Monday 21 November 2016

The centuries roll back... Deller and Carthy

When composer Michael Tippett heard Alfred Deller singing in Canterbury Cathedral, he "felt the centuries roll back" - because he was listening to probably the first solo-quality male alto - or countertenor - since the time of Henry Purcell.

I had the analogous experience listening to Martin Carthy perform King Henry in the Gulbenkian Theatre, Newcastle University, in the late 1970s.

 Go to 44:58
The centuries rolled back and I was mentally transported to some medieval feasting hall, listening to the bard weave his magic - and it is indeed a magical ballad.

Which King Henry? - I don't know, but I imagine King Henry II (1154-89 - the one under whose rule Thomas Becket was martyred) - because it sounds like exactly the sort of thing he might have done...

Correction - Apparently this ballad was in fact about Henry V; England's great military hero of Shakespearian fame.

1 comment:

a_probst said...

I found a site that prints the lyrics Carthy used:

There are four more verses not included in your linked recording. These recount the lady's magically restoring Henry's steed, hound, and goshawk; the two mounting the steed and riding to church to be married, then riding into town where "...the people clambered all around
To see their strange new queen."

This must be some snide bard's take on Catherine of Valois.