Folger Public Programs is pleased to present ENCORES, a weekly online series highlighting past performances and recalling the rich history of programming on the historic Folger stage. As many arts and cultural institutions remain closed during this time, these ENCORES provide a way to connect and revisit the breadth of Folger offerings with a wider audience.
‘Clear or Cloudy’
by John Dowland
Performed as part of London: Music from the City of Shakespeare
Recorded at Folger Theatre, September 2012
Learn more about the concert on Folgerpedia
- Robert Eisenstein, Violin
- Christopher Kendall, Lute
- Aaron Sheehan, Tenor
- Mary Springfels, Viol
- Brent Wissick, Viol
- Mark Rimple, instrumentalist
- Tom Zajac, instrumentalist
Read the introduction by violist Mary Springfels:
Hello and welcome to Folger ENCORES. I’m Mary Springfels and I am very happy to be able to speak with you today. The Folger has been sharing selections from their plays, music, and talks with you in this ENCORES series, and this week just a few days before Shakespeare’s birthday, we’re revisiting a Folger Consort performance, entitled London: Music from the City of Shakespeare. I joined the Consort to play viol for this program, which took place in 2012.
The Consort focused on music composed in London during the same years that Shakespeare lived and worked there. The selection you are about to hear was written by Renaissance London’s most accomplished composer, John Dowland. While most of Dowland’s music is infused with a characteristically dark, melancholic—which, by the way, was sort of the mood du jour of Elizabethan London—we’re sharing, on the other hand, one of his cheerier works, a light and pleasant love song that is perfect for the month of April, called, ‘Clear or Cloudy.’
It’s in three verses in which a lover describes the object of his affection in typically Elizabethan fashion; full of pretty metaphors drawn from plants, nature and the seasons. It’s a very elegant little poem. In this performance, the arrangement grows from just lute and voice on the first verse, a bass viol joins in to add warmth to the second verse and the full Consort adds a sweet sonority to the third and final verse.
I want to add here a kind of obvious emotion. We had so much fun playing this music and our pandemic crisis has made this kind of music-making virtually impossible. The viol is such a friendly instrument and its music is of remarkably high quality, great polyphonic writing unequaled anywhere in Western Europe. We get to sing, we get to play. We got to do all kinds of wonderful things.
The Broken Consort is an unusual ensemble and there are very few places in the United States where you could hear this combination and the Folger is one of them. The unusual instruments to us today are the cittern, which is a wire-strung instrument and a bandora, which is a base cittern, another wire-strung instrument. It makes for a remarkable sonority, which I hope you enjoy.
Please be sure to join us again for these weekly episodes of ENCORES, highlighting all that the Folger has to offer. Thanks and enjoy the concert.
Check back each Friday for a new “from the archives” performance, introduced by some of our favorite artists, showcasing the best of Folger Theatre, Folger Consort, O.B. Hardison Poetry, and lectures.