This particular soul, Sir William Leighton, was languishing in gaol in 1614 unable to pay his debts. He hit upon a (very successful) crowd-funding idea of inviting his famous and gifted friends to write music for the somewhat humdrum words he had written. To crown it all, he proposed dedicating the volume thus produced to the future King Charles the First. Fortunately his friends and colleagues were much better composers than he: Byrd, Wilbye and Weekes amongst them.
Clare Griffel, Chair of the South West Early Music Forum, conducted a one-day workshop on the Teares and Lamentacions with a good balance of singers, recorders and viols. She gave us a rigorous warm-up, useful historical background and then guidance on using the words to direct the music – as valuable for the instrumentalists as for the singers. The bankrupt Sir William was given his due in the first setting of the collection; but when we turned to Byrd, it was as if the doors had opened and light had flooded in.
It was really enjoyable to sing and play a series of linked pieces, and to concentrate on the words in the style of the time, working together on tuning and listening. To be beside the seaside, thinking of the life, words and music of men of the 17th century, and celebrating Sir William’s enterprise in raising enough money to buy his freedom with his compendium of lamentations, was an excellent SWEMF project.- Angela Le Grice