Information for Members
Rehearsal Dates 2019

Rehearsals start again after Easter on Monday 29th April 2019.

 

Spring Concert

Dress Code: 

Ladies - black trousers and black top with long/threequarter sleeves and round neck. A black jacket over if needed. A Christmas corsage will be provided.

Gents - black suit/DJ with white shirt and black bow tie.

 

 

MADRIGALS

 

SPRING CONCERT MADRIGALS

Madrigals are usually written for from two to seven voice parts and are sung a cappella (without accompaniment). The madrigal form originated in Italy during the 14th century, spread throughout Europe, and blossomed in England during the Renaissance, reaching its height of popularity in the 16th century. The word “madrigal” is believed to derive from the Latin “matricale,” meaning Mother Tongue, because they were written in Italian vernacular, the language of the people (as opposed to Latin, the language of the church). In contrast to the dominance of religious texts in the music of that time, madrigals were secular in nature, celebrating life, love, and earthly delights—replete with fa la la’s and te whit, te whoo’s. Luca Morenzio, Orlando di Lasso, William Byrd, and Thomas Weelkes were some of the best-known madrigal composers. It is hard for us to imagine that these complex polyphonic creations were the rock songs of their day!

Thomas Morley (1558-1602) was the first great English madrigalist, and one of the best. A student of Byrd, Morley both reworked Italian madrigals into English, and set English sonnets and other poems to music he composed himself. His compositions are known for their elegance and balance, the keys to which are set forth in his textbook, A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (1597). “The astonishing flowering of the English madrigal during the next thirty years was very largely due to the skill, taste, enterprise, and discernment of this one remarkable musician,” said Thurston Dart in his Foreword to Invitation to Madrigals 2.

‘Sumer is icumen in’

This song was written in the 13th century, making it one of the oldest songs in English. It also contains the first recorded use of the word… ahem, 'fart'.

This song comes from a miscellany that was probably written in Oxford around 1260 and it's the first recorded use of six-part polyphony.

Middle English lyrics 

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!
Awe bleteþ after lomb,
Lhouþ after calue cu.
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ,
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu, wel singes þu cuccu;
Ne swik þu nauer nu.
Pes:
Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!

Modern English translation

Summer has come in,
Loudly sing, cuckoo!
The seed grows and the meadow blooms
And the wood springs anew,
Sing, cuckoo!
The ewe bleats after the lamb
The cow lows after the calf.
The bullock stirs, the goat farts,
Merrily sing, Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, well you sing, cuckoo;
Don't ever you stop now,
Ground (sung by two lowest voices)
Sing cuckoo now. Sing, Cuckoo.
Sing Cuckoo. Sing cuckoo now!

It Was a Lover and His Lass by William Shakespeare

From Act V, sc. 3 of As You Like It, comes a delightful (and secretly bawdy) song, "It Was a Lover and His Lass". This particular scene consists of Touchstone, the clown, and his intended bride, Audrey who dance in a circle while one of the pages sings this song. Part of the joke is that Touchstone is really only after Audrey because he wants a tumble, the other part is in the lyrics of the song itself, about an amorous couple getting busy in a cornfield.

It was a lover and his lass,

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o'er the green cornfield did pass
In springtime, the only pretty ringtime,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding,
Sweet lovers love the spring.


Between the acres of the rye,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
These pretty country folks would lie
In springtime, etc.

This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
How that a life was but a flower
In springtime, etc.

And therefore take the present time,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
For love is crownèd with the prime
In springtime, etc.


A word on meaning: The song tells the story of a lover and his lass who quite literally have a roll in the hay - or at least in the rye. The "nonsense" syllable, "nonny", is here subsumed in the word "nonino", pronounced "nonny no". The word "nonny" in Shakespeare's time was not mere nonsense, but was one of many, many slang terms for the vagina - the interlineation, therefore, of "with a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonny no" is in part a term to sexual (inter)action between the Lover and his Lass, and also attributed to them as the "song" they sing while thus engaged. Because although we think of him as "highbrow" today, that was not exactly how Shakespeare wrote - he was the master of double meanings and sexual puns, and this song is one example of it. 

April is in My Mistress’ Face

April is in my mistress’ face,
And July in her eyes hath place;
Within her bosom is September,
But in her heart a cold December.

This lilting English madrigal, written by Thomas Morley in 1594 based on an Italian text, deftly uses a weather metaphor to convey the vicissitudes of the poet’s relationship with a woman. The “mistress” in this case is a woman he is courting, who therefore holds power over him as a master would over a servant.  We understand through this comparison how delightful, fresh, and glowing the subject’s face appears to the poet, who thus pays her this highest of compliments. Her eyes, too, are as warm and welcoming as summertime when she smiles at her suitor. However, the next line ushers in a note of chill: her bosom, on which he longs to lay his head, does not harbor warm feelings, but rather is likened to autumn —a cooler season by far, when flowers are dying and leaves withering on the trees. To his even greater chagrin, he finds that her heart, seat of her true feelings, is as cold to him as the ice and snow of deepest winter.

Morley’s musical setting reflects the movement of the poet’s state of mind from gaiety and hope to a more wistful, subdued acceptance of reality, drawing out the word “September” like a howling wind, and ending “December” with a jarring, mood-changing chord.

Now Is the Month of Maying

Now is the month of maying, when merry lads are playing,
Fa la la la la la la la la, fa la la la la la la.
Each with his bonnie lass, a-dancing on the grass,
Fa la la la la la la la la, fa la la la la la la.

The Spring, clad all in gladness, doth laugh at Winter's sadness,
Fa la la la la la la la la, fa la la la la la la.
And to the bagpipe's sound, The nymphs tread out the ground,
Fa la la la la la la la la, fa la la la la la la.

Fie, then, why sit we musing, youth's sweet delight refusing?
Fa la la la la la la la la, fa la la la la la la.
Say, dainty nymph, and speak, shall we play barley break?,
Fa la la la la la la la la, fa la la la la la la.

This song is a very popular madrigal from 1595 by Thomas Morley. It is also known as an “English ballett” (yes, two t’s) since there was a dance that was performed to it. Morley was famous in his own time as a composer of secular music and an organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He left a large body of work composed of madrigals, keyboard music, and consort music. His work remains popular today and he is perhaps the best known and most loved of madrigal composers.

The lyrics on the surface are about spring dancing such as a maypole dance, but it is obvious that it is all about sexual activity outdoors. For example, “barley break” was an outdoor game played by couples that resulted in much physical contact. The phrase “barley break” was used idiomatically much as we now would say “a roll in the hay”.

Well, each lad has his "bonny lass" (pretty, healthy, young, nubile), upon the greeny grass. "Youth's sweet delight" is the things young people do that are pleasant.

Renaissance music was full of entendre and euphemisms. Shakespeare capitalized on them as well. So take it as you will. Either a happy song that speaks of the newness of spring, or a bawdy song that speaks of young lust - or both.
 

 

Useful websites for music learning

Learning materials for a huge number of choir pieces : http://www.choralia.net/mp3catalogue.htm It's worth making a donation to keep this resource going!

And another website worth looking at: http://www.learnchoralmusic.co.uk/index.html

ChoralWiki's catalogue from the Choral Public Domain library : http://www1.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Yet another website with many choir pieces : http://www.singingpractice.co.uk/music/midibase.html

Rutter's 'Sprig of Thyme'  : http://www.singingpractice.co.uk/music/wholeworks/rutsprig/orch/base.html

Gilbert & Sullivan learning materials : http://www.arjentium.com/index.php?pg=gs_study