I haven’t checked in around this in a while, but my studies with Maistre Lucien have been a source of constant joy throughout the year to this point. Lucien has been unfailingly supportive, even as he continues to hold me to high standards, with a gently probing Socratic approach.
This last session, Lucien presented me with an assignment to stretch and test my understanding of period music and language, which I enjoyed immensely. He has granted his kind permission for me to publish what I produced in response, and I share it here.
The three parts of the assignment are:
1. Pick a song by an Elizabethan composer and learn it. I selected “My Love Hath Vowed” by Thomas Campion. I’m becoming partial to Campion, who was the only composer of the era to write all his own lyrics to my knowledge.
So I learned it. Good piece. Since it’s in a woman’s voice, I thought I’d stretch a little and do a quick recording for Lucien showing my contratenor range–a very Tudor practice. (Bit scratchy toward the end–it’s a once in a while kinda thing.)
2. Now write new contrafact lyrics to the song, keeping to period lexicon as much as possible. I looked through my story idea list, and found a recent inspiration that seemed like a good fit. The lexicon presented a good opportunity to draw on my Shakespeare studies. Here is the result:
Rise up, young Isaac, we are leaving
For a sacrifice to make.
must would our worship be receiving
And thus unto me He spake.
– I am in amaze, my father!
Was there aught else said, pray tell?
– Peace, now! Bid adieu thy mother.
Greatest of joys, my Maker blessed me
With son in antiquity.
Wherefore then doth He now divest me
Of promis’d posterity?
– Father, though we build this altar,
Nary lamb see I to kill.
– Trust in Heaven, do not falter.
Binding him now, vexation ails me:
This be mine own flesh I burn.
Hold fast to troth, lest my strength fails me:
‘Tis the Lord’s gift I return.
– Hold’st thou, Abraham, his life now?
– Ever, Lord, do I Thy will.
– Stay thy hand: put up thy knife now.
Well, Abraham, hast thou delivered
Unto Me thy favored son.
He shall be spared, for I have never
Faithful service truer known.
– In the hedge a ram I spy, Lord.
– Off’ring such, man, likes me well.
– In thy name then shall it die, Lord.
3. Set the lyrics to your own tune, using period-sounding tropes. For this one, I resisted sounding too much like Campion by listening to a lot of John Dowland and trying to channel some of his style. I ended up with a tune very different from any of the modern-sounding stuff I usually write, and strikingly upbeat for the subject matter (which is, actually, something of a period trope). [EDIT: This tune would later form the basis for “I asked of thee a boon”.]
I’m having a little too much fun with this. 🙂