“On a truly memorable afternoon, the four Singing Ducks and a lutenist sat around Dowland’s table – previously known as our dining table – and sang from Dowland’s book of songs, surrounded by our friends. The effect was magical; the four voices blended effortlessly, with tremendous control… Afterwards, friend after friend told us how wonderful the concert had been.”
– Host, York, 2012
Join us at Dowland’s Table and experience the popular music and poetry of Elizabethan England as was most natural in John Dowland’s time : gathered around a single manuscript shared on the table, the musical selections subject to the whims and interests of those present. We invite you to make requests from Dowland’s First Booke of Songs or Ayres of Foure Parts – our program depends on it!
Les Canards Chantants’ approach to lute song inspired by the original scores and historical context for this music. Since its invention, lute song has always been a genre meant for intimate settings, whether at court, private salon or home. Many lute songs lived double lives, composed in such a way that they could be sung by a solo singer with lute accompaniment, or by up to four singers with or without instruments. The four-part songs were published as tablebooks, so named because the parts were printed facing in multiple directions, allowing singers gathered around the table to read from a single book.
Every performance of Dowland’s Table is different. Some of the music is selected by audience request from a descriptive menu of Dowland’s First booke of songs, interspersed with the ensemble’s choice of solo songs and pieces by Dowland’s contemporaries, according to the atmosphere of the given moment and the mood of the spontaneous programme that develops. Throughout the concert the performers converse with the audience and each other, blending script with improvisation and historical anecdote with personal reflection, setting everyone at ease and seeking to construct a version of a sixteenth century performance atmosphere in the present day.
Highlights from Dowland’s Table include:
Selections from John Dowland’s First booke of songs or ayres of foure partes (1597) and A Pilgrimes Solace (1612), related Italian madrigals by Luca Marenzio, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and other selections by Dowland’s contemporaries Francis Pilkington, John Danyel, William Byrd, Philip Rosseter, and Robert Johnson.