Sunday, May 17, 2009

Silly love songs from the days of Shakespeare

Poetry Scores will always be sweet on BBC Radio 3, since the organization was profiled on the Radio 3 poetry show The Verb when we released the first of our scores, Crossing America by Leo Connellan.

I have done my best to stay in touch with the busy folks at The Verb, with limited success. When I jumped onto the Twitter wagon a few weeks ago, I looked for the show and didn't find it, but did manage to add Radio 3 as a feed.

They use a service that simply announces what show is on at the moment, which is fine by me, especially when I am told - as I was told, first thing this morning - that I could be listening to an Early Music Show devoted to Thomas Campion.

You could call Campion a past master of poetry scores from the times of William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. Campion was one of those Elizabethan/Jacobean worldbeaters who took degrees in law and medicine, was a poet, composer and literary theorist, and even got tangled in the obligatory royal murder subplot.

The poems Campion wrote and scored tended to be lighter fare, the Early Modern equivalent of the "silly love songs" that Paul McCartney reportedly irritated John Lennon by writing, though I'm with Sir Paul by responding, rhetorically, "What's wrong with that?" And Campion coughed up a devotional song/poem with perhaps the most beautiful name for God I can remember having heard: "Author of light".

Sadly, Radio 3 does not archive audio of its shows, as I recall from when we were profiled (I had to charm and coax an assistant at The Verb to bootleg me a copy of the program we were on). I did a bit of searching on YouTube this morning, though, and found performances of three of the songs we heard on The BBC this morning. I like how they represent the wide range of contexts in which this lovely archaic music - the old poetry scores - survives.


This is the folk revival setting, with the flair of The Renaissance Fair - Sweet Amaryllis performing live at the Hudson Valley Mayfaire in New Paltz, NY, on 4 May 2008. Looks like it was a party!

"Never weather-beaten saile"
The venerable church choir survival, in this case the choir at St. Hilary Church, located in a town better known for its ye olde pirates: Penzance, Cornwall.

"The peacefull westerne winde"
And then the art song survival, in this case a nervous lad named Tiago Martins toughing his way through what seems to be a student recital or faculty review. Tiago needs to go drink some mead with Sweet Amaryllis and loosen up, a bit.


I also turned up a couple of stirring performances of Campion poetry scores that didn't make the Radio 3 setlist this morning

"Fain would I wend"
Soparano Valeria Mignaco, leading Alfonso Marin on lute and Adrian Mantu playing the proverbial out of the baroque cello live at Galway Music Festival in September 2008. Note to self: Get your rear end to Galway Music Festival!

"When to her lute Corinna sings"
Soprano Olga Nazaykisnskaya busting it out with Vadim Krasnov on lute; I think Campion and the rowdy men who sang his songs back in the day would approve (wildly) of the bikini screen shot at the end of this photo montage!


Image from some French dude's music page.

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