Notes from “Arcadelt Favorites on the Ukulele”

All sources are Wikipedia.

Jacques Arcadelt (ca 1507 – 1568), also known as Jacob Arcadelt and identified in the book by Le Roy as Arcadet) was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance, active in both Italy and France, and principally known as a composer of secular vocal music. Although he also wrote sacred vocal music, he was one of the most famous of the early composers of madrigals. He was equally prolific and adept at composing chansons, particularly late in his career when he lived in Paris.

Some of the texts are by Mellin de Saint-Gelais (ca 1491- 1558).  He was a French poet of the Renaissance and Poet Laureate of Francis I of France.  He also had the reputation of being doctor, astrologer and musician as well as poet.

Chansons:  Chansons are songs.  The earliest chansons were for two, three or four voices, with first three becoming the norm, expanding to four voices by the 16th century. The Parisian Chansons began in 1520 and were lighter and chordal with melodies in the upper most line. Sometimes, the singers were accompanied by instruments, often lutes. The general subject matter was courtly love for secular chansons (there are also sacred chansons).

Madrigals:  A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Usually, the polyphonic madrigal is unaccompanied, and the number of voices varies from two to eight, but usually features three to six voices, whilst the metre of the madrigal varied between two or three tercets, followed by one or two couplets.  The composer expresses the emotions contained in each line and in single words of the poem being sung.

The guitar tabulations are one verse of the complete chanson or madrigal with a slightly embellished tenor part. They can be used as accompaniments to the words (the original words with melodies are included in this book) or performed as an individual piece of music.  They are arranged to show one repeat (which should be repeated as many times as there are verses). In some pieces, breath marks have been added to the score to show how they match to the vocal notation and to help with musical phrasing.

“Si ce n’est amour qu’est-ce” has approximate translation “If not love, what is it”.

“Je ne me confesserai point” has approximate translation “I will not confess”.

“Quand viendra la clarté” has approximate translation “When will the clarity come”.  Words are by Mellin de Saint-Gelais.

“Je ne sçay que c’est qu’il me faut” has approximate translation “I do not know that is what I need” or poetically as “I know not what I need”. Words are by Mellin de Saint-Gelais.

Que te sert amy d’estre ainsi has approximate/poetic translation “What does it serve you, friend, to be thus”  in which a man loves his best friend’s mistress, and complains to him that he mistreats her and takes her for granted.

J’ay tant bon credit qu’on voudra has approximate translation “I have as much good standing (credit) as one wants”.

Dieu inconstant has translation “Fickle God” in which a lover rails against Cupid.  The entire first line translates as “Fickle God, why did you leave”.

Ce n’est bien ny plaisir has approximate translation “It is no pleasure”.

Margot labourez les vignes has approximate translation “Margo works the vines” and is a comic song about events or stories, now long forgotten. This piece is featured BBC’s “The Story of Music in Fifty Pieces” (hear it at

“Amour a pouvoir sur les dieux” (original text “Amour a pouvoir sur les dieux”) has translation “Love has power over the Gods”.

Qui pourra dire la douleur has approximate translation “Who can tell the pain”.

Nous voyons que les hommes has direct translation of “We see that the men …”.  However, there are several poetic versions of the lyrics with the first line as “Men, plainly enough, all think it” or “We see that men get silly”.  It’s about how sex unfairly rewards men and dishonours women.

La pastorella mia has translation “My little shepherdess”.

Amour me sçauriez vous apprendre has approximate translation “Would you teach me love”.  Words are by Mellin de Saint-Gelais.

The following pieces in the original publication, Cinquiesme livre de guiterre en tabulature (1554), are not included in this book.  Some of these arrangements are available online.

  • Composed by Adrian Le Roy : “L’ésté chault boulloit” & “Si j’ayme ou non”
  • Composed by Pierre Certon : “Jamais femme ne sera” & “Je sonne la retraitte”
  • Composed by de Bussy : “Escoutez ma complainte”
  • Composed by Laurent Bonard : “Au jour au jour au jour”