Friday, November 15, 2013

The program and notes for our concert Sat. Nov. 16, 2013, 8PM  Heliconian Hall 35 Hazelton Ave., Toronto.  Tickets $25 and $20 at the door

The Fame Which Posterity Gives – John Dowland (1563-1626)
A trompe-l'œil ceiling from one of the King of Denmark's castles about the time Dowland
worked for him. Might that lute player be the only picture of Dowland?

Famam, posterias quam dedit Orpheo
Dolandi melius Musica dat sibi

‘The fame which posterity gives to Orpheus/To Dowland, Music gives the better’ Thomas Campion

A Shepheard in a shade his plaining made
Dye not beefore thy day
His golden locks time hath to silver turnde
Sir Henry Lee with locks neither golden nor silver
Semper Dowland Semper Dolens
Sir John Smith his Almaine

It was a time when silly Bees could speake
If my complaints could passions move

The Right Honourable the Lady Rich, her Galliard

Flow my tears

Times eldest sonne: First part/Then sit thee downe: Second part/When others sings Venite exultemus: Third part


Thou mightie God/When Davids life by Saul/When the poore Criple

The Battell Galliard
Frog Galliard

Duc d'Alençon, whom Elizabeth strung along for a great while

Lady if you so spight me
Sorrow sorrow stay, lend true repentant teares
Sweet stay awhile, why will you rise?


In darknesse let mee dwell

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 and her entourage was very much 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.

The Earl of Essex, head intact
‘His golden locks’ and the ‘Times eldest sonne’ trilogy are also examples of both the late Elizabethan preoccupation with time, and a courtier sending a message to court via song. These songs are from the Accession Day celebrations of 1590. Sir Henry Lea, the queen’s champion in the stylized jousting tournaments here announces his retirement in an equally stylized manner. In the lyric of ‘Times eldest sonne’ (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 Book of Common Prayer, with those used for Evening Prayer. Needless to say, Elizabeth’s still fairly new and controversial Prayerbook does not include the Ave Maria prayer for that other Blessed Virgin.

Lucy, Countess of Bedford, bankroller of Jacobethan Melancholy
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 darkness peddling poets 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 (N.B. Lucy=light) to these artists?
A Melancholy Man, by Isaac Oliver, sometimes said to be Philip Sidney
Pastoralism, as heard in ‘A Shepheard 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 of Sidney. The Battell Galliard sets up trumpet figures in two opposing keys in imitation of Clement Jannequin’s chanson La Battaille. Sir Philip 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 the Lady Rich, her Galliard?

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