Elizabethan Music class notes

I taught a class at King’s College 2016 on Elizabethan Music. These are the songs I used as examples.

Song Composer Year Album Artist Description
Vigilate William Byrd 1589 English Renaissance King’s Singers Motet for 5 voices, from Cantiones Sacrae.
Browning My Dear Clement Woodcock 1574 Elizabethan Consort Music, 1558-1603 Hespèrion XX, Jordi Savall Instrumental, string consort
Have I Found Her Francis Pilkington 1613 All At Once Well Met: English Madrigals King’s Singers Madrigal
It fell on a summer’s day Dr. Thomas Campion, lyrics;  Philip Rosseter, music 1601 Campion: Elizabethan Songs Drew Minter countertenor – Paul O’Dette lute Voice and lute, bawdy song. From “A Book of Ayres”.
Tan tara ran tara cries Mars own bloody rapier Thomas Weelkes 1608 Waytes: English Music for a Renaissance Band Piffaro Shawms and sackbut, originally a madrigal for 3 voices
All as a sea William Byrd 1588 William Byrd: Psalmes, Sonets & Songs, 1588 Anthony Rooley, The Consort of Musicke Voice and string consort
April is in My Mistress’ Face Thomas Morley 1594 The English Lute Song Ron McFarlane Lute; Julianne Baird Soprano Madrigal, Voice and lute
If ye love me Thomas Tallis 1560 The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis The Tallis Scholars Anthem, 4 part acapella, text from John 14: 15-17 (KJV)

He asketh nought but that is His

In 1399, after John of Gaunt died, the king disinherited Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, who had previously been exiled. Henry invaded England in June 1399 with a small force that quickly grew in numbers. Claiming initially that his goal was only to reclaim his patrimony, it soon became clear that he intended to claim the throne for himself.

“My gracious lord, I come but for mine own.”
Henry Bolingbroke, The Tragedy of King Richard II, Shakespeare, 1597, Act 3, Scene 3

“He asketh nought but that is His.”
Christmas Carol: Now May We Singen as it Is, Trinity Roll, 1420

 The Trinity Roll is a collection of carols including “Deo Gracias Anglia”, the Agincourt Carol. It is a scroll of parchment housed in Trinity College, Cambridge (Manuscript O.3.58).  It was written about 1420, the year that King Henry concluded the Treaty of Troyes and became regent and heir apparent to the French throne, and then married Catherine of Valois.

 “Deo Gracias Anglia” is obviously written to praise the King. Was “Now May We Singen as it Is” also written to praise the King’s father Henry IV by making a comparison to Christ? The carol begins:

This babe to us that now is born,
Wonderful works He hath ywrought,
He would not lose what was forlorn,
But boldly again it bought;
And thus it is,
For sooth I wis,
He asketh nought but that is His.

 And later:

His ransom for us hath ypaid.
Good reason have we to be His.

 So, the carol says directly that Christ ransomed us so we should serve him. Since He has already paid the price, “He asketh nought but that is His.”

 The story of Henry Bolingbroke coming for what already belonged to him was well enough known 200 years later that it was included in the play. Wouldn’t it have been known 20 years later? Was this such a common phrase and concept that two similar references in 20 years is unsurprising, or is the lyricist intentionally echoing the famous story about the King’s father?

I don’t think we have enough information to prove it either way, but it is interesting.


Medieval Christmas 2016

I’m planning to focus this year’s Medieval Christmas on 15th century English carols. I may have to make a 15th century houpelande and chaperon. Four of them are from the Trinity Roll, at Trinity College, Cambridge,  MS. O. 3. 58, from about 1420.

Alamire made an excellent recording of these carols.


Song Source Notes
Nova, Nova 15th century English Choir on chorus, solo on verses
Salutation Carol 15th century English Choir on chorus, solo on verses
Coventry Carol 15th century English  4 part
This Endris Night 15th century English  Unison, 15 verses, Harp
There is no rose of such virtue Trinity Roll  2 part
Now may we syngyn Trinity Roll  2 part
Nowel sing we now Trinity Roll  2 part
What tidings bringest thou messenger? Trinity Roll  2 part


Medieval Christmas 2015

These are the songs and program I’m planning for the  Medieval Christmas Program 2015   service on December 6th.

Order Song Source Performers
1 Laudemus Virginem


Llibre Vermeil de Montserrat, late 14th Century Catalan Choir, 2 part canon
2 Verbum Caro Factum Est


Piae Cantiones 1582, probably 14th Century Choir unison on chorus, solo verses, percussion, instruments
3 Nova, Nova


15th Century English Choir unison on chorus, solo verses
4 Los Set Gotxs Estampie Llibre Vermeil de Montserrat Instrumental, Todd
5 In Dulci Jubilo

In Dulci Jubilo

14th Century German Choir, congregation, piano
6 Quem Pastores


14th Century German Duet and harp
7 Mariam Matrem virginem

Mariam Matrem

Llibre Vermeil de Montserrat Choir unison on chorus, solo verses, organ
8 Cuncti Simus Concanentes

Cuncti Simus

Llibre Vermeil de Montserrat Choir unison on chorus, solo verses, percussion
9 Veni, Veni Emanuel

Veni veni duet

Lyrics 9th Century, music 15th Century French #211 Choir, congregation, piano
10 Splendens ceptigera Llibre Vermeil de Montserrat Choir, 2 part canon
11 Alle Psallite Cum Luya Montpelier Codex Trio, Instruments

Dance Consort music

The Ansteorra Dance Consort is preparing these pieces:


Branle Simple, Thoinot Arbeau, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Arbeau/double.pdf

Branle Double, Thoinot Arbeau

Branle de Bourgoigne, Thoinot Arbeau

Branle Gay, Thoinot Arbeau

Branle de Chevaulx, Thoinot Arbeau, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Shawm/horse.pdf

Heart’s Ease, Playford, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Playford_new/heartsez.pdf

Half Hannikin, Playford, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Playford_new/halfhann.pdf

Hole in the Wall, Playford, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Playford_new/hole_sum.pdf

Gathering peascods, Playford, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Playford_new/peascods.pdf


Instrumental Consort music

The Ansteorra Instrumental Consort is preparing these pieces:


Dit le Bourguygnon, anon., http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Renaiss/dit.pdf

Jouyssance vous donneray, Thoinot Arbeau, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Arbeau/jouyssan.pdf

Bergerette: Sans Roch, Tylman Susato, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Renaiss/bergeret.pdf

La Battaille (Pavane V), Tylman Susato, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Renaiss/battaill.pdf

La Morisque, Tylman Susato, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Shawm/moris_a.pdf

Grimstock, Playford, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Playford_new/grimstoc.pdf

Nuttmigs and Ginger, anon, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Holborne_waits/nutmegs.pdf

Now, o now I needs must part, John Dowland, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Dowland/nowonow2.pdf


Vocal Consort music

These are the songs that the Ansteorra Vocal Consort is preparing: 

April is in my Mistress Face, Thomas Morley, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Morley/april.pdf

Sing we and Chant it, Thomas Morley, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Morley/sing_we.pdf

Say Love if ever thou didst Find, John Dowland, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Holborne_waits/say_love.pdf

Belle qui tiens ma vie, Thoinot Arbeau, http://stcpress.org/miscellaneous/belle_qui/belle_qui_tiens_ma_vie.pdf

Una Sanosa porfia, Juan del Encina, http://sca.uwaterloo.ca/Hendricks/Renaiss/sanosa.pdf


Sonnet: Seeds

Like as a farmer scat’ring seeds in Spring,

a noble Lady spread her kind words there,

and unexpectedly she seemed to bring

new life to ground so recently laid bare.


And if that ground seems lavishly well sown,

it is no fault of hers, but of her son.

She tarried but to gather in her own

and seeds, by chance, fell as she watched him run.


Or, was that seed yet dropped there by her choice

in hope that it may grow? And do I see

in her attentions and hear in her voice

what comes from her, or comes from my fancy?


Fancy or no, I’ll tend this seedling well.

What harvest comes, still only time will tell.


(Nov 20, 1994)

Elizabethan Cultural Literacy

Cultural Literacy is the common language used within a culture to express ideas without explaining in detail. It reflects the shared experiences and stories of the culture. For example, people in the SCA know that “call the blow” means to acknowledge your mistake, but others would not understand it. If you talk about “crying wolf”, “Cupid’s arrow”, “the road to Jericho”, or “met his Waterloo” most Americans will understand. Cultural literacy helps to define a group, and brings its members closer together. As we try to understand a culture that existed centuries before we were born, it would be helpful to know what its cultural literacy was.

Elizabethans knew Greek mythology and medieval stories like King Arthur or Robin Hood. The second most popular book, after the Bible, was “Acts and Monuments of Martyrs” which is more commonly knows as Fox’s book of Martyrs. This detailed the deaths of famous and recent martyrs, especially protestant reformers.

Perhaps the most famous renaissance book is “The Book of the Courtier” by Baldesar Castiglione. He describes discussions at the court of Urbino about the ideal courtier. It was published in 1528 and translated into English by 1561. It was widely read in the renaissance throughout Europe, and was considered to be the definition of courtly behavior.

Another popular book on etiquette was “Galateo” by Giovanni Della Casa. It was published in 1558 and translated to English in 1576. It has long been out of print. In the Renaissance if someone was rude it was said that he “did not know his Galateo”. Like quoting Miss Manners, people would make their point by saying, “Monsignor Della Casa says …”.

Other Elizabethan books that describe popular culture are Benjamin Harrison’s “Description of England” and Stowe’s “A Survey of London”. These describe occupations, neighborhoods, diet, clothing, and a wealth of other useful details. Phillip Stubbes’ “Anatomy of Abuses” is a complaint about the extravagant lifestyles of Elizabethan courtiers. He explains in great detail what they do and what he doesn’t like about it.

Sometimes modern books about the time can give the modern reader a better understanding of the culture than period sources. A good one is “Daily Life in Elizabethan England” by Jeffrey Singman. Singman was one of the founders of the “Trayn’d Bands”, another living history group.

The best book for understanding Elizabethan ideas is “The Elizabethan World Picture” by E. M. W. Tillyard. He describes the medieval and renaissance concepts of order, and discusses the differences. This short book will help you understand many of the concepts, jokes, and sayings of period authors. It is often used as a college textbook, so you can sometimes find it used in college bookstores.

If you read the stories, plays, sermons, and advice books of a culture, you can understand it and portray it better.