The lute song permeated into so many aspects of the English life: from the songs written for the Queen at court, to the songs sung in the theatre, to the folk songs that were woven into highly complex lute solos – music and poetry was inseparable from the high societal life style. Performed in the original pronunciation of the time, “The Lute and its Poetrie” combines the drama and theatre of declamation with the refinement and poise of the song.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, knights came and went defending her honour and winning her favour. Of those knights, our programme includes poetry of the Earl of Essex and poetry dedicated to Sir Henry Lee – two knights famous for very different reasons. After a long and tumultuous relationship with the Queen turned sour, the Earl of Essex was beheaded for treason in 1601. Sir Henry Lee, on the other hand, was celebrated for his dedication to protecting his sovereign and at his retirement, Dowland dedicated “His Golden Locks” to this aging prolific knight. The poem “Soldiers are like the armour that they wear” was written by Richard Mynshall, a soldier fighting in the Earl of Essex‟s failed military campaign in Ireland. It depicts a grim scene of young boys meeting their untimely deaths in wars they do not belong in.

Another hero enters the stage with our setting of the English folk song “My Robin is to the greenwood gone” or “Bonny sweet Robin”, which became famous during the Robin Hood craze in the late 16th century.The text is referenced by Ophelia as she descends into madness in Shakespeare‟s Hamlet.

The programme reaches its critical climax with “In darknesse let mee dwell”. John Dowland, the true master of melancholic song, created the pinnacle of the repertoire with this darkest of songs. It has biting discords on words as „sorrow‟ and „woes‟ as can be expected, but also influences of the Italian baroque can be heard in the strange and beautiful melody rising from the words with a sense of inevitability, expressing an emotional intensity unsurpassed in any other song at that time.

“The Old Couple, a Comedie” written by Thomas May is about the relationship between two lovers in the twilight years of their lives. Their love is ridiculed by onlookers and in the scene in which “Deare do not your faire beauty wrong” is sung, a servant reads a love letter written from the old man to his old woman.

Composers: John Dowland (1563 – 1626), Thomas Campion  (1567 – 1620), Thomas Ford (1580 – 1648), Thomas Morley (1557 – 1602), Michael Cavendish (1565 – 1628), Phillip Rosseter (1568 – 1623), Robert Parsons (1535 – 1571), Daniel Batchelar (1572 – 1619), Anthony Holborne (1545 – 1602), Robert Johnson (1583 – 1633)