As I went to Walsingham. Elisabethan Music
The Musicians of Swanne Alley

harmonia mundi USA, HMC 905192

1. WALSINGHAM GALLIARD  English consort  [1:34]

John Johnson (ca. 1540-1594)
2. A PAVEN TO DELIGHT  English consort  [4:12]

Richard Allison (d. 1606)
3. THE LADY FRANCES SIDNEYS ALMAYNE  English consort  [1:36]
(violin,flute, lute, cittern, bandora, bas viol)

William Byrd (1543-1623)
4. DEAR LIFE  soprano and viols  [3:12]
(Text by Sir Philip Sidney)

5. MY TRUE LOVE HATH MY HEART  soprano and lute  [2:18]
(Text by Sir Philip Sidney)

John Johnson
6. AS I WENT TO WALSINGHAM  lute solo  [2:46]

William Byrd
7. O LORD, HOW VAIN ARE ALL OUR FRAIL DELIGHTS  soprano and viols  [6:21
(Text by Sir Philip Sidney)

John Johnson ?
8. GO MERELY WHEELE  lute duet  [2:33]

Richard Allison
9. GO FROM MY WYNDOE  English consort  [3:42]
10. MR. ALLISONS ALMAYNE  English consort  [1:13]

11. AS I WENT TO WALSINGHAM  soprano solo  [0:24]

Edward Collarde (d. ca. 1599)
12. WALSINGHAM  lute solo   [3:33]

Guillaume Tessier (fl. ca. 1582)
13. IN A GROVE MOST RICH OF SHADE  soprano and lute  [5:01]
(Text by Sir Philip Sidney)

Richard Allison
14. THE LADY FRANCES SIDNEYS GOODNIGHT  English consort  [3:35]

15. SQUIERS GALLIARD  English consort  [1:26]
16. WALSINGHAM  lyra-viol  [2:57]
17. PRIMIERO  English consort  [4:08]

William Byrd
18. COME TO ME, GRIEF, FOREVER  soprano and viols  [6:17]
(Elegy for Sir Philip Sidney)

Anthony Holborne (d. 1602)
19. WALSINGHAM  lute solo  [0:48]

Lyle Nordstrom & Paul O'Dette

David Douglass, violin, viol
Lyle Nordstrom, bandora, lute (duet), viol
Patricia Adams Nordstrom, cittern, viol
Paul O'Dette, lute (solo & consort)
Christel Thielmann, viols, lyra-viol
Emily Van Evera, soprano, flutes

Recorded March 1986, Bethel United Church of Christ, Michigan
Engineer: Peter McGrath
Producer: Robina Young
Editing assistance: Hugh B. Davies, Shirley Walker
Cover: Elixabethan Music Party, from Frieze, Gilling Castle, England
reproduced by kind permission of the Abbot, Ampleforth Monastery
Atelier Relations, Arles
harmonia mundi Ⓟ 1987


By the time Elizabeth the First began her long and successful reign in 1588, the Walsingham family name had already been long associated with service and dedication. Perhaps not by coincidence, "Walsingham" is also the popular name given to a ballad tune which enjoyed its heyday in the decades around 1600. This recording is a musical exploration of both the family and the tune which were so prominent during England's "Golden Age."

The most famous Walsingham is Sir Francis (ca. 1530-1590), Queen Elizabeth's tireless chief administrator and Secretary of State. Master negotiator, adroit linguist, loyal friend, dedicated Catholic foe, spy master, and arts patron, he was, in short, the paradox his age demanded —the balanced Renaissance gentleman, equally at home with the skills of politics and the skills of the arts.

Of equal importance to this recording is his protégé, Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), the charismatic courtier whose disarming brilliance became legendary throughout Europe, but whose life itself was a paradox. He was hailed as the premier courtier of his day, but had a temperamental distaste for court life. He was regarded as a statesman and soldier by his contemporaries, but was sent on few missions, and saw little action in battle. Remembered as a leader of the English poetic rebirth, he saw his work only as a pleasantly challenging intellectual diversion. Ironically, when Sidney died at age 32, in a skirmish against the Spanish, his bright promise in the political realm was largely unfulfilled, but his legacy to English literature, not at all part of his public legend, endures until today.

The warm relationship between Walsingham and Sidney was further cemented when Sir Philip married Walsingham's daughter, Lady Frances, in 1583. Little is known about her today, but she appears to have been less politically inclined than some of her famous contemporaries, such as Bess of Harwick. Contemporary references are to her great beauty and gentle nature, and following Sidney's death, she married Robert Devereux, the famous Earl of Essex.


In the Fairie Queene, Edmund Spenser refers to Sir Francis as "the Great Maecenas of this age," and in comparing him to the quintessential arts patron of antiquity, confirms the importance of Walsingham's patronage. The most tangible musical evidence of this left to us today is the collection known as the Walsingham Consort Books. This incomplete set of part-books copied for the Walsingham family contains portions of about 32 works for "English consort," that combination of treble viol (violin), flute, lute, bass viol, cittern and pandora which was such a popular part of Elizabethan chamber music. Traditionally, these pieces were written in a three-part dance form, with lute divisions on each sectional repeat. The consort lessons found in the Walsingham books also survive with written divisions for the flute and violin, and particularly fine examples of this special treatment are found in the consorts by Richard Allison. Allison further displays his innovative bent in the singular set of variations on the ballad tune, Go from my wyndoe. It is possible that Allison's imaginative hand is also at work in the unattributed Primiero, with its almost programmatic depiction of a battle.

Of the songs found on this recording, all except one are settings of verse written by Sir Philip Sidney in the last seven years of his life. My true love bath my heart is taken from the famous Arcadia, while In a grove most rich of shade is found in Sydney's pastoral sonnet cycle, Astrophel and Stella. The "Astrophel" story of unrequited love chronicles one of the unresolved mysteries of Sidney's life, his supposed love affair with the Lady Rich, Penelope Devereux. There seems to be no doubt that Penelope is the "Stella" of the poems, but the depth of Sidney's passion is less clear.

It is ironic that William Byrd, a persistently successful Catholic in the midst of Protestant ferment, set more Sidney poems than any other composer. Beyond this, Byrd also wrote three "funeral" songs in memory of the Protestant hero. One of these is Come to me, grief, for ever, whose text well represents the sentiments expressed in the exceptional flood of elegies which followed Sidney's death. There was apparently something in the life of this man that touched Elizabeth's subjects, and their hopes for the future of England. With his death, some of this died as well.


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