Sunday, February 15, 2009


A small group of us got together yesterday - at last - to sing madrigals. We had a lovely time,but I don't know much about music history and theory, so today I thought I'd look up madrigals, and try once more to get my head round the terms polyphony and monophony. We're talking Wikipedia time again.

OK. Now I know what a madrigal is, but the other two terms just won't stick. I expect, though, that once I've sung more of each - with people who do know what they mean - and I've heard and felt how they fit together, then I'll get it. (In my wanderings, I also found homophony and heterophony. Who thinks of these words????????)

Anyway, there were five of us, three proper musicians who could sight read music, and knew their sharps from their naturals (and their troubadors from their jongleurs), and two of us who just like singing. We met in a living room, with a piano, had some tea (Yup, all English!) and had a go at three songs. The female voices were straightforward - one soprano and one alto (me). But one of the three guys, basically all tenors, though one was more baritone, had to sing bass. Whatever - it worked. Four part harmony. It's still very very rough, but we were so chuffed with ourselves.

I found several interpretations of all three on Youtube. They definitely won't help me remember the alto line, but I did enjoy hearing what different groups have done with these songs.

I'm not sure about the frocks, or Gandalf, but this is great fun to sing. It's a walking song for pilgrims climbing up to the Monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona. Most of the other groups sang it much more slowly, and once you've seen the location of the monastery, you'll know why....

Then there was Locus iste (This place was made by God), by the nineteenth century Austrian composer Anton Bruckner. The men practised in the kitchen, leaving us women with the piano in the living room. Next week, we might even try putting it all together.

And a Thomas Morley madrigal, Now is the month of maying, which sounds absolutely manic when taken at speed, but at a rhythm more suited to - maying - suggests all sorts of fun! Morley was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and they may have known each other.

Typical Tudor frock.......

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