Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To the Right honourable Sir Robert Cecil knight, one of the Queen’s Majesty’s most honourable Privy Councillors, these

Sir Robert Cecil, who organised James VI of Scotland coming to the English throne 
and got to be Earl of Salisbury for his trouble. 

Right honourable: as I have been bound unto your honour so I most humbly desire your honour to pardon my boldness and make my choice of your honour to let you understand my bounden duty and desire of God’s preservation of my more dear sovereign Queen and Country: whom I beseech God ever to bless & to confound all their enemies what & whom soever. Fifteen years since I was in France servant to Sir Henry Cobham who was Ambassador for the Queen’s Majesty, and lay in Paris, where I fell acquainted with one Smith a priest, and one Morgan someone of her Majesty’s Chapel, one Verstigan who brake out of England being apprehended & one Morris a Welshman that was our porter, who is at Rome; these men thrust many idle toys into my head of religion, saying that the papists’ was the truth & ours in England all false, and I being but young their fair words overreached me & I believed with them. Within two years after I came into England where I saw men of that faction condemned & executed which I thought was great injustice taking religion for the only cause, and when my best friends would persuade me I would not believe them. Then in time passing one Mr Johnson died & I became an humble suitor for his place (thinking myself most worthiest) wherein I found many good and honourable friends that spake for me, but I saw that I was like to go without it, and that any may have preferment but I, whereby I began to sound the cause, and guessed that my religion was my hindrance. Where upon my mind being troubled I desired to get beyond the seas which I durst not attempt without licence from some of the Privy Council, for fear of being taken and so have extreme punishment. And according as I desired there came a letter to me out of Germany from the Duke of Brunswick, whereupon I spake to your honour & to my Lord of Essex who willingly gave me both your hands (for which I would be glad if there were any service in me that your honours could command). When I came to the Duke of Brunswick he used me kindly & gave me a rich chain of gold, £23 in money with velvet and satin and gold lace to make me apparel, with promise that if I would serve him he would give me as much as any prince in the world. From thence I went to the Landgrave of Hessen, who gave me the greatest welcome that might be for one of my quality who sent a ring into England to my wife valued at £20 sterling, and gave me a great standing cup with a cover gilt, full of dollars with many great offers for my service. From thence I had great desire to see Italy & came to Venice & from thence to Florence where I played before the Duke & got great favours, & one evening I was walking upon the piazzo in Florence a gentleman told me that he espied an English priest & that his name was Skidmore & son and heir to Sir John Skidmore of the Court. So I being intended to go to Rome to study with a famous musician named Luca Marenzio:
Marenzio's commendation at the beginning of Dowland's First Book of Songs

stepped to this Mr Skidmore the priest & asked him if he were an Englishman, & he told me yea: & whose son he was, & I telling him my name he was very glad to see me, so I told him I would go to Rome & desired his help for my safety, for said I, if they should mistake me there my fortune were hard, for I have been thrust off all good fortune because I am a Catholic at home. For I heard that her Majesty being spoke to for me, said I was a man a man to serve any prince in the world, but I was an obstinate papist. Whereunto he answered Mr Dowlande if it be not so make her words true. So in further talk we spake of priests, & I told him that I did not think it true that any priests (as we said in England) would kill the Queen or once go about to touch her finger, and said I whatsoever my religion be I will neither meddle nor make with any thing there done, so that they do not anything against the Queen. Whereunto he answered that l spake as a good subject to her Majesty, but said he in Rome you shall hear Englishmen your own countrymen speak most hardly of her and wholly seek to overthrow her & all England. And those be the Jesuits said he who are of the Spanish faction. Moreover said he we have many jars with them & withall wished to God the Queen were a Catholic, & said he, to defend my Country against the Spaniards I would come into England & bear a pike on my shoulders. Among our talk he told me that he had orders to attach divers English gentlemen, & that he had been 3 years [out of?] England, so I brought him to his lodging door, where he told me that there was 9 priests come from Rome to go for England. He came but the day before to Florence, do I think they came altogether, he told me that he would stay there in the town and study in an abbey called Sancta Maria Novella, & that he must be in for one month, and that  he would write letters of me to Rome, which I should receive very shortly, but I heard not of him in a month after, and then there came two friars to my lodging the one was an Englishman named Bailey, a Yorkshireman. The next day after my speech with Skidmore I dined with my Lord Gray and divers other gentlemen, whom I told of my speech with Skidmore giving them warning. Whereupon my Lord Gray went to Sienna, and the rest dispersed themselves. Moreover I told my Lord Gray howsoever I was for religion, if l did perceive anything in Rome that either touched her Majesty or the state of England I would give notice of it though it were the loss of my life, which he liked well & bade me keep that secret. This friar Bailey before named delivered me a letter which I have here sent your Honour, which letter I brake open before Mr. Josias Bodley,  & showed what was written in it to him & divers other, after this, this friar Bailey told me he had received letters from Rome to hasten me forward, & told me that my discontentment was known at Rome, & that I should have a large pension of the Pope, & that his Holiness & all the cardinals would make wonderful much of me, thereupon I told him of my wife and children how to get them to me, whereunto he told me that I should have acquaintance with such as should bring them over to me if she had any willingness or else they would lose their lives for there came those into England for such purposes, for quoth he Mr Skidmore brought out of England at his last being there 17 persons both men and women, for which the Bishop weeps when he sees him for joy. After my departure I called to mind our conference & got me by myself & wept heartily, to see my fortune so hard that I should become servant to the greatest enemy of my prince: country: wife: children: and friends: for want, & to make me like themselves. God he knoweth I never loved treason nor treachery nor never knew any, nor never heard any mass in England, which I find is great abuse of the people for on my soul I understand it not. Wherefore I have reformed myself to live according to her Majesty’s laws as I was born under her Highness, & that most humbly I do crave pardon, protesting if there were any ability in me, I would bed most ready to make amend. At Bologna I met with 2 men the one named Pierce an Irishman, the other named Dracot. They are gone both to Rome.

The Queen is looking pretty sanguine about the whole Philip of Spain thing in the Armada Portrait

In Venice I heard an Italian say, that he marveled that King Philip had never a good friend in England that with his dagger would dispatch the Queen’s Majesty, but said he, God suffers her, in the end to give her the greater overthrow. Right honourable this have I written that her Majesty may know the villainy of these most wicked priests and Jesuits, & to beware of them. I thank God I have both forsaken them and their religion which tendeth to nothing but destruction. Thus I beseech God night & day to bless and defend the Queen’s Majesty, & to confound all her enemies & to preserve your honour & all the rest of her Majesty's most honourable Privy Council. I think that Skidmore & the other priests are all in England for he stayed not at Florence as he said he would to me, & friar Bailey told me that he was gone into France to study the law. At Venice & all along as I came in Germany say that the King of Spain is making great preparation to come for England this next summer, where if it pleased your Honour to advise me by my poor wife I would most willingly lose my life against them. Most humbly beseeching your Honour to pardon my ill writing & worse inditing, & to think that I desire to serve my country & hope to hear of your good opinion of me. From Nurnberg this 10th of November 1595.

Your Honour’s most bounden
for ever
Jo: Doulande

John Dowland's letter to Sir Robert Sidney, from Diana Poulton's biography of John Dowland, currently and very sadly out of print.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Here's the program for When Tircis Met Chloris, 8PM, Feb. 18th 2012 at Heliconian Hall, 35 Hazelton Ave. (near Bay Subway) at 8PM, Single tickets $25/$20 students & seniors.

Preludio Terzo Giovanni Kapsberger (c.1580-1651)
O come e cieco Amore   Bartolomeo Spighi (d. after 1641)
Questa tenera Angioletta Biagio Marini (1594-1663)
Consenti pur e ti pieghi Alessandro Grandi (1586-1630)
Troppo Sotto Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643)
Preludio Decimo Kapsberger
Bel pastor Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Corrente - Sarabanda - Corrente Anon.
Piva Kapsberger
Quand'io volsi l’altro sera Tarquinio Merula (1595-1665)
Io non vò pianger più Grandi
Canzonetta Spirituale sopra alla Nana Merula


Toccata III Chromatica Alessandro Piccinini (1566-c.1638)
Partite variate sopra la Folia aria Piccinini
Mai più durò d’Amor sì lunga guerra Grandi
Eri gia tutta mia Frescobaldi
O vagha Tortorella Marini
Dialogo a due, Pastor e Ninfa Giovanni Felice Sances (1600-1679)
Amor che deggio far Marini
Preludio Secondo Kapsberger
Dialogo Amoroso à 3 voci Sances

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’. A fixture on the Toronto early music scene for over 10 years, they have concertized across North America and lecture regularly at universities and museums. Institutions where MIO have performed range from the scholarly to those for a more general public and include the Renaissance Society of America, Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies, Grinnell College, the Universities of Alberta and Toronto, the Kingston Opera Guild, Syracuse, Trent and York Universities and the Bata Shoe Museum. They have been Ensemble in Residence at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Their CD of Elizabethan and Jacobean songs on the topic of sleep, Sleep Wayward Thoughts, is available at intermission.

Described by the Toronto Star as a “must-hear tenor”, Bud Roach appears regularly with such ensembles as the Toronto Consort, the Aradia Ensemble,  Soundstreams, Arcady, the Toronto Continuo Collective, and the Elmer Iseler Singers (as both a member of the ensemble and frequent soloist). Recent projects include roles for the Toronto Masque Theatre’s production Masques of Orpheus, performances of Bach’s St. John Passion (arias) with Mark Padmore at the Britten Pears School in Aldeburgh, UK, the premiere of Andrew Staniland’s Calamus 6 at the 2010 Nuit Blanche Festival in Toronto, Handel’s Judas Maccabeus and with the Bach Elgar Choir, and Bach’s B Minor Mass with the inaugural Canadian Bach Festival. Highlights for the 2011-12 season include appearances with the Aradia Ensemble, the Toronto Consort, Messiah with the London Fanshawe Symphonic Chorus and the Bach Elgar Choir, Schedrin’s The Sealed Angel with Soundstreams, Bach’s Cantata 147 with the Victoria Symphony,  appearances at the Frigid New York  Theater Festival in Musical Pawns, about the lost music of David Nowakowsky, as well as concerts with his early music ensemble Capella Intima.

Toronto based baritone David Roth has recently finished his performance degree at the University of Toronto, where he studied under the direction of Patricia Kern. Mr. Roth is the recipient of several academic awards offered by the Faculty of Music and the Faculty of Arts and Science. A veteran performer, David has sung in Canada, the U.S., and great Britain as both soloist and chamber musician with such organizations as the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, and the Toronto Masque Theatre. David has appeared as a featured soloist with Tafelmusik in the program Bach in Leipzig, the Durham County Chamber Choir in performance of Faure’s requiem and the Kitchener Symphony Orchestra in Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins. Some of David’s operatic roles include Polyphemus in Handel’s Acis and Galatea, Olin Blitch in Floyd’s Susannah, Lindorff and Dr. Miracle in Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann and Priest of Jupiter in Handel’s Hercules. David is also co-founder and artistic director of Cantores Fabularum, a volunteer choir that raises money for First Stop Woodlawn, a shelter for women administered by the YWCA.

After rehearsing at Hallie's place some relax while David Roth checks for important messages. 

Why are there so many bickering shepherds and nymphs on tonight’s program? Pastoralism, from the time of the Ancient Romans, had given a blueprint for perfect, magnanimous and wise princes, unbreakable bonds of friendship and shepherds who were faithful to their beloved nymphs in a way that real life lovers can never be. The dramatic Baroque style then gave a chance for composers a chance to express conflicts a little less fraught than the godly battles of Baroque opera.

Many of our composers had day jobs as church musicians to supplement their productions of books of secular music. Monteverdi was maestro di capella at St. Mark’s in Venice. His vice-maestro was Alessandro Grandi, a man with a large family who decided to move out to Bergamo, taking a job as maestro at Santa Maria Maggiore there. Sadly, he died the year he moved in an outbreak of the plague. He was replaced by Tarquinio Merula, who was sacked for ‘gross indecency’. Some things never change. Biagio Marini worked as a violinist at St. Mark’s but was very upwardly mobile, moving from court to court as he was offered more prestigious positions, and trading in his first wife for one that came with a title of nobility. Marini and Merula’s travels meant that they were instrumental in the export of the Baroque style north of the Alps, working at a succession of north European courts, so we can indirectly thank their personality defects for the German Baroque. Indeed, Schütz steals the rocking cradle effect of Merula’s Canzonetta Spirituale on the Blessed Virgin’s lullaby. (Shepherds were present at the event imagined in that song of course, perhaps playing a piva on their bagpipes.)

The Roman born Giovanni Felice Sances was maestro at the Imperial court in Vienna, though most of his music was published back in Italy. Giovanni Kapsberger was born in Venice, though he was called ‘Il Tedesco della tiorba’ but left for Rome before Monteverdi arrived and became the dominant musical force. Kapsberger worked for cardinals and moved in the same circle as Frescobaldi, whose keyboard toccatas he is thought to have influenced with his music for solo theorbo.

One etymology of ‘Baroque’ derives the word from one describing irregularly shaped pearls, or even one meaning ‘bizarre’. We can certainly hear that in the expressive strong dissonances and eccentric turns of phrase in some of the music we present. Dramatic impact and fidelity to the text are the artistic goals of the composer. The dialogue for three voices, where Tircis and his lover discuss who is going to get to die first had been set as a madrigal for several voices by Wert and Marenzio but  had been though they demonstrate that they can give us a whistlable tune for some more playful texts.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This is a picture of Mary Sidney, the Countess of Pembroke (done by Nicholas Hilliard). On Thursday we were at the Jackman Humanities Bldg. doing some singing, talking and playing about her Psalm paraphrases and metrical Psalm singing in general in the Elizabethan and Jacobean times for Prof. Katie Larson. We discussed the place of Psalm singing in the culture and the politics at the time and then got onto singing some.

We started out by singing some of the Sternhold and Hopkins versifications of the Psalms to the 'old church tunes'. Many of these tunes were pinched from the Genevan Psalter and German choral repertoire. These translations of the Psalms were the most common way you would hear the Psalms sung in English churches for hundreds of years. Some of the words have a simple dignity, but some are pretty bad doggerel. From the Ten Commandments:

Yield honour to thy parents, that
Prolonged thy days might be
Upon the land, the which the Lord
Thy God hath given thee.
Thou shalt not murther, Thou shalt not
Commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steale. Nor witness false
Against thy neighbour be.

From Richard Allison's publication of 1599 we sang the 23rd Psalm (My shepherd is the living Lord) to the tune now associated with 'While shepherds watched their flocks'. The tune was associated with sheep, then, for a hundred years before Purcell librettist Nahum Tate wrote the Christmassy words. Then  we sang the Nunc Dimittis from the same book. You can hear us sing that here and buy it on a CD here. Or you can get the whole thing on itunes at this link.

(Since first writing this I have been reminded that we didn't actually sing this Nunc, but decided on the fly to sing the two settings of Psalm 23 back to back and then didn't go back to this. But you get the idea anyway.)

Allison gives the old church tune in the soprano part, with a lute accompaniment under it, with an optional cittern part, and parts for alto, tenor and bass, printed on the page so the performers can sitted around a table.

So while they might have been sung in these harmonisations in church this publication clearly imagines it as domestic music. Ravenscroft's Psalms from slightly later have the melody in the tenor part and are printed so that the book could be put on a stand and sung by a small choir. 

At the end of the 16th century the great and the good realised that the Sternhold and Hopkins versions of the Psalms weren't always the best poetry, so they started having a go at them themselves. Sir Philip Sidney started to translate them, and when he was killed fighting the Spanish, his sister Mary set about completing them. We sang the two settings of her Psalms that have survived, Ps. 51 and Ps. 130. These have more irregular line lengths than the S&H paraphrases, so can't be interchangebly set to any old hymn tune. The rhythm of the tune that sets the Sidney version is still very syllabic and hymn like, but the tune leaps around more and is more interesting than the old church tunes. There is lots of musical interest in the lute parts in these settings, and I was much busier than Hallie. (They are pretty hard to play.) 

We also sang Thomas Campion's Ps.130, which has verses of three lines each (again, it wouldn't fit to a regualr hymn tune). Though his lute part is not so virtuosic as the anonymous settings of the Sidneys, his has more harmonic intrest and chromatic movement. 

We also sang George Herbert's paraphrase of Psalm 23 set to music by Henry Lawes. This proto-Baroque setting has Lawes following the rhythm of speech with a continuo accompaniment for the lute. Sometimes (o the horror of creeping influence from Catholic countries) there are slidy expressive bits in the voice part, and even two notes on one syllable! 

And we finished off with two settings of free sacred texts. Campion's 'Author of Light' has greasy chromatic movement at words like 'mists and darkness' and expressive leaps in the voice. John Dowland's setting of 'If that a sinner's sighs be angels food' has a decadent lute introduction and uses madrigalisms like a rest before the word 'sigh'. (these hearty *gasp* sighs and woefull plaints). Composers obviously felt more at liberty when they weren't setting biblical texts. 
We did a class for York U's Elizabeth Pentland on Tuesday. As well as all the melancholy characters like Jaques, Pericles, Hamlet and all (see last blog entry) we talked about how we piece together what can be of the songs from Twelfth Night.

Feste the Clown does most of the singing. 'O Mistress Mine', for example can be pieced together (with some judicious repeats, because the words don't all fit) from the tune in Morley's Consort Lessons and a manuscript song attributed to Thomas Campion, poet and songwriter. The words are completely different in this manuscript, copied down by John Gamble in about 1659, but the tunes a variant and the lute player would make up chords from the bass. The song 'When that I was a little tiny boy', which ends the play has a folky ballad-like tune attached to it, but that doesn't appear till a century after the play was written. That kind of a tune could have been written any time, and it's possible it's the tune used in the original production, but there's no way to know.

Here's the exchange between the bunch of drunks staggering out of the pub in Act 2, scene 3:

Toby. ……. Shall wee rowze the night-Owle in a Catch, that will drawe three soules out of one Weauer? Shall we do that?

Andrew Aguecheek: And you loue me, let's doo't: I am dogge at a Catch.

Clown. Byrlady sir, and some dogs will catch well.
An. Most certaine: Let our Catch be, Thou Knaue.

Clown. Hold thy peace, thou Knaue knight. I shall be constrain'd in't, to call thee knaue, Knight.

Andrew Aguecheek. 'Tis not the first time I haue constrained one to call me knaue. Begin foole: it begins, Hold thy peace.

Clown. I shall neuer begin if I hold my peace.

An. Good ifaith: Come begin.

There's enough phrases in there that are also in a round published by Thomas Ravenscroft in 1609 that we can guess that that's the one used. (Scroll down the previous entry to see the music they sang from) Considering they weren't drunk the class did an admirable job of singing the round. (Or maybe they were.)

As for 'Come away death' there's nothing surviving so you just have to find a tune that the words fit (hard to do as the text has a very charactaristic number of syllables) or make up a tune yourself.