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Saturday morning quotes 2.2: Three in one

June 1, 2012

When sifting through the selection of historical English music that appears on our desk, we find ourselves happily preferring the darker minor-key melancholy of Dowland and his colleagues.  Perhaps it is the ample opportunity for expressiveness in the more anguished and emotionally-charged music.  Or maybe it’s because we agree in principle with Anthony Rooley’s distillation of historical opinion on the matter that, in a nutshell, performing melancholy music is a cathartic act.

But despite our best efforts to remain serenely composed, amusements and diversions manage to worm their way into the repertory upon occasion, especially when it comes to things like the novelty numbers by Van and Schenck or Ukelele Ike.  And although there are always plenty of reasons to be depressed—the economy, the political atmosphere, idiotic behavior, the dearth of lucrative opportunities for performers of old music—we’re still inclined towards our own brand of mirth of our own making.

We usually make it a point to steer clear of the lighter repertory of the Tudor-Stuart era, one of us absolutely refusing to countenance any song featuring the words “hey-ho” and “nonny” unless there’s some serious money involved.  There are plenty of other good performers out there serving the need for costumed stylized interpretations of the music, and we are quite comfortable occupying the realm of Elizabethan gloom and despair.  But when it comes down to it, we usually just toe the line and do whatever our manager demands of us.

This week, we share a bit of music by Thomas Ravenscroft (c.1590 – c.1633), a contemporary and an acquaintance of Dowland, and a composer remembered today for his entertaining catches and rounds that are generously peppered and spiced with such lyrics as mentioned above.  In Ravenscroft’s œuvre, one encounters such deeply disturbing lyrics as those found in ‘For Hunting’ (A Briefe Discourse, 1614 no. 2), to wit:

Hey trola, trola, hey trola, there, there, boyes there, there, there
Hoicka, hoicka, hoicka, hoicka, whoope, whoope, whoope
Crie there they goe, crie, there they goe, they goe, they are at a fault,
Boy winde the hor-hor-hor-horne
Boy, winde the Hor-hor-hor-hor-hor-hor-hor-hor-hor-horne.

Since we are committed to exploring domestic music of the past, we have been spending time with Ravenscroft’s work, which was meant to provide recreation and respite from the hellish jarring sounds of life.  It works today as it did some 400 years ago and, having rediscovered an old favorite with a slightly higher class of lyric, we offer this quodlibet, ‘A round of three country dances in one’ from Pammelia (1609).  Singers of non-avian description being a rare commodity in our corner of the woods, we indulge in domestic part-singing with a 21st century twist, and present it in concert with the sentiment of Ravenscroft’s dedication:

The onely intent is to give generall content, composed by Art to make thee disposed to mirth.  Accept therefore kindly, what is done willingly, and published onely, to please good Company.

  1. Great! What a treat: multiple Donnas.

  2. Fudd had quite the trillo, didn’t he? The first time I heard “3 country dances” was a live perf. by the Boston Camerata…with Joel Cohen contributing his vocal “talents”. It’s actually quite a melancholy tune, and appropriate for the times. (“the cramp is in my purse” indeed). Back in my days of funny-clothesery, I used to do “the pwned rapist” (er, The Baffled Knight), but that’s as Ravenscroftian as I ever cared to be.

    • Thanks for the message, Jeff. Yes, we think Fudd is tremendously underestimated as a vocal pedagogue. I first sang “country dances” (well, the bottom part) in the CSU Collegium with a truly wondrous collection of singers, which probably accounts for its having stuck with me all these years.

      Happy birthday…and don’t burn your pestle at both ends.

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