13 November 2012

Bawdy Chaucer

I had expected David Yardley and his male vocal quartet called Pocket Score Company to be on stage for the launch of his new CD, so I was taken aback when a stream of twenty of so singers entered from the back of the delightfully pure-sounding Wesley Music Centre singing away in bawdy, rowdy mediaeval style. The CD is a collection of songs from the era of Chaucer called New carols and songs for Chaucer’s pilgrims. As David explained, we still have the words of these songs, but we no longer have the music. So David wrote it, and it is grand. Those earthy, muscular sounds of mediaeval voices in full flight. Those dutiful, faithful sounds of mediaeval believers. Those bawdy, joyful sounds of them rousing in inns. Those half-understood sounds of olde English. All accompanied by naught but a bodhrán played with fingers. David walked us through the tunes, through the background, through his experiences studying with Tobias Cole and singing in Jesus College, Cambridge, as well as several Sydney choirs. The music is true to the era although not an attempt at recreation. The words are original, selected from The early English carols / Richard Leighton Greene (Oxford : Clarendon, 1935). We heard a selection. The first and last were sung in ambulation by the Pocket Score Co with visitors and the Canberra Youth Choir. They were a doomsday carol and a drinking song: suitable matters for walking. The others were sung by smaller groups of about 6 singers. They were two Christmas carols and a wartime/political carol. They were variously uplifting or bawdy but always lively with the immediate humanity of this era (as we imagine it). We all followed the ambulating singers out to purchase our CDs and imbibe mead and ale (brewed specially in a style of the era by the Baines Brewery). This was loud and proud music very convincingly sung, both live and on CD. I’m listening to it now. What a Canberra gem!

David Yardley (countertenor, composer) wrote sympathetic music to the original words of mediaeval songs for his new CD. He performed several at the CD’s launch at the Wesley Music Centre. Singers included the Pocket Score Company with David Yardley (countertenor), David Mackay (tenor), Paul Eldon (tenor) and Ian Blake (bass), some invited singers (that I can’t name) and the Canberra Youth Choir.

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