Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Last week we had a whirlwind trip to San Diego. I met Hallie at Toronto Pearson Airport at 8AM for a flight at 5 to 10 - got to get there early because a) they might be sticky about carrying on the lute, and b) my name is apparently like someone's who is on some kind of list. All was well though and the Renaissance lute went in the overhead. Here's Hallie on the 5 hour flight.
Seth Lerer, Dean of Arts and Humanities at University of California at San Diego had invited us to talk to his Shakespeare class and give a concert. But the evening of our arrival we went to the opening of the very exciting Arthur C. Clark Center for the Human Imagination. You hear more about that with Seth on PBS here.

In the class we began by singing Lachrimae/Flow my tears from John Dowland’s Second Book of Songs, the melancholy poet of which has many parallel symptoms with Hamlet. Download us singing that here if you haven't already.

The Class
We then talked about the lute's place in Renaissance imagination. Remember when Hamlet comes in with his book all distracted? It marks him out as a Renaissance man, but scholars are in danger of becoming melancholic and mentally ill. Robert Burton in his Anatomy of Melancholy has a subsection that begins 'Love of Learning, or overmuch study Causes,' and closes 'with a Digression of the misery of Scholars, and why the Muses are Melancholy.' The lute, which for the Renaissance corresponded to the ancient lyre, was also code for a man or woman steeped in Humanist learning.

Two gentlemen showing off their Ancient Humanist learning and wearing trendy black.
Gertrude - 'Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off...'
Burton is writing about 20 years after Hamlet was published, but Shakespeare may have proofread Timothy Bright's Treatise of Melancholy since the playwright-to-be was working in such a capacity for Bright's publisher at the time. We discussed some of the symptoms of Hamlet and the poor poet in the song Flow my Tears to demonstrate that by early modern standards, these guys were ill.

Then we went on to talk about Ophelia’s songs, which we've thought about a lot with Prof. Deanne Williams. The 'bad quarto', the first print of Hamlet has her entering with a lute in hand. While it may be deficient in other ways (or it may just represent the play for a different context at the Inns at Court rather than the Globe) this direction is important. When she starts singing songs that a well educated young lady shouldn't have is becomes very much so. As an example of what a young lute-learning women should be singing we sang Coy Daphne fled/Chaste Daphne fled (a 2 for 1 song with different texts that praise and mock chastity) and Like as the Lute (a kind of patchwork quilt of musical definition demonstrations for the lute song student) from John Danyel’s songbook dedicated to Miss Anne Green. In the dedication he specifically says the songs were composed for her to sing.
A Ballad on the tune of Robin, (which Ophelia sings a snippet of with its original words)
on the topic of a rich powerful trying to get his way with a young woman.  

Ophelia, though, sings, with her lute in hand some of the rudest ballad songs. But not only that, we found that the texts she sings that appear to be less rude are actually associated with other near-contemporary ballad texts that where an older, richer man seduces, or attempts to seduce, a younger woman. Would the audience at the original performances have been saying ‘Oh, she’s singing that tune that has the other words of The princely wooing of the fair maid of London by King Edward’ (to the tune of Robin is to the Greenwood Gone) and ‘Oh, that’s the one that has the other words where the rich merchant is trying it on with Bess the farmer’s wife’ (to the tune of Walsingham)?

Then it was back to the hotel to get cleaned up for the concert.

The palm at the end of the mind, Beyond the last thought, rises...
This one's only at the end of the driveway of the Sheraton, though. 
Here's the program for that:

The Dean of the Division of Arts and Humanities presents

When Silly Bees Could Speak
Music by John Dowland for the 450th anniversary of his birth

Recital Hall, Conrad Prebys Music Center,
University of California San Diego
6PM - May 21st 2013

John Dowland (1563-1626)
It was a time when silly Bees could speak.
Dye not before thy day
Times eldest sonne, old age the heyre of ease: First part
Then sit thee downe, & say thy Nunc demittis: Second part
When others sings Venite exultemus: Third part

Lachrimae pavan
The Right Honourable Robert, Earl of Essex, his Galliard
The most sacred Queene Elizabeth, her Galliard

Sweet stay awhile, why will you rise?
If my complaints could passions move

Semper Dowland Semper Dolens
Sir John Smith his Almaine

A Sheperd in a shade his plaining made
Sorrow sorrow stay, lend true repentant teares

Solus cum sola
The Right Honourable the Lady Rich, her Galliard
Frog Galliard

Thou mighty God  1. part
When Davids life by Saul  2. part
When the poore Criple  3. part

Lady if you so spight me
In darknesse let mee dwell
Our glamourous green room. 
Program Notes
‘My Lord of Essex chose to evaporate his thoughts in a sonnet (beeing his common way) to be sung before the Queene, (as it was) by one Hales, in whose voice she took some pleasure.’ Sir Henry Wotton wrote this some 40 years after the execution of Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex, in a pamphlet comparing him to another spectacular courtier who met an untimely end, the Duke of Buckingham, the ‘favourite’ of James I. But it would be very rare, even impossible, for Essex and Elizabeth to ever be alone together; court ceremony meant that the ensemble called the Lutes and Voices served right in the Queen’s bed chamber along with all the other courtiers and servants. So any courtier’s poem sung before the queen was to some degree a semi-public self-serving self-fashioning. This is most explicit in Dowland’s setting of Essex’s poem ‘It was a time when silly Bees could speak’, called The Earl of Essex, his Buzz’ in poetic sources, where Essex, punning heavily on thyme/time, complains to the queen bee that he is not getting his just reward for all the time he puts in getting nectar from the thyme.
There are no bees, silly or otherwise, in this flower. It is not thyme. 
The ‘Times eldest sonne’ trilogy is another example, both of the late Elizabethan preoccupation with time and with a courtier sending a message to court via song. These songs are from the Accession Day celebrations of 1590. Here Sir Henry Lea, the queen’s champion in the, by then stylized, jousting competitions announced his retirement in an equally stylized manner. In the lyric, which was sung at the ceremony by the Robert Hales mentioned by Wotton above, Lea describes how he will replace the Psalms and Canticles prescribed for Morning Prayer in the still fairly new and controversial Book of Common Prayer, with those used for Evening Prayer. Needless to say, the Book of Common Prayer does not include the Ave Mari prayer for that Blessed Virgin.

But it was not only male courtiers who were projecting an image through song and poem. Dowland’s Second Book of Songs, which cements his position as the official composer of Elizabethan Melancholy, was dedicated to Lucy Countess of Bedford who also was the patron of Ben Jonson, John Donne and Samuel Danyel. Did she engage these artists because she was drawn to their work in the melancholy milieu or was Elizabethan and Jacobean melancholy made to order for the woman who wanted to bring light (Lucy) to these dark artists?

Hallie, John and Seth by a Triton, mascot of  UCSD 's sports teams. 
Pastoralism, as heard in ‘A Sheperd in a shade’, was another artistic movement at the turn of the 17th century. Sir Philip Sidney was Essex’s friend, his immediate predecessor as most sparkling young courtier, and author of Arcadia and Astrophel and Stella, works that put pastoralism and its fields on the map in England. The beloved Stella of Sidney’s sonnet cycle was Penelope Devereaux, sister of the Earl. She was unhappily married to the Lord Rich over the protestations of herself and Sidney. Sidney was banished from court for a while for protesting too strongly his opinion of the queen’s possible match with the Duke of Alençon, who she referred to as ‘My frog’. Might this be the source of a somewhat less respectful dedication of a galliard than ‘The Right Honourable Robert, Earl of Essex, Earl Marshall of England, his Galliard’?

And on the third day...

Home again, home again, market is done. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I am one of the students in Prof. Lerer's class that got the opportunity to watch you perform. I just wanted to thank you for coming out- the music was delightful and the instruction invaluable, given the central role of the lute in Jacobean drama.

And certainly, I will never look at Ariel's "Where the bee sucks, there suck I" the same way.