In this performance at the A Cappella City, USA festival in Ann Arbor, MI, three songs are performed. The first song, Chi La Gagliarda by Baldassare Donato, depicts young men trying to convince young ladies that they are excellent dance instructors. Each verse starts out polyphonic (where all the parts come in at different times), but becomes more homophonic (all the parts singing as one) as the couples learn to dance together. Il Bianco e Dolce Cigno by Jacques Arcadelt compares a swan’s death with the “little death”, a metaphor for something far more pleasant. The song was constantly in publication for the first 100 years after its first printing in 1539, and its popularity helped the classic madrigal style to spread beyond Italy. The final song is Hark Ye Lovely Saints Above by Thomas Weelkes. It pokes fun at Renaissance poetry’s obsession with lovesick melancholy and despair, suggesting playfully that perhaps if we did away with love altogether we could be perfectly happy.
Tourdion is a type of popular 16th century dance. The tune for this tourdion, called La Magdalena, was printed in a book of various dance tunes by publisher Pierre Attaingnant in 1530. In 1589, the tune was reproduced in a 4-part vocal arrangement, called “Quand je bois du vin claret” by an anonymous composer. The men sing about drinking, singing, eating a ham and waging war on the bottle. The alto joins in with “This good wine makes us merry, and singing helps us forget our pain, so lets eat ham and wage war on the bottle. The soprano joins in with “When I drink this claret wine, everything spins around, so I’ll drink Anjou or Arbois wine. Sing, and drink and wage war on the bottle, drink down my friends.” This was performed at a St. Cecilia at the Tower SCA event in Saline, MI.
Orlando di Lassus was one of the most famous and influential vocal music composers of the 16th century. He wrote over 2,000 songs in Latin, Italian, French, and German. Madonna Ma Pieta is a very passionate song in which the lover begs his partner to end her teasing, saying in Italian “water, my lady, for the fire.” This was performed at the St. Cecilia at the Tower SCA event in Saline, MI.