is the original English manifestation of the melancholy shepherd-lover.

But we started our set with an arrangement for lute and voice of Benedicam Domino, a devotional song for four voices by Robert Johnson. This Robert Johnson was a Scot who appears to have come to England because he was an 'early adopter' of protestantism. The version we performed is from the back of a manuscript which is a Catalogue of the Bishops of England by Francis Godwin who was a student at Christ Church as well. The last section of the
song exhorts us to pray for our queen, but which queen is not clear, since Johnson was dead before Elizabeth came to the throne. It seems unlikely that Johnson would be setting a text that was pro-Mary, Mary Queen of Scots or Mary Queen of Heaven. So maybe the text was adjusted by the scribe who wrote our version in Elizabeth's reign as was not unheard of. A motet at Christ Church dedicated to Cardinal Wolsey, the college's founder, was later adjusted to ask God to 'preserve our Queen Elizabeth'. Below is the singing part of the song from a microfilm of the manuscript in the British Library. The singing part is at 90 degrees from the lute tablature part, so the singer would be unlikely to self-accompany; the lute player sat on one side of the table and the singer on another.

Thursday, April 14, 2011



Here are the program and notes for the A Sa Lyre concert, Sat. 16th of Apr. at Heliconian Hall in Toronto. Hallie will be singing and I'll be playing two lutes (one with the top string at A at 465, so very little and high, one in G at 465) and a little Renaissance guitar. The artist who painted Mary Magdelene playing a Jouissance vous donneray (you can see the music if you turn it upside down) is the famous Master of the Female Half-lengths. Then there is a picture of Hallie looking at some words, and me playing the little guitar, details in the notes.

Venes mes serfs et Bacchus adorons Clemens non Papa (c 1513-c 1556)
Ah Dieu que c’est estrange martire Adrien Le Roy
Jouissance vous donneray Claudin de Sermisy (c 1490-1562)
Psalm Tunes for Lute Le Roy
Pseaume CXXXIV – Les Commandemans de Dieu – Pseaume XLII
Tant que vivray Claudin
Je suis amour Le Roy
La Magdelena - Bass dance Pierre Blondeau?
D’out vient cela Claudin
Anchor che col partire Jean Paul Paladin
Tant que jestoys Le Roy
J'ay le rebours de ce que je souhaite Pierre Certon (c. 1510-72)
L'ennuy qui me tourmente Le Roy
Oyez tous amoureux Jacques Champion dit Mithou (1530-80)

Intermission
O ma dame Le Roy
Pour m’eslonger Certon?
Puis que nouvelle Le Roy
Secourez moy Claudin
Prelude-Secoures moy-Tant que viray Pierre Blondeau?
Si j'ay pour vous Claudin
Pavane la Milanoise-Galliarde Guillaume Morlaye
Puis que malheur me tient Thomas Crequillon (c 1500-57)
Lute dances Le Roy
Pavan Est il conclud/Galliard Est il conclud/Branles des Bourgoignes
C’est a grand tort Crequillon
Le Petite enfant amour Guillaume Tessier

The publisher Pierre Attaingnant had already had success with books of dance music and chansons in four parts when in 1529 he printed a book of arrangements called Tres breve et familiere introduction pour entendre & apprendre par soy mesmes a jouer toutes chansons reduictes en la tabulature du Lutz. The lute’s popularity rose quickly in France in the early 1500’s thanks to its identification with the Classical lyre and, as the title page states, there is a didactic angle to the book - there are instructions for how to tune the lute and read the tablature. Claudin’s chansons are heavily represented in the print and we offer a selection of his settings of poems mostly by Clément Marot. In setting the anonymous poem Si j’ay pour vous Claudin quotes himself at the words ‘Secourez moy’. Overleaf from the voice and lute version of each song, Attaingnant gives a lute solo arrangement and he prints anonymous preludes at the beginning of the volume.

As well as those to his lute and his lyre (which turns out to be a lute in the last couple of verses) the great poet Pierre Ronsard addresses an ode A sa Guiterre. The guitar was a very diminutive instrument in this period, having four courses and, since it is not much bigger than a violin, being tuned a fourth higher than later guitars. There was a sudden flurry of printing for this instrument in France beginning around 1550. After a first book of solos Adrian Le Roy printed his Second livre de guittere, contenant plusieurs chansons en forme de voix de ville. The very courtly poetry (Pour m’eslonger and Puisque nouvelle and others in the book are by the Poet Laureate Saint-Gelais) is set to attractive, folksy melodies or based on popular stock chord progressions (L’ennuy is on the Spagnoletta bass). Many are dances; L’ennuy and Puisque nouvelle are Gaillardes, J’ay le rebours is a Pavanne, O ma dame is a Branle de Poitou). In all of the accompaniments the guitar plays a decorated version of the tune while the singer sings a simple version, suggesting that the player might chose to perform the piece as a guitar solo if he pleased.

Also in the voix de ville form are the airs from Le Roy’s book Livre d’Airs de Cour Miz sur le Luth of 1571. Though these, too, have the charming melodies and naïve doubling of the singing part, the courtly poets Ronsard (Je suis amour and Tant que j’estoys, Ronsard’s adaptation of an ode by the Roman Horace) and Desportes (Ah Dieu que c’est) are represented in the settings. We can safely say that such poetry is unlikely to have been sung by a plebian on a street corner in the Ville de Paris.

Pierre Phalèse printed several extraordinarily popular editions of his Hortus Musarum in the 1560s and 70s. We can see the repertoire, aimed at the burgeoning bourgeoisie of the Low Countries, develop over the course of the editions as the anthologist keeps up with the latest pan-European prints; The chansons of Crequillon and Clemens dominate in the early books.

Tessier set Ronsard’s poem about Love being stung by a bee for four voices in his book of 1582. The tune became the model for one of Philip Sidney’s songs from his Astrophel and Stella, and Tessier’s music was published in lute song version of Sidney’s In a grove most rich of shade. We sing Ronsard’s words to Robert Dowland’s arrangement of Tessier’s version.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


On the upcoming concert (8PM Sat. Apr. 16th at Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave. Single tickets $25/$15 students & seniors.) I am going to play some solo lute versions of some famous Psalm tunes that are still used today. One of the tunes I'll play is called Old Hundredth in English hymnals. I looked up the version by Vaughan-Williams above to see how it most decidedly would not sound played on a little lute alone. Turns out that the verse starting at 2:27 with the tune in the tenor is straight out of Ravenscroft's psalter and is harmonised by John Dowland. I think that may have been the first Dowland I ever performed then, with the Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir more years ago than I care to remember.

We have the other repertoire all worked out for next Saturday's show. Hallie will be singing a set from Attaingnant's Tres Breve et familiere introduction of 1529 which you can look at a facsimile of here. It has chansons mainly by Claudin de Sermisy set for lute and voice and then for lute solo on the next page. There are several poems by Clément Marot in that set. There will be some chansons by Crequillon and Clemens non Papa from a collection published by Pierre Phalése called Hortus Musarum in 1553. There will be a set each from Adrien Le Roy's Livre de Airs de Cour and his Second Livre de Guitarre. These are in the form of voix-de-ville, as they may have been sung on the street in the city. The lute and guitar often has the melody decorated in its part turning around the singing part. We may try one of the Genevan Psalter psalms like that too.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Last Wednesday afternoon had us doing a lecture-demonstration in a common room with comfy chairs for the last class of a graduate seminar led by
Prof. Deanne Williams. Her seminar on Early Modern Girlhood and David Goldstein's class, some of which were also there, had been looking at Milton's Comus.

Comus was written to celebrate the appointment of John Egerton, the Earl of Bridgewater's appointment as Lord President of Wales and was Milton's first big gig. He was recommended for the job of writing the book by Egerton's household musician, Henry Lawes.

Milton's dad (also John) was a part-time composer though his day jobs were scrivener, a kind of notary, and investor. His music was published in two fairly prestigious prints. There's one piece in The Triumphs of Oriana, a set of madrigals about how great Elizabeth I is and there are a few in a book called Teares and Lamentacions of a Sorrowful Soule which is for broken consort and voices. These books have music in by Byrd, Morley, Dowland, Ferrabosco and lots of other famous composers, so he was in good company. There are manuscript pieces by Milton the Elder on sacred subjects as well. There's no good editions of any of his music really, and the only recording of some of the manuscript pieces and a couple of the consort songs use a boys choir when they are certainly 'domestic sacred music' for singing at home one on a part.

The younger Milton wrote a big Latin poem to his dad when the old man was letting the boy sit around the house reading for five years after getting an MA. (How many bourgeois dads would stand for that?) In the poem he says Ipse volens Phœbus se dispertire duobus,/Altera dona mihi, dedit altera dona parenti,/Dividuumque Deum genitorque puerque tenemus. (Phoebus wished to divide himself, and gave one half of himself to me and the other half to you. Father and son, we share between us the god.)

We discussed this and looked at the disposition of some the scores comparing the old fashioned Teares and Lamentacions print to the up-to-date scoring of Sweet Echo from Comus. We used Milton's poem commending Lawes to think about what criteria the new style that was emerging was to be judged by then we got as quickly as we could onto saucy love songs.

Comus, celebrates chastity, but a number of the songs that Henry Lawes says he wrote for Lady Alice Egerton (who sang Sweet Echo in the masque) and her sisters are pretty racy. For example Psuedo-Donne's Sweet stay awhile (which would fit into the Romeo and Juliet consummation scene), Waller's Go Lovely Rose and others. We also sang songs by Lawes brother William on poems by Herrick (including How Lillies Came White; quite saucy), a Lanier setting of Carew's obscene poem on the Marigold and finished with downright vulgar songs with words by Thomas Durfey. Durfey was good pals with Chas. II and the song above song is a Health to His Majesty. When you read during this Canadian election campaign that political discourse has gone downhill think about this song that has 'Tories guard the king/let Whigs in halters swing'. Whiggish peers are accused of rape and the prime minister is mocked for being crippled. Rabid anti-Catholic perjurer Titus Oates is accused of buggery, but this is probably true since he was kicked out of the navy for gross indecency. Read this to get a sense of how binge drinking becomes a political statement in the 1660s. We also sang a ballad song from a collection by Durfey with Benny Hill style humour about a young lady rejecting various tradesmens' advances.

No wonder Milton closeted himself up to write Paradise Lost after the Restoration.


Friday, April 1, 2011


A busy week or two. We gave our paper at the Renaissance Society of America conference in Montreal and it seemed to be well received. (see previous entry for the subject matter) Then it was lunch with Prof. Alejandro Planchart, an old friend of Hallie's and off to play the music for papers given by Katie Larson from University of Toronto, and Gavin Alexander from Cambridge. Their papers were in a session on the Sidney family. It was great to meet Gavin Alexander since we poached much of his research to put together our Philip Sidney/Earl of Essex concert When Silly Bees Could Speak of a few years ago.

After getting takeout (see picture above) from Schwartz's Deli (now the topic of a musical) it was off to see McGill's opera department and baroque orchestra perform Handel's Imeneo conducted by Hank Knox and starring Hallie's daughter Eleanor Verrette on the viola.


Tuesday was a rehearsal for our continuing Wednesday Vespers services at St. John's Dixie Chapel in Mississauga. As well as hymns we played a movement from an Alessandro Scarlatti motet for soprano (Ms. Fishel), 2 violins (Chris Verrette and Edwin Huizinga) and continuo (Laura Jones, baroque cello and John Edwards, theorbo).




Wednesday was particularly full. We gave a lecture demonstration on music in the life of John Milton for Prof. Deanne Williams at York University. I'll post more on that event tomorrow.

Meantime here's a picture of us posing in the chapel at St. John's Dixie. You can get a sense of the lovely ambience of these contemplative services from that. The Scarlatti is great music and we hope we can play a whole motet soon.


Monday, March 21, 2011


We are going to the Renaissance Society of America conference in Montreal to give a paper on Friday in a session about this young man.

He's Henry, Prince of Wales, first son of James I. He would have been Henry IX, and Charles would not have been king and not got his head chopped off and no Commonwealth and no Restoration with more constrained constitutional monarchy and there might have been a British absolute monarchy like Louis XIV and then there might have been a more emphatic revolution than the Glorious Revolution and Britain would be a republic. But none of that happened because Henry died of typhoid at age 18. Thomas Campion wrote the words and John Coprario the music for a cycle of seven songs about this loss. The songs are addressed to James, his queen Anne, Charles, his sister Elizabeth, her husband Frederick, the most disconsolate Great Britain and the world.

The paper will be about how the song to Anne has her displaying many more symptoms and symbols of what we might call 'clinical' melancholy that James's song. Remember how Elizabeth II was criticized for not being emotional enough when Diana died? Well, she couldn't really; it would be undignified and in fact James himself wrote that the monarch's actions had to be well tempered. Luckily James had Mannerism at his (or at least his court composer's) command. Coprario quotes the musical melancholy emblem of the Lachrimae incipit in James's song, so the in-the-know would hear, if not see, that James was just as melancholy as Anne.

If only Elizabeth had had Campion and Coprario at the funeral instead of Elton John.

Friday, March 11, 2011




Here are the notes and translations for Saturday's concert. You'll never get the chance to hear most of it again.

Rococo
At the beginning of the 18th century the public concert or public opera finally eclipsed the court chamber as the engine for music making; The German Handel made and lost fortunes selling tickets to Italian opera in London, virtuosi with publicity machines toured the great music centres playing concerti with orchestra, even the Concert Spirituel was a ticketed concert. But chamber music still flourished, especially in the Parisian intellectual salon. Here 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. These patronesses were the first ‘bluestockings’, this hosiery being the fashion for the literary ladies who attended these events. 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.

Putting patrons on seats at public concerts had required the Italians develop a melodic style with clear chords progressions which, when introduced to Paris, was termed Style Galant. Rousseau was an apostle of this style where beautiful cantabile melodies are carried to the ear by simple harmonies with no turgid polyphony. The Genevan wrote of the music of French composers like Rameau ‘There is neither a clear beat nor a melody in French music because the French language is not susceptible to either. French song is only a continual squealing, intolerable to every unbiased ear; French harmony is brutish, without expression and suggests nothing other than the filler material of a rank beginner; the French “air” is not an air at all; and the French recitative is not at all a recitative. From all this I conclude that the French do not have music, and that if they ever do have it, it will be all the worse for them.’

Giacomo Merchi was an Italian who settled in Paris in 1753 and played in the salons. Porro (née Pierre-Jean Porre) was from Provence but thought it well to affect an Italian name when he moved to the capital in the 1780s. The popularity of the guitar as accompanying instrument is attested to by the many prints of song published by these and other composers, as well as its ubiquity in parlour scenes painted in the period.

The violin sonatas presented this evening are from a collection called L’Art du Violon published in Paris in 1800. This anthology featured works by Italian virtuosi like Nardini and his teacher Tartini as well as works by Germans and the Spaniard who affected a French name who worked in England, Chabran. Chabran taught guitar as well as violin in London.

In reading the texts of tonight’s music you will notice that shepherds and shepherdesses once again populate our poems. While those who inhabit the literature of earlier centuries gave their listeners an ideal of perfect love to emulate, tonight’s pastorals reflect a desire, even a nostalgia for a more natural way of living far removed from the complexity and artificiality of 18th century society. Unfortunately the deluge of revolution swept away not only the artificiality of faux-pastoral aristocrats but also the grace and artifice of Rococo art.

Un jour sur la coudrette
One day in the courtyard,
Love came to say hello to Lisette.
The simple shepherdess saw him,
and right away the poor dear blushed.

The child Love, seeing her sudden trouble,
redoubled his attentions,
and said "you know well how to charm,
shepherdess; you must love once more."

With a sweet smile, at a loss for words,
with a very silly heart that sighed,
the gentle bachelorette was quiet, but her youthful soul was moved.

Seeing that she quaked with fear,
the god quickly seized her heart;
now he was master of it, he laughed,
and then the little traitor left.

While the victim sobbed, the ingrate, proud of his crime, fled;
pity young girl Lizon
and profit by this lesson.

Voyez dans ces vergers
See in these orchards the spring that snakes around;
it waters the young saplings a hundred times.
One with the elm, this abundant vine
rises and clings to its branches.
This other, without support, lies languishing;
these amorous palm trees unite in lullabies.
It is of the pleasure of loving that the nightingale sings;
these waves and these woods, these fruits and these birds,
all are a living lesson in love, for you.

Au fond d’un bois Solitaire
Deep in a solitary wood,
One day, the shepherd Tircis,
Finding the shepherdess alone,
Spoke to her of his love.
"You know," he said, "cruel one,
How strong my fidelity is:
An eternal hardship
Has never repulsed me.

If my soul was light,
My fate would be more sweet;
More than one friendly shepherdess
Has wanted revenge on you for me.
Ah! how easily with others
I could have found happiness,
If other eyes than yours
Could have charmed my heart."

Sighs interrupted
This lover's complaints;
The tears that followed them
Spoke more strongly.
The shepherdess became tender,
And finding herself without witnesses,
Was forced to yield;
I have seen some yield to less.

En vain j’adresse
In vain I address an unwelcome plea to the Heavens; the Heavens no longer listen to my pained voice. Redoubtable Love, flighty Fortune, even friendship - sole blessing of the unhappy - seem to reunite to intensify my misery. I fulfill my destiny; I was born to suffer. My heart has nothing left on earth; I can no longer love and I cannot die.

Pure and Holy friendship, sweet charm of life, I sacrificed love to you; but what it cost at least grants peace to my faded heart. They say that you are enough for happiness; far from soothing me, you compound my misery...

Pour Jeanette
For Jeanette, my bagpipe
Plays a song each day.
The sprite on the tender grass
accompanies my sounds with her voice.
I am the happiest shepherd
of Paphos and of Cithere;
she is not severe with me at all.
I have found the art of pleasing her,
and the love of my shepherdess
I vow forever.

Every day, to my crook
she ties a thousand flowers,
and decorates my bagpipe
with all colours of ribbons.
All over the village
she has carved my name into the elm,
and if there are some pastures
in her heritage,
in returning to the village
she leads my flock there.

Be happy, dear lover,
remember that I've received your trust;
without sharing I commit myself,
to live for always under your law,
and your flame, through which my soul
feels the liveliest ardor for you,
is an Eternal flame,
so that in a cruel absence
it will make its only sweetness
to console my faithful heart.

Astre des nuits
Star of the night and your pleasant hours,
Delay the return of the light.
Stop, you leave sensitive hearts
To sob in the shadow and sigh of love.

Ah! Who can defend themselves from loving you?
I adore you and say it to none but you,
This simple avowal that I dare to make heard,
Is already a sweet enough joy.

Accompanied by shadow and mystery
I will return; each night in this place
You will hear its solitary echo
Repeat to you my sighs and my vows.

Me promenant
Walking near home, without thinking, my heart was taken, my poor heart, without thinking about it my heart was taken; a certain pretty face almost rendered me mute today [with surprise] that destiny did such a favor for me, my poor heart etc.
An appetizing mouth, an elegant waist, little cute feet, little mischievous eyes, nothing like her here or there, my poor heart suddenly was taken, etc.

Quel tourment
What torment, ah, what martyrdom,
That is so hideous to suffer;
To sob in one's soul and not dare speak.
Alas, alas, I feel myself dying.

Happy in their bitter pain
Are those who can at least shed tears.
But always to suffer in silence,
Ah, that is the worst kind of pain.

Charmant Iris
Charming Iris, if, on a scale,
One were to weigh your unfairness;
Yes, I would be sure that your inconstancy
Would be equal to my lightness.
Let us, then, give each other release
From our debt of infidelity.

At each instant, by a new offering,
Let us court, Iris, the god of hearts;
Let us never attach our flighty natures;
Let us fly from turn to turn in love;
Perhaps, Iris, in this lovely voyage,
Our hearts will meet one day.

Charmant valon
Charming dale, the sweetest wilderness where often alone I have sought nature,
I hear already your brook that murmurs, I see at last your willows always green.
Sing the willow and its gentle greenery.

Yes, there they are, these amorous wood-pigeons,
These hills, these woods, these meadows, this pure stream,
Ah! Rich and simple nature, must you offer yourself,
so beautiful, to the eyes of the unhappy!
Sing the willow &c

It may be that soon - these are my final vows -
Some shepherd ,seeing my tomb,
Will say in passing, "his righteousness was wronged;
he was sensitive, and died unhappy."
Sing the willow &c


Thursday, March 10, 2011





Here's a couple of pictures of us rehearsing Saturday's Rococo concert. 8PM, Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave. Details here. Rococo is sometimes a dirty word in classical music and the music is pooh-poohed, but I am really enjoying this concert. The composers' names are not very well known. Porro has his own Wikipedia page. Merchi is talked about in James Tyler's book on the early guitar which is here on Google Books. That book also says that Chabran was a guitar teacher as well as a violinist, so he probably wouldn't have minded the guitar accompanying his sonata. That's why the cat can hang out inside the unused harpsichord.

Canzonetta – Un jour sur la coudrette Pierre Porro (1750-1831)
Ariette – Voyez dans les vergers Francesco Alberti
Romance - Au fond d’un bois Solitaire Giacomo Merchi (1730-aft.1789)
Sonate in D Maj Pietro Nardini (1722-1793)
La Plainte de Fabian – En vain j’adresse Porro
Pour Jeanette Merchi
La Serenade – Astre des nuits Porro

Intermission

Me promeant du Logis Merchi
Quel tourment Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)
Sonate in G Major Charles Chabran (fl 1752–1785)
Le Quittance Mutuelle – Charmante Iris Merchi
Le Saule du Malheureux – Charmant valon Porro

Thursday, February 17, 2011



We were running through some of the songs we've chosen for the Rococo concert yesterday. One of the books has guitar tablature right under the octave treble clef (which they use nowadays for guitar music) so you have the choice of what you like to read. Today we will be looking through a book of songs by the philosopher Rousseau. Those songs mostly have a continuo part that I will make up chords for on the guitar.

Chris and I also read through a couple of violin sonatas and chose a couple. Those are also continuo parts.

At the top is the guitar I'll be playing. It has five courses tuned like the top five of a 12-string guitar. During the late 18th century players were increasingly taking the second string of each pair off, but I will keep them on as some did. (I also like reading the tablature better than the octave treble clef.) At the very end of the century some guitars had a sixth pair, and one or two of the songs we're doing have the option of taking some notes down an octave.

Below is the Comtesse d'Egmont, who was a Spanish noblewoman who kept a salon in Paris. I think the above guitar is more like hers than the one that Madame de Pompadour is playing in the one at the bottom of this post.


Thursday, February 3, 2011


The programme notes for Saturday's concert. There'll be some blabbing too between the pieces if you want to know more. The picture is from a ceiling in Rosenborg Castle, where Danish King Christian IV lived. So, depending on when the picture was executed, maybe that lute player there is John Dowland.

See the previous post for the pieces I'll be playing, see the previous one to that to listen to an mp3 of the Ferrabosco Pavan I'll be playing.

Blame Not My Lute

The first music specifically for the lute, the most important solo and accompanying instrument in the Renaissance, appeared around the beginning of the 1500’s in Italy. That country is the centre of lute playing for the first four decades of the century and the lute style is consolidated in the works of Francesco da Milano. His oeuvre is almost entirely comprosed of Fantasias or Ricercars, that is to say, free instrumental pieces, but other Italian contemporaries based works on motets, Mass movements, madrigals and chansons, often decorating the hit vocal music of the day. By the middle of the century, though, France had become the centre of lute playing and, unsurprisingly, the country that gave us ballet increasingly chose more or less stylized dances as their favoured mode of expression. As France descended into sectarian chaos, and as England emerged from the same towards the end of the century, the latter became not just the centre of lute playing, but a net exporter of string players of all kinds. Several North European courts had an English lute player or violin band leader.

The first lute methods printed in England were translations from the French. John Dowland’s first job, at age 19, was as lutenist to the English ambassador to France. It’s natural, then, that his complete solo lute works contains about 60 dance pieces (pavans, galliards and almains, or allemandes), 7 Fancies (English for fantasia), and a few settings of popular ballad tunes. French dances dominate manuscripts and the few printed sources of lute solos as well.

Besides picking up experience with dances and lute playing while in France, Dowland also picked up Catholicism. He claimed this prevented him from ever being engaged by Elizabeth as a court lutenist, despite being the most famous instrumentalist in Europe (his works are in manuscripts from Scotland to the Ukraine). More likely he was the victim of government cutbacks at the increasingly frugal court. After a visit to Italy where he added to his compositional quiver the chromaticism and dissonance of the madrigalists Gesualdo and Marenzio, Dowland was employed by the Landgrave of Hesse and the King of Denmark, who fired him for being undependable. Back in England, a place was found for him at James I’s court, replacing a lutenist who had been dead 40 years.

Holborne appears to have been a gentleman, and it is not clear that his employment with Elizabeth was primarily as a lutenist. Apart from one song and a pavan in a collection of lute music, his printed works are for cittern solo and a collection of dances for 5-part string or wind band. It is hard to know if his lute solos in manuscripts, which are mainly versions of these 5-part pieces, are arrangements by him or someone else.

Ferrabosco was a Bolognese who was one of Elizabeth’s lutenists. He left England in a hurry when he was embroiled in the murder of one of Philip Sidney’s servants. Pilkington is known to us as a madrigal composer, though he dabbled in lute playing. Robinson published the first completely English lute method. And then there is Anon. and the nearly Anons. Whitfield and E.E. We are lucky that at least one of their works have made it through to us.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Here's what I'll be playing on Saturday I think. 8PM Heliconian Hall. More details at the website.


Philipes Pavan Peter Phillips (c.1560-1628)

Passion Anthony Holborne (c.1545-1602)

Sir John Smith his Almaine John Dowland (1563-1626)


Semper Dowland Semper Dolens Dowland

The Fairy Round Holborne

The Night Watch Holborne


The Most Sacred Queen Elizabeth, her Galliard Dowland

Robin is to the Greenwood gone Anon.

The Right Honourable Robert Earle of Essex his Galliard Dowland


Pavin Alfonso Ferrabosco I (1543-1588)

Mellancoly Galliard Dowland

Merry Melancholie Thomas Robinson (c. 1560-1609)


Hearts Ease Anon.

Kemps Jig Anon.

Dump Philli Anon.


------------Intermission-------------

A Doompe E.E.

Lachrimae Dowland

Bara Faustus Dream Anon.


Countesse of Pembrookes Paradice Holborne

The Right Honourable the Lady Rich, Her Galliard Dowland

O deare lyfe Anon.


Go from my Window Francis Pilkington (c1565-1638)

Willsons Wylde Anon.

The English Huntsuppe John Whitfield (fl.1588-1620)


A Dream Dowland?

Packingtounes Galliard Anon.

Packingtounes Pound Anon.

Forlorne Hope Fancye Dowland