Renaissance Music: a Taster

If you want to find out what sort of music was played when people were having fun — as opposed to church music or formal court music — I can't do better than recommend this album:

La Rocque 'n' Roll

Popular Music of Renaissance France

The Baltimore Consort are not only wonderful performers of early music, this CD has such lively and attractive pieces that there is no barrier to your enjoyment.

You feel instantly transported to Renaissance France.

The album starts with J'ai Vu Le Loup:

J’ai vû le loup, le r’nard, le lièvre
J’ai vû le loup, le r’nard, cheuler.
C’est moi-même qui les ai r’beuillés

J’ai vû le loup, le r’nard, le lièvre
J’ai ouï le loup, le r’nard chanter.
C’est moi-même qui les ai r’chignés

J’ai vû le loup, le r’nard, le lièvre
J’ai vû le loup, le r’nard, danser.
C’est moi-même qui les ai r’virés

I'm not sure where I found this translation:

I saw the wolf, the fox, the hare,
I saw the wolf, the fox getting drunk.
And I myself bellowed back at them.

I heard the wolf, the fox, the hare,
I heard the wolf, the fox sing.
And I myself scowled back at them.

I saw the wolf, the fox, the hare,
I saw the wolf, the fox dance.
And I myself spun them around.

I defy you to keep still when you hear this track!

That's not to say that the pieces lack variety. Mignonne, allons voir si la rose, for example, is a song with quite a melancholy flavour, whilst the final song is the satirical Jean de Nivelle, which you can imagine being sung at an inn.

Interspersed with the songs is a good variety of instrumental pieces. It is all played on replica instruments of the period.


The Dorothy Dunnett connection: (probably the reason I originally looked at the album) is the song Tant Que Vivray, words by Clément Marot, music by Claudin de Sermisy:

Tant que vivray en aage florissant,
Je serviray Amour le Dieu puissant,
En faict, et dictz, en chansons, et accords.
Par plusieurs jours m'a tenu languissant,
Mais apres dueil m'a faict resjouyssant,
Car j'ay l'amour de la belle au gent corps.
Son alliance
Est ma fiance:
Son cueur est mien,
Mon cueur est sien:
Fy de tristesse,
Vive lyesse,
Puis qu'en Amours a tant de bien.

Quand je la veulx servir, et honnorer,
Quand par escriptz veulx son nom decorer,
Quand je la voy, et visite souvent,
Les envieulx n'en font que murmurer,
Mais nostre Amour n'en sçauroit moins durer:
Aultant ou plus en emporte le vent.
Maulgré envie
Toute ma vie
Je l'aymeray,
Et chanteray:
C'est la premiere,
C'est la derniere,
Que j'ay servie, et serviray.

You can see a translation of this at

I've tried to find as good an album representing English secular music of the period. There are good instrumental albums and even madrigals, but the solo singers seem to focus on composers like Dowland and Byrd, where I have found nothing of the joy that you experience in La Rocque 'n' Roll.

Of course, there is always the Baltimore Consort to fall back on, like:

Watkins Ale

Music of the English Renaissance

1. The Buffens,  2. Nuttmigs And Ginger,  3. Green Garters,  4. There Were Three Ravens,  5. Howells Delight,  6. Goe From My Window,  7. Green Sleeves,  8. La Sampogna,  9. Unto The Prophet Jonas,  10. The Carmans Whistle,  11. Galliard Can Shee Excuse,  12. Lachrimae Pavin,  13. The Quadro Pavin,  14. Singers Jig,  15. Grimstock,  16. De la Tromba Pavin,  17. Jewes Daunce,  18. Pavane Quadro And Galliard,  19. Joyne Hands,  20. Watkins Ale

This is an enjoyable album, though overall it feels more like music of commoners, rather the gentry. Perhaps the English courtiers of this time were more staid than the French? Or did they go to extremes in their musical tastes?

Do visit their website for a full discography and details of concerts: