Click here to go to Jacob Heringman's home page
Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Audio Samples, Track Listings & Notes
Click here to go to Jacob Heringman's home page

Sad Steps - new settings of renaissance poems

Audio Samples

Sad Steps (range) - mp3 - 805KB

The pale queen (range) - mp3 - 837KB


1. My lute, awake! (variations on a theme by Gail Gillispie) Andrew Keeling text Sir Thomas Wyatt
2. With how sad steps, O Moon Andrew Keeling text Sir Philip Sidney
3. Für Hermen Jacob Heringman instrumental
4. Easter Malcolm Bruno text Edmund Spenser
5. A Fancy (No. 2 from “Love-in-idleness”, Op. 41) Andrew Ager instrumental
6. Sonnet 105 Andrew Ager text William Shakespeare
7. Lullaby Roy Marks instrumental
8. Songe 17 Alastair Greig text Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester
9. The Fair Singer David Stoll text Andrew Marvell
10. Sounds of Woe David Stoll instrumental
11. Rondeau de Panurge (Per Serafino Calbarsi I) Fabrice Fitch text François Rabelais
12. A fragment of the mermaid’s song David Stoll instrumental
13. To Julia Elizabeth Liddle text Robert Herrick
14. Tombeau Elizabeth Liddle instrumental
15. The pale queen of the silent night Jonathan Chenette text Charles Best
16. Orpheus with his lute Bryan Johanson text William Shakespeare
17. Trio Robert Fripp/John Wetton/David Cross/Bill Bruford, arr. Keeling
18. Coda: My lute awake Andrew Keeling text Sir Thomas Wyatt


In 1998, the members of Virelai conceived the idea of commissioning a series of new settings of renaissance love poems. Andrew Keeling and Elizabeth Liddle were the first composers we approached, and some of the pieces recorded here were first performed in August of 2000, in Radovljica, Slovenia. Over time, the project became in effect a collaborative song cycle. I call it a “cycle” because all of the composers (though they didn’t actually work together) were given the same brief: to write a short piece for voice, renaissance flute, viol and lute, setting a renaissance love poem (or to write an instrumental piece to puncutate the songs). It is therefore tied together by related themes and scorings. More amazingly, the various songs and instrumental pieces complement each other in previously unimagined ways. A great diversity of musical and poetic styles appears here, and yet there is a sense of complementarity. The cycle is also open-ended: we hope that this CD is a beginning, not an ending, to the process of gathering material.

Renaissance words, renaissance instruments, contemporary settings: this project ties together the worlds of early and contemporary music, and raises many interesting questions about composition, performance, text setting, the use of early instruments for new music and the relationship of old to new generally.

We are deeply indebted to all of the composers who contributed to this project. From us to them, profound thanks.

Jacob Heringman, 2002

Andrew Keeling's music has been performed, broadcast and recorded by such musicians as Evelyn Glennie, Fretwork, Opus 20 and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

With How Sad Steps, O Moon and My Lute, Awake! were commissioned by and are dedicated to Virelai. Both pieces were premiered at the Radovljica Festival in Slovenia in August 2000.

This arrangement of Trio, from King Crimson's 1973 album Starless and Bible Black is for flute, treble viol and bass lute. It was originally performed by violin, mellotron (flute) and bass guitar.
Für Hermen, by Jacob Heringman, is a written-out improvisation first played in 1995 during a visit to Jacob’s great-aunt, the musician Hermen Steinert. The piece is dedicated to her.
Malcolm Bruno studied composition in New York with Ursula Mamlok and David Chaitkin, in London with Jeremy Dale Roberts and in Paris with Max Deutsch. As associate director of the Taverner Choir Consort & Players and close associate with Andrew Parrott, an increasing interest in early music led him in the early 90s to produce a series for Radio 3 known as “Intersections”, which combined early and contemporary music; his Easter on this album is the the first of three Elizabethan settings originally heard in that series. Principally working a producer now, he has just finished a major reconstruction of a Vespers by Pergolesi; as a composer, he is completing a mass setting for the New York consort, The Choral Scholars.
Canadian composer Andrew Ager has written extensively for orchestra, chamber ensemble, choir, and solo instrumental and vocal works. He is published by Kellman-Hall in Canada and is both a free-lance commissioned composer and the Composer-in-Residence at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto, a post unique in his country.

Sonnet 105 of Shakespeare is an arrangement for voice and lute of a choral work written in 1992 as a wedding gift. The short prelude, A Fancy, is intended to portray some of the mercurial aspects of love, the nature of which is addressed in the poem.
Contrary by nature, Roy Marks spent much of the eight years he was at Art School playing the guitar. Falling in love with a world famous viol player he has of late, thanks to her and his natural (albeit undisciplined) flair, fallen into the world of Early Music, but spends his days drawing. Composing music is one of several mildly creative outlets; Lullaby was written specifically for a Lute Society competition. It was not placed.
Alastair Greig was born in 1964 and studied music at the Royal Academy of Music, Sussex University and the University of Birmingham. His composition tutors have included Oliver Knussen, Michael Finnissy and Vic Hoyland. During the last decade he has been awarded prizes for his work in Germany, Poland and Italy and worked in Switzerland and Croatia.He has received commissions to compose music for BCMG, ESO, Rolf Hind and the Lyric Quartet in the UK and his music has been performed at various festivals including Spitalfields (with Catherine King), Cheltenham, Cambridge, Brighton and the South Bank in London.

When searching for a suitable text to set I was struck by the potential melancholy of Songe 17. The music reflects what I read as the sadness within the poem; the instruments comment on the text and the lute provides a harmonic thread around which the other lines weave gentle, spare counterpoint. Gestures are pared down to a minimum and the piece is a study in understatement, the lute closing the setting questioning, rather than resolving, the resignation inherent in the voice.
David Stoll was educated at Oxford University and the Royal Academy of Music, London. His work includes a cello concerto, several choral and vocal pieces, three string quartets and much other chamber music. Ex-Chairman of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, Stoll also writes for theatre and the media.

The fair singer
This Marvell setting was written shortly after the opera False relations about William Byrd, and is a contemporary exploration of the world of the Dowland lute song. The fair enemy who so captivates the artist represents not only the beloved but also the beguiling creation.

Sounds of woe
Ignoring Balthasar's advice (Much Ado) to sigh no more and convert 'sounds of woe' into 'hey nonny, nonny', this instrumental is a lover's lament.

A fragment of the mermaid’s song
Taking its inspiration from the legend of the mermaid who drowns her lover when she attempts to take him down to her home under the sea, this instrumental concerns the desire of the world for reality. The piece is dedicated to Virelai.
Fabrice Fitch was born in France, and was raised in Bordeaux and Toronto. He studied composition with Brian Ferneyhough and musicology with David Fallows. His book, Johannes Ockeghem: Masses and Models, was published in 1997. His music has been performed both in Canada and in Europe. A CD on the Metier label (MSV CD 92042) includes performances of his music by Barry Webb, Julian Warburton, Peter Hill and Ensemble Exposé. He is currently Senior Lecturer at the University of Durham (UK).

The rondeau set here is taken from chapter 22 of Rabelais’s Pantagruel.

Panurge is Rabelais’s anti-hero, a Villonesque character who appears in all of Rabelais’s novels bar Gargantua. A petty thief, an inveterate prankster and womaniser, he writes this rondeau to “a noblewoman of Paris” whom he repeatedly (and ultimately unsuccessfully) attempts to seduce. (One of his chat-up lines, “Ma dame, saichez je suis tant amoureux de vous, que je n’en peuz ny pisser ni fianter”, is entirely characteristic.) This rondeau is his final gambit; when it fails (inexplicably…), he avenges himself on her by playing a particularly dirty trick.

Per Serafino Calbarsi I: Rondeau de Panurge was commissioned by Virelai, and is dedicated to my wife Lois - a belated and entirely inappropriate wedding present.

Finally, Serafino Calbarsi (or Serafin Calobarsi) is one of the anagrammatic pseudonyms of François Rabelais.
translation by Fabrice Fitch

Just the once to you, most beauteous lady
I made my suit; how ill-mannered were you then
To send me away with no hope of return
As though I had ever done you an ill turn
In word or deed, by ill report or slur.
If my quarrel were so irksome,
You might have said directly (without go-betweens)
“My friend, get thee hence
Just this once” [“For the present” is understood].

I do you no wrong in discovering my heart to you
Protesting how it is enkindled
By the beauty your attire conceals.
For I seek naught of you, but that in your turn
You cheerfully grant me a bit of the other
Just this once.
Elizabeth Liddle was born in Scotland in 1952. Since then she has worked as a musician, a writer, a teacher, an architectural and urban designer, and, most recently, as a cognitive neuroscientist. The common thread running through these, which also informs her composition, is the exploration of the relationship between time and space.

I memorised these poems of Robert Herrick as an adolescent, and they have lain in my mind ever since. When Virelai asked for love songs, it was an opportunity to taste again the sweet agonies of young love, and to find musical expression for the recollection.

The Tombeau started as an experiment with the open string sonorities of the treble and bass viols, but somehow became infused with the Proustian taste-memories of the Herrick poems, and became a kind of tombeau for the bittersweetness of innocence.
Jonathan Chenette’s (b. 1954) compositions have appeared on the ISCM World Music Days in Amsterdam, at the World Harp Congress in Vienna, at the Bishop Auckland Early Music Festival in the U.K., and on a national radio broadcast by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in the U.S. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy, and several of his scores are published by Boosey & Hawkes and Theodore Presser. Chenette received a PhD from the University of Chicago and is Blanche Johnson Professor of Music at Grinnell College in the state of Iowa, USA.

Chenette’s music for Charles Best’s “A Sonnet of the Moon” evokes tidal forces through the flow and ebb of melodies that sometimes approach closely to each other without quite touching and then draw far apart. In Best’s poetic conceit, the rising tides respond to the pull of the moon, just as the lover’s joy hinges on the nearness of the beloved. Loose imitative relationships among the musical lines mirror this dependent but changeable joy.
Bryan Johanson, composer and guitarist, is a Professor of Music at Portland State University (Oregon, USA), where he has taught since 1978. His compositions have won awards from the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Aspen Music Festival, the Esztergom International Guitar Festival in Hungary, the Festival of August in Venezuela, and multiple awards from ASCAP. His music has been performed, published and recorded internationally. His catalogue of works includes symphonies, concertos, song cycles, choral music, opera and numerous chamber and solo compositions.

Orpheus with his Lute is a setting of a song-text from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.


Virelai was founded in 1991 by leading performers in the world of early music with a desire to illuminate neglected repertoire of the late middle ages and early renaissance, a fascination of the juxtaposition of old and new, and in the spirit of exploration and creativity.

Virelai made its Wigmore Hall debut in 1993, and has since performed in Prague Castle, the Manchester Early Music Series, the Magenta Music Festival, on the Dutch and British Early Music Networks, and in broadcasts of both old and new music for the BBC.

Virelai’s debut recording, Renaissance Love Songs, was a BBC Music Magazine cover mount CD. This attracted the attention of Virgin Classics, for whom Virelai went on to make a series of highly-acclaimed CDs - Ther is no Rose: Renaissance music for the Christmas season; Chansons Nouvelles, devoted to the marvellous but neglected repertoire of early 16th century Parisian chansons and dances; and Treasures from my minde: Songs and instrumental pieces by John Dowland, which was chosen by Gramophone as one of the Best CDs of 1999.

For the BBC, Virelai has recorded programmes of Dufay chansons, and of contemporary music by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Malcolm Bruno.

The four individual members of Virelai count among the world’s most distinguished performers and teachers of early music, all of them performing and recording as soloists and as members of leading ensembles including The Dufay Collective, Fretwork, Gothic Voices and Musicians of the Globe.

Biography - Discography - Performances - Reviews - Interviews and Articles - Guestbook - Diary - Contacts - Links - Home