As usual, we go directly from our Spring Concert to our more lighthearted Summer supper concert.
This year our concert is on 30th June, so close to Midsummer and certainly before the evenings start to darken. So, how better to celebrate than with Madrigals?
Madrigals were originally an import from Italy but English composers of the 16th and 17th centuries took the art form and made it their own.
One of their favourite subjects was the joy of celebrating the coming of Summer, with madrigals such as "All Creatures Now" and "Now is the Month of Maying". These songs describe a peaceful bucolic world of well-fed shepherds and shepherdesses, frolicking and dancing innocently. The realities of rural life had no place here!
There were a couple of inspirations. Poems about Arcadia by Virgil and Thomas Watson gave names and characters to flesh out the scenes.
The other was a compilation of madrigals by 23 different composers, put together by Thomas Morley. The collection was called "The Triumphs of Oriana" and every madrigal had to include the words :
"Thus sang the shepherds and nymphs of Diana: long live fair Oriana”
Oriana was said to have referred to Queen Elizabeth I, although she is also said to have hated being called Oriana.
The collection was published in 1601, two years before her death.
Madrigals were intended for home entertainment; unlike church music, all members of the family and both sexes would participate, grouped around part books, and the use of instruments such as flute, viol or lute were permitted.
In the pieces we have chosen I hope that we will be able to express both the joy of Summer as well as their essential intimacy.
More details about the concert will follow.