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)

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.