Ambassador thoughts

The 450th Birthday Bash: Dowland in the 21st Century

The sheer joy and smile on Jennifer Eriksson’s face when she started playing the first piece by Dowland with three other viols and a lute, was infectious enough to make my departure from home on a rainy Sunday afternoon a damn good idea. Lachrimae Antiquae (Seaven Teares) is one of my favourite Dowland pieces and it was lovely to hear it played on the viols and lute, with such wonderful intonation and sorrowfulness. The consort of viols playing in the concert are named after this piece — with the wonderful addition of Tommie Andersson on lute and Daniel Yeadon on treble viol, and later, soprano Belinda Montgomery.

The first half of the concert was filled mainly with more songs and ayres of love lost and melancholy, but were so beautifully played you forgot that the words were so sad. Some titles — Flow my teares, fall from your springs; Can she excuse my wrongs; and Sorrow sorrow stay, lend true repentant teares — were joyously interspersed with a number of galliards written for local notorieties such as Sir John Souch, M. Giles Hobies and even A Fancy for Queen Elizabeth. The second half of the concert was more uplifting, though still exquisitely lovely singing and viol/lute accompaniment. The King of Denmark’s Galiard is one of my favourite Dowland dances, having played it many times with a consort of recorders. It was nice to hear it with the ‘original’ viol instrumentation.

The pièce de résistance was the final piece with soprano Belinda Montgomery, four viols and lute was Dowland’s well-known love song, Come againe: sweet love doth now invite. Made more famous by rock musician Sting on CD and DVD a couple of years ago, who learned the lute for the occasion, it was just delightful accompanied by our very own lutenist Tommie Andersson. It has to be one of the best swoon songs in history.

Come again: sweet love doth now invite,
Thy graces that refrain,
To do me due delight,
To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die,
With thee again in sweetest sympathy.

Come again that I may cease to mourn,
Through thy unkind disdain:
For now left and forlorn,
I sit, I sigh, I weep, I faint, I die,
In deadly pain and endless misery.

The concert held in the Refectory at the University of Sydney, produced by The Marais Project, celebrated the 450th birthday of John Dowland, though of course included a little piece by Marais just to keep up appearances. Centuries after his death, Dowland remains without equal as the musical patron saint of unrequited love and melancholy, his personal motto being “Ever Dowland, ever doleful (sorrowful).”

If you want to hear more, check out this YouTube video of Seaven Teares doing Dowland above!

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