Songs from the Street

Music inspired by street or outdoor life

Performers: 8 singers + optional consort of viols

Orlando Gibbons – The Cries of London (early 17th century)
Richard Dering – The country cries (early 17th century)
Clement Janequin – Les cris de Paris (1528)
Giovanni Croce – Mascarate piacevoli (1590)
Luciano Berio – cries of london (1974)

Street singer carrying a basket of bread

In late 16th-century England, there was a brief fashion for incorporating the cries of street-traders into consort works for viols and singers. That this refined ensemble music should include the most mundane and earthy street cries seems a contradiction, though 70 years previously, Clément Janequin had the same idea in one of his famous descriptive pieces. Both were remembered by Berio in his witty and virtuosic eight-voice cries of london from the 1970s.

That repertoire is in fact highly sophisticated and not actually for perfoming outside. A more genuinely ‘popular’ music for vocal ensemble is found in the two sets of mascherati by Giovanni Croce, the Venetian organist at St Mark’s, just before Monteverdi.

Carnevale Veneziano CD cover

Croce ran a singing group to perform these pieces at various city parties and was later criticised by the procurators of St Mark’s for appearing ‘glass in hand’. The masques are full of comic Venetian characters such as senile old men, courtesans, foreigners and servants, all caricaturing society and popular pastimes, especially at Carnival.

“Evocatively breathes the air of the streets and squares of Renaissance Venice.” Gramophone

“I Fagiolini do this magnificently. They are consummate actors as well as fine singers, and, while maintaining the highest musical standards, bring to brilliantly characterised life such standard, figures of politically incorrect fun as senile legislators, inebriated and incomprehensible pedlars from darkest Friuli, and foreigners trying to speak Italian.” The Daily Telegraph

This programme requires eight singers. If the Gibbons and Dering are to be performed, it also requires a consort of five viols. I Fagiolini can:
– bring a British ensemble
– work with a good ensemble from the promoter’s country.
– sing the viol parts ourselves, which is based on contemporary practice.