Fantasticke Love

English songs of hope and despair from Shakespeare’s contemporaries

Do not be fooled by this fairy tale title, this is not a typical love concert.

The index of a songbook by Thomas Morley listed the song “Fantasticke Love”. How fantastic was this love? We will never know, because the song itself is lost. The title of the song’s second part, also in the index, provides a twist: “Poore soule”. Ironically, this lost song then tells us that there is no love without loss.

Mary Beale (English portrait painter, 1632-1697) Portrait of a Young Girl c 1681
Portrait of a Young Girl by Mary Beale

This program is not just about love – it is about how we deal with obsession, disappointment, and loss. In the England of Queen Elisabeth I, who reigned 1558-1603, two contrasting attitudes avail. On the one side, the foremost way to find relief from suffering was to sing about it with humor. On the other side, especially towards the turn of the century, a remarkable cult of melancholy started to rise in England, bringing it into a fashionable spotlight. Not only the royal court in London, but also the booming economy and hence wealthy population had made musical life in town flourish increasingly since the early 16th century. Henry VIII had imported internationally renowned musicians and Anglican church music prospered. By the end of the century, songbooks successfully spread across the printing market and into people’s homes.

In this program, unique arrangements of virtuoso English keyboard music for harp, viol, and recorder will alternate with a selection of the finest songs by composers as the organist William Byrd, the publisher Thomas Morley, and the lutenist John Dowland. This music will spark your senses, and make you sigh and smile.

Three musicians: 1 singer, harp, viol, and recorder
Duration: c. 75 minutes