Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Now We Are Met - Rounds & Canons

No music is so satisfying as the singing of a round.  Everyone gets to sing the melody, yet the harmonies can be as full and beautiful as a large chorus.

The harmonies of a round result when different voices begin and end the melody at different times.  If the voices begin at different times yet end together on a final chord, the song is called a canon.  Rounds and canons were very popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in a variety of settings--from William Billings's sacred "When Jesus Wept" to Henry Purcell's bawdy "I Gave Her Cakes."   They can be as long as a full verse of a song, or as short as 2 or 3 phrases.  Colonial Revelers begins each of their concerts with the round "Now We Are Met," composed by Samuel Webbe (1740-1816), as heard in the video above.

The oldest surviving printed example of an English round is "Sumer is A Cumen In," thought to be written in the 13th century.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, books of rounds or catches, as they were also called, were extremely popular, though most people learned the rounds by ear, whether while sitting in a church pew, around a tavern hearth, at home, or even on the march during the Revolution.

The easiest way to learn a round is to sing one part over and over until you've got it, then move on to the 2nd part, then the 3rd.  You might, for instance, sing only "Row, row, row your boat," over and over, while your friends sing all the way through the round.  Next time you'd sing "Gently down the stream," until you're sure of those notes.  Then "Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily," and so forth.  Eventually, you've got the whole melody.

Some of Colonial Revelers' favorite rounds and canons:

Now We Are Met (Webbe, late 18th century)
Sweet Sir Walter (Purcell, 1733)
I Gave Her Cakes (Purcell, 1731)
He That Will an Alehouse Keep (Ravenscroft, 1611)
Banberry Ale (Ravenscroft, 1609)
Christchurch Bells (Aldrich, 1673)
The Sports of May (Warren, 1775)
When Jesus Wept (Billings, 1770)
Canon (Billings, 1770)

You can hear these rounds on either the Down Among the Deadmen or Revelry, Reflection & Revolution CDs.

As ever, your humble servants,

Saturday, November 13, 2010


We must not omit here to thank the Publick for the gracious and
kind Encouragement they have hitherto given us.
Poor Richard's Almanack, 1737, paraphrased

Saturday, December 4, 11 am - 3 pm

The Mill at Anselma
1730 Conestoga Road
Chester Springs, PA 19425

Our Victorian Carolers ensemble will regale vistors to the mill with traditional holiday songs from Charles Dickens's England.

Anselma Mill on Pickering Creek was operated as a grist mill from 1725 to 1982 and retains its original Colonial era power train.  In 1982, the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust took over the property who did some early restoration and stabilize the buildings.  In 1998, a new organization, The Mill at Anselma Preservation and Educational Trust began a full restoration.  In 2005, the Mill at Anselma was designated a National Historic Landmark.  Today, it's the most complete known example of a custom grain mill in the United States.

For further information about the mill or this event, call them at 610-827-1906, email info@anselmamill.org or click here for their website.

Saturday, December 4,  4-7 pm

"Deck the Alley"
Elfreth's Alley
2nd St., between Race & Arch Sts.
Philadelphia, PA

After enjoying Victorian Carolers at Anselma Mill, head down to Olde City Philadelphia, where Colonial Revelers will be strolling along Elfreth's Alley, singing 18th century holiday carols, wassail songs, and other music of the period.

Elfreth's Alley has been a residential street continuously since 1702.  The 32 houses there today were built between 1720s and 1830s.  The alley is a National Historic Landmark District.  Numbers 124 and 126 are open to the public year-round as a museum of life in early Philadelphia.  Guidebooks and cellphone tours of the alley are available.

During the "Deck the Alley" event, many of the narrow street's residents open their houses for tours.  Refreshments  will be available. For ticket information about the events, call 215-574-0560 or click here for their website.

Saturday, December 11, 4-6 pm

Marshallton Tree Lighting
Village of Marshallton
559 Northbrook Rd
West Chester, PA 19382

Colonial Revelers will return to Martin's Tavern to provide holiday music for the lighting of the village tree.

As stated last month, Martin's Tavern, also called Center House, was built in 1764.  The inn played a prominent role during the Battle of Brandywine in 1777.  The restored ruins of the tavern form Marshallton's village square, where a large evergreen tree is decorated with lights each year.  Refreshments will be served.  Find out about Martin's Tavern events: http://taproom.martinstavern.org/

Sunday, December 19, 6-8 pm

The "March-In"
Valley Forge National Historical Park
1400 N. Outer Line Dr.
Valley Forge PA 19406

Colonial Revelers will be stationed in the Visitor Center, singing 18th century wassail songs, Christmas hymns and other period music to commemorate the day the Continental Army arrived at Valley Forge in 1777.  Come for the party!

Valley Forge National Historical Park is the site of the Continental Army's winter encampment, from December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778.  Park rangers and Friends of Valley Forge will be on hand for candlelight tours, a "march" up to Muhlenberg's huts, and other 18th century festivities.  Refreshments, holiday shopping and free gift wrapping will be available at the Encampment Store at the Visitor Center.  Free and open to the public. Information and directions at http://www.nps.gov/vafo/planyourvisit/events.htm

Your humble servants,

Facebook Profile

Facebook Fan Page