Go revel ye Cupids, the day is your own

Another chapter in the music of joy, encountered in the middle of the night on my Apple Music (playing stuff, while I sleep, from my classical music library of about 15,000 tracks), during an old man’s brief whizz break. Oh, that’s wonderful, what is it?

On this occasion, last week, it turned out to be more Henry Purcell, who set off my last round of posting on the music of joy — in my 4/20/22 posting “Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen!” — with “They shall be as happy as they are fair” from The Fairy Queen. Now, in a 1994 recording (by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the chorus of Clare College, Cambridge), two numbers from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas: “Fear no danger to ensue” (duet, chorus, and dance) and “To the hills and the vales” (a triumphing dance), from which comes my title above.

(This posting begins with Purcellian singing and dancing in joy, and will end — in a bonus section on Nahum Tate — in singing as a doorway to ecstatic joy. Out-of-your-head ecstasy. My ecstasy.)

The opera. From Wikipedia:

Dido and Aeneas (Z. 626) is an opera in a prologue and three acts, written by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell with a libretto by Nahum Tate. The dates of the composition and first performance of the opera are uncertain [AZ: but in the 1680s]. The story is based on Book IV of Virgil’s Aeneid. It recounts the love of Dido, Queen of Carthage, for the Trojan hero Aeneas, and her despair when he abandons her. A monumental work in Baroque opera, Dido and Aeneasis remembered as one of Purcell’s foremost theatrical works. It was also Purcell’s only true opera [AZ: a staged music drama with orchestra], as well as his only all-sung dramatic work [AZ: with recitative as well as arias]. One of the earliest known English operas …

“Fear no danger”. The text:

Fear no danger to ensue,
The Hero loves as well as you,
Ever gentle, ever smiling,
And the cares of life beguiling,
Cupid strew your path with flowers
Gather’d from Elysian bowers.

You can listen to a very bright performance by Emmanuelle Haïm and Le Concert D`Astrée, on YouTube here.

“To the Hills”. The text:

To the hills and the vales, to the rocks and the mountains,
To the musical groves and the cool shady fountains
Let the triumphs of Love and of beauty be shown;
Go revel ye Cupids, the day is your own.

A spirited performance by the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner, is available on Youtube here.

Bonus: Nahum Tate. From Wikipedia:

Nahum Tate (1652 – 30 July 1715) was an Irish poet, hymnist and lyricist, who became Poet Laureate in 1692. Tate is best known for The History of King Lear, his 1681 adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, and for his libretto for Henry Purcell’s opera, Dido and Aeneas.

… His poems were sharply criticised by Alexander Pope in The Dunciad.

Tate and Nicholas Brady supplied the text for the hymn Old Hundred (1698) — #49t in the Sacred Harp (Denson Revision, 1991):

O come, loud anthems let us sing,
Loud thanks to our Almighty King.
For we our voices high should raise,
When our salvation’s Rock we praise.

And the words to the Christmas carol “While shepherds watched their flocks” are attributed to Tate:

While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

“Fear not”, said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind”

“To you, in David’s town this day
Is born of David’s line
The Savior who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign”

“The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands
And in a manger laid”

Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song

“All glory be to God on high
And on the earth be peace
Goodwill henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease”

Yes, a song of joy. The tune Winchester Old is the customary one for this text, but the Sacred Harp has two other settings for selected verses from the text: Shining Star (#461) and the wonderful fuguing tune Sherburne (#186).

(In my 1/9/22 posting “The Burne-Jones Adoration”, there’s a section on “While shepherds watched their flocks”, with the tunes Winchester Old and Sherburne illustrated.)

Two singings of Sherburne on YouTube, one of historical interest, one a bright recent singing:

— led by D.T. White; shot by Alan Lomax and crew at Holly Springs Baptist Church, Holly Springs GA, in 1982 (link here)

— led by Ann Riley at the Eighth Ireland Sacred Harp Convention, 3/4/18 (link here)

But these recordings will give you little appreciation for what singing Sherburne can do to me.

Ecstatic joy. Singing Sherburne is entirely capable of taking me to the altered state  of consciousness I think of as a state of grace — I give myself over to, lose myself in, ecstatic joy. Like sexual ecstasy, not something I can just call up, but something to wish for and seek out, since it’s such an extraordinary, exhilarating experience. Like trance states and religious ecstasy (neither of which I have experienced), becoming unhinged like this can be alarming to observers; I sometimes apologize to the other singers when I come back to everyday consciousness, to reassure them that I’m safe to be around.

One Response to “Go revel ye Cupids, the day is your own”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    A very rare posting by me, with nothing about linguistics or lexicography; nothing about men’s bodies or man-on-man sex, or indeed anything at all in the area of gender and sexuality; and nothing about food. On the other hand, it turned out to have a lot of shapenote music in it.

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