Jouyssance Early Music Ensemble: “The Canterbury Tales: A Pilgrimage in Song”

Nicole Baker, Artistic Director

Tyler Azelton, Steve Baker, Carol Binion, Irene Cowley, Rick Dechance, Meredith Freeman, Sandy Galin, Jeff Greif, Jeffrey Hindman, Theodore Hovey, Jennifer Jurick, Rebecca Russell, Jeanie Riddell, John Schroeder, Misha Schutt, Mia Noriega Searight, Sheila Shahbazi, George Sterne, David Michael Treviño

Sunday, March 8, 2020, 7 p.m.
Drinkward Recital Hall

A group shot of Jouyssance Early Music Ensemble inside a cathedral with stained glasses in the back. All members, dressed similarly, stand and face the camera.
Members of Jouyssance Early Music Ensemble. Photo courtesy of Jouyssance Early Music Ensemble.


Introit: Sumer is icumen in
Harley 978 MS.
(c. 1250)

April is in my Mistress Face
Thomas Morley
(c. 1557-1602)

Ibo michi ad montem
Leonel Power
(d. 1445)

Ave color vini
Juan Ponce
(c. 1476-1530)

Angelus ad Virginem
Dublin Troper
(c. 1361)

La la la, je ne l’ose dire
Pierre Certon
(d. 1572)

Vedi l’Aurora (Petrarch)
Orlando di Lasso

Contrapunto bestiale alla mente
Adriano Banchieri

Ad te levavi oculos
Robert White
(c. 1538-1574)


Jaquin, jacquet
Jacobus Clemens non Papa
(c. 1510 to 15-1555/6)

Il est bel et bon
Pierre Passereau
(fl. 1509-1547)

Quam pulchra es
John Dunstable
(c. 1390-1453)

I love, loved, and loved would I be
Robert Fayrfax

Hear the voice and prayer
Thomas Tallis

Gloria, Missa Lapidaverunt
Nicholas Ludford
(c. 1490-1557)

Teacher, conductor and singer Nicole Baker has served on the music history and voice faculties of California State University, Fullerton, since 1997. A graduate of Wellesley College, Baker earned her MFA in vocal performance and her Ph.D. in music history from UCLA. She has conducted choruses for 25 years throughout Southern California, including ensembles at California State University, Northridge, and has led Jouyssance since 1999. Baker also serves as Music Director at St. Philip the Apostle Church in Pasadena.

Jouyssance Early Music Ensemble is a Los Angeles-based vocal ensemble dedicated to presenting early music concerts that entertain, educate, and inspire local communities.  Under the artistic direction of Nicole Baker, Jouyssance is recognized as one of the premiere vocal ensembles in Southern California, and is the only regularly performing vocal group in Los Angeles exclusively dedicated to exploring music before 1650.  With predecessor ensembles dating back to 1961, Jouyssance is also one of the oldest continuously performing choruses in Los Angeles. Today, Jouyssance performs an annual series of three concert programs in West LA and Pasadena, featuring medieval and Renaissance works both familiar and rare. In addition to its regular season, Jouyssance hosts an annual Early Music Singalong and performs outreach concerts at venues across Los Angeles and Orange Counties, including The Broad Museum and The Muckenthaler Center.  Jouyssance has released three CDs, “Jouyssance Early Music Ensemble,” “A Tour of Christmases Past,” and, most recently, “Cantiga: An Early Music Tour of Iberia.”

Jouyssance would like to thank Lauren Weintraub Stoebel, Jouyssance Managing Director; Julia Hong and Bill Alves at Harvey Mudd College; Pauline Yoshihashi for publicity; Jennifer Jurick for graphic design; and George Sterne for library management. Jouyssance is supported in part by The Los Angeles County Arts Commission and by our generous audience members.


An “Early Musical” based on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales presents both opportunities and problems: in the plus column, in Broadway parlance, it’s a great “book.”   But on the down side, the repertoire of the late 14th century consists primarily of soloistic music of the French and Italian Ars nova.  Much English repertoire of the same time consists of Mass movements, conductus, Christmas carols and isorhythmic motets – not exactly light weekend fare.   To solve this problem, Jouyssance has chosen a variety of secular and sacred works to illustrate a selection of the Tales, representing a wide range of styles and experiences reflected in the stories themselves.

We open with the oldest notated piece of English secular music – Sumer is icumen in. This mid-13th century rota involves a four-part round over a two-voice ostinato or pes – a short phrase repeated in a two-part canon.   The oldest extant secular work from England, Sumer – a Middle-English word that encompasses both Spring and Summer – survives in a manuscript from Reading Abbey, now proudly displayed in the British Library.  William of Wycombe is most frequently mentioned as the possible composer.

Thomas Morley’s poignant mini-masterpiece April is in my Mistress’ Face is one of his best known madrigals.   A fine organist and one-time student of William Byrd, Morley more than anyone is responsible for igniting England’s madrigal craze in the late 1500s.  While Morley is known primarily for his light canzonets and balletts, it was his ability to model the English madrigal so perfectly on the Italian original that was his hallmark.  Morley sets in April a translation of an Italian text by Livio Celiano, previously used by the composer Orazio Vecchi.

Leonel Power bridged the British Medieval and Renaissance periods.   Little is known of his life except that he worked for various members of the English nobility, and ended up working primarily at Canterbury Cathedral.  Like John Dunstable, he is well represented in the Old Hall Manuscript, and Power’s music reflects the contenance angloise – the sweet English sound.   This is evident in the motet Ibo michi ad montem, a setting of a portion of the Song of Songs, that shows all of the voices to be nearly equal – forward looking indeed for the time.  The parallel thirds and sixths that mark the English faburden technique pervade this beautiful lyrical work.

Little is known about the Spanish composer Juan Ponce, but it is believed he wrote the learned four-voice version of a student drinking song, “Ave color vini clari,” around 1590, while studying at Salamanca University.

The “Miller’s Tale” refers to the popular 13th century tune Angelus ad Virginem, and we include its famous discant setting here.   An anonymous composer placed the tune in the middle, while voices mostly a sixth apart harmonize around it, simulating the famous English practice of faburden.

A prolific composer of both large-scale sacred works and French chansons, Pierre Certon was most likely born around 1510, and eventually worked at Notre Dame, Ste. Chapelle, and for the king.  His humorous gossipy chanson La, la, la, je ne l’ose dire is typical of his later style – mostly homophonic, syllabic and particularly attentive to the patterns of the French language.

One of the most diverse and prolific composers of all time, the Franco-Flemish composer Orlando di Lasso developed his international style early by traveling throughout Europe in the service of the Gonzaga family.  At 24, Lasso gained a position at the Imperial court in Munich, where he rose to Kappellmeister and would remain for the rest of his life.  Lasso made Munich the most lavish musical center in Europe. The brief setting of the Petrarch text Vedi l’aurora is found in a 1587 collection dedicated to Lasso’s friend, the physician Thomas Mermann.   Varied in its text setting, the work displays Lasso’s gift for melody and intriguing harmonies in a relatively easy texture.

Adriano Banchieri’s onomatopoeic Capriciata à tre voci/Contrapunto alle mente appeared in his 1608 publication, Festino nella sera del giovedi grasso, an extended work designed to accompany a large feast.  The Bolognese Banchieri played a large role in developing madrigal comedies, all the while protesting the development of the monodic style of the Florentine Camerata.

In his short life, the English church musician and composer Robert White served as chorister at Trinity College, Cambridge, before earning his music degree at the university.  He eventually worked as Master of the Choristers at Ely Cathedral, marrying the daughter of his predecessor, Christopher Tye, and then moved on to Westminster Abbey.   While he did compose for the Church of England, much of his surviving oeuvre consists of Latin church music.   The magnificent six-voice psalm setting Ad te levavi, with its lush imitative textures and ornate polyphony, hearkens back to the monumental motets of earlier in the century.

The south Netherlandish composer Jacobus Clemens (“non Papa” distinguished him from Pope Clement VII)was one of the most prolific figures of the early 16th century. He is best known for his sacred music, written in great quantity for the Catholic Church in France.  In later years, as he allegedly switched his allegiance to the Calvinist church, his  Dutch polyphonic settings of the psalms earned much acclaim.  Alternating between homophony and often tricky polyphony, the virtuosic, sly Jaquin Jaquet offers many plays on words.

Like many composers of chansons and madrigals, Pierre Passereau was widely praised in his time, but little is known about him.  His best chansons are descriptive  rhythmic works full of repeated notes and syllabic text settings.  Il est bel et bon appears in numerous editions, pointing to its popularity, and like many of Passereau’s chansons, deals with a rather unsophisticated subject matter in a learned way.   And listen for those clucking hens.

An esteemed mathematician and astrologer, John Dunstable worked for several noble households, with his main patron John, the Duke of Bedford.  John forged strong ties between Britain and courts in France and Burgundy, and often brought Dunstable on his travels.  This helped Dunstable spread the new consonant style to the continent.  Unlike many of Dunstable’s sacred works, Quam pulchra es, a setting of one of the Songs of Solomon, is freely composed, homophonic and completely guided by the text, and involves chordal harmonies and some fauxbourdon.

The greatest English composer of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, Robert Fayrfax earned in 1511 the first D.Mus. from Oxford University.  He served the Chapel Royal for 24 years, receiving particular success with the ascension of Henry VIII to the throne. His music serves as an important stylistic foundation for both Tallis and Byrd.   He’s best known for his sacred works, but he did produce a small number of secular.  The sonorous I love, loved and have loved is in three voices, and its sonorities pay homage to Dunstable.

After many years of composing exquisite and ornate Latin polyphony for the Catholic Church, Thomas Tallis was one of the first to compose for the nascent Anglican Church.   Hear the voice and Prayer, along with the famous If Ye love me, are among the first works for the new Anglican liturgy of 1547-48, and are found together in the Wanley Partbooks.   In keeping with the wishes of Edward VI, Hear the voice presents the text clearly and simply; Tallis adds expression through his harmonies and occasional imitation.

Nicholas Ludford spent much of his life in and around Westminster Abbey.  The five-voice Mass setting, Missa Lapidaverunt Stephanum is based on a melody from the Feast of St. Stephen, and most likely relates to his post of verger at the Royal Chapel of St. Stephen in Westminster.  A lifelong Catholic, Ludford seemed to weather the change to Protestantism quite well.  Ludford’s style is in keeping with the lush music of pre-Reformation England; his music figures prominently in the Peterhouse Partbooks, used in Canterbury in the early 16th century.

— Nicole Baker, Ph.D.

HMC is deeply grateful for the generous support that created The Ken Stevens ’61 Founding Class Concert Series.

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