Additional arrangements of Renaissance music are now available for you to download and enjoy over the holidays for free. Go to the website and click on “Free” to access the music, historical notes and recordings.
They range from a demi-basse dance, to conte clares, a prelude, a gaillarde and a series of chansons.
All the pieces are from the nine books published by Adrian Le Roy and Guillaume Morlaye in the mid-16th century and were specifically written for the Renaissance guitar, the direct ancestor of the ukulele (i.e. the same tuning).
I am making these arrangements available for free as I go through the nine books to arrange the remaining pieces into a series of books, called “Troves”, for dozens of Fantasies, Bransles, Pavanes, Gaillardes and Chansons (available in 2021).
As a classical music player (on guitar and ukulele) and with the help of my teachers, I select pieces that compliment each other and create a mini-suite or recital. The selected pieces are not necessarily connected to each other formally by the composer and do not have to be by the same composer either. They just need to work together with some commonality. For example, pairing etudes from Gerald Garcia with those of Leo Brouwer. If working from a book of studies, etudes, or short pieces usually by the same composer, then several of the pieces are selected to create my own suite or recital.
My teachers also help me select formal suites or sonatas that I work to learn completely. The guitar ensemble also selects pieces with multiple movements for performance or pieces by the same composer from a larger body of work.
I’ve put together three books that follow these principles. If there is interest, I can create more (just let me know what you’d like).
A Military Recital — While arranging Renaissance guitar music, I noticed several lengthy pieces with a military “theme”. They are either descriptive pieces depicting a particular battle or dance pieces incorporating military-type passages. I also included a transcription of a Baroque piece (originally written for harpsichord). Listen now.
A Spanish Recital — As a student of the guitar, I learned the Spanish Suite arranged by John Mills based on the music of Gaspar Sans. Inspired by this concept, I researched and found a lot of music Gaspar Sans and selected ten pieces to create a recital for the ukulele. Listen now.
Sonata 24 by Weiss — I’ve played portions of this sonata on the guitar and was inspired to challenge myself and arrange the entire 8-movement sonata for ukulele. The original music is in the key of D-Minor and has been transposed to the key of G-Minor for the ukulele so as to preserve as many of the fingerings as possible. Also, some passages have been simplified, including using different bass lines or notes, especially since the ukulele only has four strings and the pieces were originally written for the lute. Listen now.
The Medieval Ukulele is now available on Amazon and Kobo. Here are the explanations of the arrangements and links to the recordings so you can explore the music from the 5th to 15th centuries …
The Estampie is the first known genre of medieval era dance music, a popular instrumental and vocal form in the 13th and 14th centuries with a succession of repeated sections. The melody in a lively triple meter is monophonic (in soprano/alto range such as a recorder). However, the melody becomes polyphonic when accompanied by instrumentalists (in tenor range such as the crumhorn). They were played as entertainment for the wealthy during their feasts. https://youtu.be/zJuUqIpr3K
The Ductia as like the estampie but more regular. “The ductia is a melody that is light and brisk in its ascents and descents, and which is sung in carole by young men and girls, …. It influences the hearts of young girls and men and draws them from vanity, and is said to have power against that passion which is called love or ‘eros’.” (Johannes de Grocheio). https://youtu.be/zHtfU9zcmuw
This piece is my favorite … Canção do figueiral (Song of the fig-tree orchard) is celebrated as the oldest traditional song in Portuguese (about 12th century). https://youtu.be/cw9O3sTO0As
Most of the arrangements in this book are of songs. People who sang the secular songs of the middle ages were jongleurs or minstrels, first appearing around the 10th century. These actors, acrobats, fiddlers and singers moved from castle to castle.
A Troubadour is a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (1100–1350). The troubadour school or tradition spread to Italy and Spain. The texts of troubadour songs deal mainly with themes of chivalry and courtly love. Most were metaphysical, intellectual, and formulaic. Many were humorous or vulgar satires. https://youtu.be/dJFxSDy7ln8
There were three Formes Fixes of verse set to music between the late 13th and the 15th centuries. Each was also a musical form, generally a chanson, and all consisted of a complex pattern of repetition of verses and a refrain with musical content in two main sections. The rondeau is believed to have originated in dance songs.
A Chanson is in general any lyric-driven French song, usually polyphonic and secular. A singer specializing in chansons is known as a “chanteur” or “chanteuse”, and collection of chansons is a “chansonnier”. The earliest chansons geste were the epic poems performed to simple monophonic melodies. These usually recounted the famous deeds (geste) of past heroes, legendary and semi-historical. The chanson courtoise or grand chant was an early form of monophonic chanson, the chief lyric poetic genre of the trouvères. It was a song of courtly love, written usually by a man to his noble lover. A Burgundian chanson is a polyphonic French song of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The earliest chansons were for two, three or four voices, with first three becoming the norm. Sometimes, the singers were accompanied by instruments. https://youtu.be/UE4FTfIVLRQ
A Cantiga is a medieval monophonic song. Over 400 extant cantigas come from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, narrative songs about miracles or hymns in praise of the Holy Virgin. Derived from medieval dance forms, the 15th century Villancico was a type of popular song sung in the vernacular and frequently associated with rustic themes. With the decline in popularity of the villancicos in the 20th century, the term became reduced to mean merely “Christmas carol”. https://youtu.be/8j0Iy3-K-tQ
Coventry Carol was simply “Song 2” from the Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. It was named after the city of Coventry where theatrical performances about the theological mysteries of God’s creation were performed as early as 1392 until suppressed in 1579. https://youtu.be/siy0DaFPeKs
This blog is starting today (October 25, 2020) but there have been posts about Ancient Music for Ukulele since June 7, 2018. A selection of older posts will be re-posted on this blog page (back dated to the original post date). The remainder will be skipped but you can still view them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ancientmusic4ukulele
My uke is healed and heading home from the hospital. Great job by Twisted Wood Guitars, based here in Alberta, Canada.