Harmonia Early Music

The Harmonia Gourmet: Food, Feasts, and Festivities

A mix of music and food, as well as compositions about food and drink.

men and women with mirror

Photo: Courtesy of the Ensemble

Fretwork viol consort.

Street Cries

There was no dearth of delicious foods in London’s marketplaces during the early 17th Century. Richard Derin composed The City Cries based on the cries of street vendors selling everything from rock salt to fruit pies. The song was popular at the time.

Theatre of Voices and Fretwork perform on the release from the Harmonia Mundi label entitled The Cries of London.

Composer Matthias Greiter wrote a rhapsody lauding eggs of every kind, perhaps alluding to the dreams of a “starving artist.” The Orlando Consort and Soloists performs the ode to ova prepared in every possible way: “broiled eggs, fried eggs, baked [eggs], spangled eggs, stuffed eggs…” on the release from Harmonia Mundi, Food Wine & Song: Music and Feasting in Renaissance Europe.

Food symbolism

While sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, anyone who’s seen the film “Tom Jones” knows that an apple or a leg of turkey can mean much more. The particular vegetable mentioned in this song is common in Europe, and looks like a large stalk of celery. “Ladies, we are master growers of cardoons, which in our gardens grow big and good.” The Orlando Consort performs this anonymous Florentine carnival song, complete with details on proper cardoon “planting” on the same Harmonia Mundi release as the egg tribute.

During the Middle Ages, Europe was rediscovering the ancient wisdom of the Greeks (adopting the practice of Gaston Phébus, the 14th-century Count of Foix and Beam) of prescribing certain foods for better health and soothing music to help you digest the food. Ensemble P.A.N. performs music commissioned by the count on their 1994 release, Ars Magis Subtiliter: Sacred Music of the Chantilly Codex. The Early Music Consort of London performs music composed in praise of the count on their recording entitled Music of the Gothic Era.

Drinking

For many of us, an essential component of a great dinner party is great wine. In composing a nostalgic list of things he would miss as he prepared to leave home for a new job, Guillaume Dufay did not begin with close friends nor the lass he would leave behind, but with the excellent local wines. The Unicorn Ensemble performs Dufay’s ode to his village’s greatest vintages on the release from Naxos, Dufay: Chansons.

When Henry Purcell and his pals gathered to have fun on their days off, they wrote songs not of wines but of the local ale. While the vision of Purcell, John Blow and other luminaries of the London music scene belting these out over a pint may seem strange to fans of Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas,” it does remind us that, after all, they were humans, too. The Hilliard Ensemble performs 17th century English pub songs on their Harmonia Mundi release, The Singing Club.

The Hunt

Hunting parties were popular from the Middle Ages on and the courtly culture of recreational hunting produced special clothing, breeds of horses and dogs, paintings, stories, and music. In the 15th and 16th centuries especially, the musical reprise of the hunt was a popular entertainment. Gilbert Patenaude and Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal choir perform such a piece by Clément Janequin on their release from Analekta records entitled Janequin: Elegiac & Pictoresque Songs.

Food and celebration naturally go hand-in-hand, and we all have our favorite holiday songs. On their recording entitled Cancionero Musical de Palacio: Music of the Spanish Court, Ensemble Accentus and Thomas Wimmer perform music by Spaniard Juan del Encina that urges all to eat, drink and make merry during a carnival. The Chieftains join The Voice Squad for “The Boar’s Head Carol,” which dates to the 16th century on their RCA release, The Bells of Dublin.

What better way to finish off our musical meal than with a nice hot cup of coffee? Europe was introduced to the drink around 1600 by Venetian traders, but it wasn’t until 1732 that J.S. Bach wrote his tribute to the beverage in the form of a cantata. The ensemble Tafelmusik performs Bach’s “Coffee Cantata” on their Analekta release of the same name.

Music Heard On This Episode

Richard Dering: Tr. 6: Richard Dering: The City Cries
Paul Hillier & Theatre of Voices with Fretwork — The Cries of London (Harmonia Mundi, 2006)
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Richard Dering: Tr. 6: Richard Dering: The City Cries
Paul Hillier & Theatre of Voices with Fretwork — The Cries of London (Harmonia Mundi, 2006)
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Matthias Greiter : Tr. 20: Matthias Greiter (16th c.): Von Eyren (2:38)
The Orlando Consort and Soloists — Food, Wine & Song: Music and Feasting in Renaissance Europe (Harmonia Mundi, 2001)
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Anon.: Tr. 9: Anon. Florentine Carnival Song (15th c.): Canto de’ cardoni (4:10)
The Orlando Consort and Soloists — Food, Wine & Song: Music and Feasting in Renaissance Europe (Harmonia Mundi, 2001)
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Solage: Tr. 7: Solage: Fumeux fume par fumee (4:38)
Ensemble P.A.N. — Ars Magis Subtiliter - Sacred Music of the Chantilly Codex (New Albion, 1994)
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Anon.: CD 2, Tr. 17: Febus mundo Oriens/Lanista vipereus/Cornibus (3:35)
The Early Music Consort of London (David Munrow, director) — Music of the Gothic Era (Archiv, 2002)
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Antonio Zachara da Teramo : Tr. 8: Antonio Zachara da Teramo (14th c.): Cacciando per gustar (3:55)
The Orlando Consort and Soloists — Food, Wine & Song: Music and Feasting in Renaissance Europe (Harmonia Mundi, 2001)
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: Guillaume Dufay: Tr. 17: Guillaume Dufay: Adieu ces bons vins de Lannoys (5:33)
Unicorn Ensemble (Michael Posch, director) — Dufay: Chansons (Naxos, 1996)
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William Lawes: Tr. 4: William Lawes: Drink tonight of the moonshine bright (1:51)
Hilliard Ensemble — The Singing Club (Harmonia Mundi, 2005)
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Henry Purcell: Tr. 9: Henry Purcell: ‘Tis women makes us love (0:53)
Hilliard Ensemble — The Singing Club (Harmonia Mundi, 2005)
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Clement Janequin: Tr. 3: La Chasse: Gentilz veneurs (3:52)
Gilbert Patenaude, Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal — Janequin: Elegiac & Pictoresque Songs (Analekta, 2007)
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Juan del Encina: Tr. 22: Juan del Encina: Hoy comamos y bebamos (4:07)
Ensemble Accentus & Thomas Wimmer — Cancionero Musical de Palacio: Music of the Spanish Court (Naxos, 1996)
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Traditional: Tr. 10: The Boar’s Head (1:58)
The Chieftains & The Voice Squad — The Bells of Dublin (RCA, 1991)
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J.S. Bach: Tr. 4: Aria: Ei! wie schmecht der Coffee susse (4:16)
Tafelmusik (Jeanne Lamon, conductor) — Coffee Cantata / Peasant Cantata (Bach) (Analekta, 2007)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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