MUSIQUE FOR YE EARLES OF WARWICKE
We play medieval and renaissance music ranging from 11th to early 16th centuries. This is chosen from a very wide range of music, including rustic and courtly dances, drinking songs, sacred music of the common people and the high church. However, as you will read below, our choice of music is determined by what the Earls of Warwick might have heard in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Please go to Warwicke Past Programmes from the menu for further information on our repertoire. The instruments we use – principally bass viol, small “renaissance” guitar, recorders, percussion – are such as would be recognised at least at the end of our period. Pictures and descriptions of our instruments to follow. And of course we sing: soprano and tenor.
Our dress is such as would be worn by people of the middling sort the late 15th century.
Why “Musique for ye Earles of Warwicke?”
The medieval Earldom of Warwick was created in the time of William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, known as the Conqueror. The Earls – and their Countesses – were in medieval times amongst the most powerful subjects of the Kings of England. Our favourite is Richard, the thirteenth earl who was born on 23 January 1382. He was a man of immense wealth: the friend of Henry V, Guardian of Henry VI, and Constable of Rouen Castle when Jeanne d’Arc was burned.
Richard married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Baron Berkeley and their daughter, also Elizabeth, married Richard Neville, known as the infamous Kingmaker. Richard is portrayed in a wonderful gilt bronze effigy resting on his tomb and his children are both portrayed as weepers on the side of the tomb. Richard is shown, with his hands apart, gazing upon the Queen of Heaven depicted upon a boss in the roof.
This tomb is set in a chantry chapel of c1470, known as the Beauchamp Chapel, a regular 3-bay Lady Chapel, in Warwick. Richard’s will paid for the sumptuous tomb and chapel and also set aside money for masses to be sung for his soul in perpetuity – alas! this came to an end in 1538 with the dissolutions of Henry VIII, when much was plundered from the chapel.
Kathleen and Alan first performed together publicly in the chapel. Our interest is with the music that Richard could have heard there, or in his Great Halls at Warwick and Rouen Castles, or in camp when campaigning. Of course we can know little in detail of his tastes in music. But some that we can be confident was regularly sung for the repose of Richard’s soul is shown in the stained glass windows of the chapel. (http://vidimus.org/issues/issue-46/feature-2/) & Buckle, A, 2010: ‘Fit for a King’: Music and Iconography in Richard Beauchamp’s Chantry Chapel. Early Music 38, 3-19.)