Monday Music: My Beloved Spake (Henry Purcell)

It’s highly likely that Mondays are going to be church music days around here, quite simply because I spend most of my Sundays singing in church choirs, so that’s the sort of music that is in my head.  And of course, every day is Purcell day… and really, why wouldn’t it be?  He is a beautiful composer.

This verse anthem, though taking its lyrics from the Song of Solomon really feels more like a celebration of Spring and young love than anything else, with its talk of the time of the singing of birds having come, and the rain being over and gone (Ha.  Not around here, it isn’t, and nor do I want it to be just yet).  And I am feeling very spring-like at the moment, what with my new seeds germinating in the garden and the spring vegetables at the Farmers’ Markets.

There is so much to love about this anthem.  I love all the changes in mood and tempo, and the overall feel of joy thoughout, and I just basically adore verse anthems, with their changes from solo voice or trio to full choir.  And the first duet of ‘My beloved is mine and I am his’ is just lovely.

But my favourite bit?  Is the turtle.  Purcell wrote this piece at the age of 18, and he had clearly never seen a turtle in his life.  Accordingly, when the voice of the turtle is heard in the land – and, incidentally, the turtle in question was almost certainly a turtledove, but that’s translations for you – the music becomes mysterious and spooky and turtleish, for a definition of turtleish that is… rather exotic, and mythical beastie-ish.  It’s a bonus moment of delightful strangeness and humour in the middle of baroque gorgeousness, and really, what isn’t to like?

After all, Spring, and the whole magical appearance of new growth and sprouting of seeds (the way I garden, it really is magic and nothing else) is a mysterious process as well as a joyful one.  And how better to reflect that than with haunted turtle music?

May your Monday be full of Spring and love, and contain all the mystical turtles your heart could desire.

(I suppose, it being Guy Fawkes Day, I really should be doing Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, but I’m more in a mysterious turtle sort of mood, so that’s what you are getting.  Besides, we don’t get to have fireworks for Guy Fawkes Day here, which is very sad.)


One thought on “Monday Music: My Beloved Spake (Henry Purcell)

  1. […] On my music blog, I found a surprisingly vicious rendition of Could I Leave you by Julie Andrews, I celebrated the Melbourne Cup with church music featuring Warrior Horses and celebrated spring with Purcell and turtles. […]


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