Pavane - Liner Notes:
The legendary Irish harper and composer Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738) was blinded by smallpox at the age of 18, apprenticed to a harper, and at 21 began his career as an itinerant musician, playing in the homes of the gentry throughout Ireland. The Fairy Queen has its roots as an ancient Irish air which Carolan embellished. Lars and I began playing and elaborating upon it after listening to Chris Norman's wonderful version. I composed my harp part at my sister's fairy-inhabited willow farm in Oregon.
When Laura Smiles and It was a Lover and his Lasse are English lute songs from the Elizabethan renaissance; the first by Philip Rosseter (1568-1626) and the second, a setting of the lyric from Shakespeare's As You Like It, by Thomas Morley (1557-1602). I fell in love with these after hearing Julianne Baird sing them, accompanied by Ronn McFarlane. I dedicate the first to my friend Laura, with whom I played flute duets in the streets back when we were young and wild: "When Laura smiles her sight revives both night and day; The earth and heaven views with delight her wanton play..."
A sicilienne is a dance or song, often written with a swaying rhythm in a minor key, pastoral in feeling, and allegedly of Sicilian origin. Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) wrote his Sicilienne, an incredibly beautiful contribution to the form, as part of a suite of incidental music for Maeterlinck's dreamy symbolist drama, Pelleas and Mélisande, which also inspired the opera by Debussy and symphonic works by Schoenberg, Sibelius and others.
The pleasing contrast between the graceful and stately pavane and its lively cousin the galliard - both dances, probably of Italian origin - explains why they've traditionally been paired since the 15th century or earlier. I first heard this Pavane and Galliard as arranged by Francis Poulenc in his Suite Franôaise for piano. It is attributed to Claude Gervaise, a 16th century French composer, but Gervaise himself calls it a Pavane d'Angleterre and changed the time signature to form the galliard. The Baltimore Consort calls it Prince Edward's Paven and finds it in Thomas Wode's late 16th century part-books in the Edinburgh University Library.
Sumer is icumen in (Anon c. 1300) is a well-beloved and ancient example of the rota, which is essentially a round or infinite canon, which shows many traits characteristic of English medieval music. Below the canon two tenor mandolins play a repeated motive called a pes, or "foot." The lyrics, in English older than Chaucer's, celebrate the arrival of summer, with its warm weather, when all nature rejoices:
Salley Gardens is a traditional tune (also known as Maids of Mourne Shore). Of his poem Down by the Salley Gardens, the great Irish bard W.B. Yeats wrote: "this is an attempt to reconstruct an old song from three lines imperfectly remembered by an old peasant woman in the village of Ballysodare, Sligo, who often sings them to herself." His lyric goes:
"Salley" is a variant of "sallow," a species of willow tree.
John Playford (1623-1686) was established in 1648 as a bookseller and "stationer" in a shop in London "near the church door" and published his first musical work in 1651. This was The English Dancing Master, subtitled "Plain and easy rules for the dancing of country dances, with the tune to each dance." We heard his Jenny Plucks Pears first on a very old record out of Concord, Massachusetts (no address, no date) called The English Country Dancing Master put out by the Telemann Society Orchestra, directed by Richard Schulze, which proselytizes about the virtues of Perrhythmic Integration: "each of the strands of melody should be so articulated or enunciated as to enhance its natural poetic rhythm. When this is done the entire performance gains a sparkle and a transparent beauty which appeals to a wide audience of the musically innocent and unprejudiced." We have tried to carry on this work.
I have been enjoying learning more and more traditional Breton tunes; they have such a wonderful oboe tradition, often using a small loud instrument that I must try called a bombarde. I heard these Rondes while driving in the mountains listening to my friend Lisa's radio show - and immediately frantically tried to find a phone so I could ask her what they were! They are from a recording by a band called "Skolvan" called Entrez dans la danse. A ronde is a fast circle dance performed with hands joined from the Oust and Lié regions of Brittainy.
John Dowland (1563-1626) is as famous for his melancholy as for his music. Though an Englishman, he spent a third of his life abroad at various courts around Europe. From 1598-1606 he was in the service of Christian IV, King of Denmark, whose excessive propensity to drunkeness is stressed in contempory accounts - hence The King of Denmark's Galliard. Dowland was unable to secure an appointment at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, a misfortune which he attributed to the fact that he was a professed Catholic. He was associated with the English Papists at a dangerous time. Mrs. Winter's Jump was probably written in honor of Jane Ingleby, who married George Winter and became the mother of Robert and Thomas Winter, two of the leading conspirators in the infamous and ill-fated Gunpowder Plot. We are playing our friend Harris Moore's version of the Jump, direct from Amsterdam via the miracle of modern electronics.
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) wrote the Suite for Pipes, from which I've taken this Valse, for the Pipers' Guild, of which he was the president for many years. The Pipers' Guild owed its existence to Margaret James, who taught in the nineteen-twenties in a London school and in a Cotswold village. She developed, with the children, the threefold craft of making, decorating and playing their own instruments, which were various sized bamboo whistle-like pipes. I heard this piece on the radio in England when I was fourteen and caught the end on cassette, found the out-of-print score in the used-book shop at the San Francisco Conservatory, and finally a recording appeared at our beloved Logos Books in Santa Cruz.
Peter Philips (c. 1565-1640) - a distant ancestor - is described as "a slightly less important virginalist," the virginal being a renaissance stringed instrument rather like a harpsichord. Philips was one of the many composers of the Elizabethan golden age of English music and theater, although he is thought to have worked on the Continent. I found the Trio in the same stack of out-of-print recorder music that yielded the Suite for Pipes.
The Nightingale (by one of my favorite composers, Anonymous) was originally a lute duet with imitations of bird calls and appears as La Rossignol in Jane Pickering's lute book, a beautifully handwritten renaissance manuscript. Cats Caper just came to Lars Johannesson (1966- ) one spring day in Sweden while walking by the water. He now dedicates it to a certain silly kitten on a previous Gourd album cover.
Native airs of Scotland, like The Laydie Louthian's Lilte, were first written down in the seventeenth century for solo instrumental playing. The Lilte was a cittern piece from Robert Edward's musical commonplace-book in which he informs us that he was the minister of Murroes parrish church in Angus and was in close touch with the family of Panmure House nearby. Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) was born near Eisenach on the river Werra in Germany. The Courante is from Terpsichore, a collection of French renaissance dances named for the Greek muse of the dance; it is his only secular musical work among a vast stock of Lutheran church music.
I heard The Parting Glass done in beautiful three-part accapella harmony on my friend Tam's radio show by a group called "The Voice Squad" and had to play it. I learned it from The Pacific Rim Dulcimer Project. The first verse goes:
My oboe is a Lorée, my English Horn is a Rigoutat and my harp is a Dusty Strings.
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