Saturday morning quotes 4.31: Advent III and St. Lucy
– John Donne (1572 – 1631), “A Nocturnal upon St. Lucie’s Day, being the shortest day”
If the image at the top of this page looks slightly familiar, it’s because one year and one day ago we used the same image to commemorate the Feast of Saint Lucy of Syracuse, (circa 283–304), which falls on December 13th, formerly the longest night of the year according to the old Julian calendar. We refer you to last year’s post, where we made the connection between St. Lucy and Lucy Harrington, the Countess of Bedford (1580 – 1627), patroness to Elizabethan luminaries including John Donne, Samuel Daniel, Ben Jonson, John Florio and John Dowland, who dedicated his Second Booke of Songs or Ayres (1600) to the Countess, which meaningfully opens with a mini-masque of songs on the subject of lightness, darkness and tears (see Anthony Rooley, “New Light on John Dowland’s Songs of Darkness,” Early Music 11.1 (Jan. 1983): p.6).
For today’s installment of our Advent calendar, we feature a motet specific to St. Lucy’s Day, In tua patientia, in a setting by Adrian Willaert ( c.1490 – 1562). Willaert, who Pietro Aretino called sforzo di natura (miracle of nature) in Il marescalco (1539), was a prolific composer and a highly respected teacher. As maestro di cappella at the Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice from 1527 until 1562, Willaert required all of his musicians to study counterpoint, and famously dismissed an unnamed singer who refused to learn this important framework of rules essential to understanding music. Let that be a lesson to the profusion of indifferent choristers we see today.
Willaert was a friend to the lute, having intabulated Philippe Verdelot’s Il primo libro de madrigali for solo voice and lute, and published the arrangements as Intavolatura de li madrigali di Verdelotto (1536). Our source for In tua patientia is Famosissimi Adriani Willaert, chori divi Marci illustrissimae Republicae Venetiarum Magistri, musica quatuor vocum, Liber Primus (1539).
Willaert’s four-voice sacred motets with their long intertwining threads of melodic ideas offer a perfectly sublime indulgence for the beguiling combination of solo voice, lute and harp, as can be heard in our unique arrangement of In tua patientia, newly released as a live recording.