Monday, October 22, 2012

‪"Never Weather-Beaten Sail‬"

Stile Antico offers a really lovely rendition of this Thomas Campion piece from the early 17th Century; it's a great sad and beautiful song - perfect for October and November.  And it's church music, or not, as you wish; see the interesting note about  "the wealth of Tudor and Jacobean sacred music written for domestic devotion, rather than for church worship" below.  It's not an easy song to sing this well, either.

Never weather-beaten sail more willing bent to shore.
Never tired pilgrim's limbs affected slumber more,
Than my wearied sprite now longs to fly out of my troubled breast:
O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest.

Ever blooming are the joys of Heaven's high Paradise.
Cold age deafs not there our ears nor vapour dims our eyes:
Glory there the sun outshines whose beams the blessed only see:
O come quickly, glorious Lord, and raise my sprite to thee!

From the YouTube page:
Stile Antico (joined by Fretwork) explores a long-neglected repertory -- the wealth of Tudor and Jacobean sacred music written for domestic devotion, rather than for church worship. Culled from collections intended for use in private homes, these pieces by Tomkins, Campion, Byrd, Tallis, Dowland, Gibbons and others, offer a unique insight into the turbulent religious climate of the time and the thriving musical culture at its heart.

"An ensemble of breathtaking freshness, vitality and balance" (The New York Times)

The song was first published in Campion's "Two Bookes of Ayres" in 1613; you can see that online here, at Luminarium.  Here's the intro from that volume:

OUT of many songs which, partly at the request of friends, partly for my own recreation, were by me long since composed, I have now enfranchised a few; sending them forth divided, according to their different subject, into several books.   The first are grave and pious : the second, amorous and light.   For he that in publishing any work hath a desire to content all palates, must cater for them accordingly.

                                            Non omnibus unum est
                                            Quod placet, hic spinas colligit, ille rosas.                                                          
     These airs were for the most part framed at first for one voice with the lute or viol : but upon occasion they have since been filled with more parts, which whoso please may use, who like not may leave.   Yet do we daily observe that when any shall sing a treble to an instrument, the standers by will be offering at an inward part out of their own naure; and true or false, out it must, though to the perverting of the whole harmony.   Also, if we consider well, the treble tunes (which are with us, commonly called Airs) are but tenors mounted eight notes higher ; and therefore an inward part must needs well become them, such as may take up the whole distance of the diapason, and fill up the gaping between the two extreme parts : whereby though they are not three parts in perfection, yet they yield a sweetness and content both to the ear and mind ; which is the aim and perfection of Music.

     Short airs, if they be skillfully framed, and naturally expressed, are like quick and good epigrams in poesy : many of them showing as much artifice, and breeding as great difficulty as a larger poem.   Non omnia possumus omnes, said the Roman epic poet.   But some there are who admit only French or Italian airs; as if every country had not his proper air, which the people thereof naturally usurp in their music.   Others taste nothing that comes forth in print ; as if Catullus or Martial's  Epigrams were the worse for being published.

     In these English airs, I have chiefly aimed to couple my words and notes lovingly together ; which will be much for him to do that hath not power over both. The light of this, will best appear to him who hath paysed our monosyllables and syllables combined: both of which, are so loaded with consonants, as that they will hardly keep company with swift notes, or give the vowel convenient liberty.

     To conclude ; my own opinion of these songs I deliver thus:

          Omnia nec nostris bona sunt, sed nec mala libris ;
                Si placet hac cantes, hac quoque lege legas.

I really like this arrangement, played by "three musicians from Salzburg," too (although I miss the wonderful harmonies of the original)!


Anonymous said...

Oh! Oh! I've sang this one before! Love it!

bls said...

Me, too - it's a great piece....

Max Woolley said...

I'm rehearsing for this now; a setting by Parry I think!

bls said...

Yeah - there's a Parry version, too. See this video (filmed at Ste. Chappelle!).

Interesting acoustic.... ;-)


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