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Harmonia Early Music

Traditions Series: Courtship

This week, the Harmonia Traditions Series explores love and courtship, as well as a debut release by the Blue Heron Renaissance Choir.

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The love shared between two people is at best undefinable.  Yet, where our words might fail in expressing what we feel very easily, writers and composers have been able to get to the heart of it, especially in regard to the subtlety of emotion that lovers feel toward one another. This is especially true for two people who are just getting to know each other in the ritual better known as dating or courting.

The Elizabethan composer Phillip Rosseter captured the essence of a gentleman’s feelings for his beloved in his lute songs. Warmth, joy, and expectation are all seemingly tinged with a bit of melancholy that was fashionable in his day.

The giving of gifts is a long standing ritual of courtship. Sometimes they are well received and sometimes…not so much.

Take, for example, the ill-fated and decade-long courtship of Erik XIV of Sweden to England’s Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I. Not only was she unimpressed with the relentless stream of gifts, but the never ending list of ungrateful visitors pleading his case, including family and emissaries, made Erik more of a nuisance than a welcome love interest. The Winchester Part Books, a collection of madrigals and chansons, are thought to have been a courtship gift from Erik XIV to Elizabeth I.

Another timeless courtship tradition is dancing, a ritual meant to bring two lovers together – sometimes in physical contact.

Our new release of the week is the recording debut of the Blue Heron Renaissance Choir. They perform under the direction of Scott Metcalf in a program comprised mainly of Guillaume Du Fay, surveying his motets, hymns, and chansons.

Here’s a video of the Blue Heron Renaissance Choir performing “Ecclessie Militantis” by Guillame Du Fay:


The music heard on this episode was performed by La Venexiana, Le Poème Harmonique, Matthew Wadsworth, The Attaignant Consort, Doulce Mémoire, and La Petite Bande.

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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