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


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.