Monthly Archives: June 2019

Summer Round Redux


SUMMER ARRIVES TODAY, FRIDAY JUNE THE 21st, and most of the Northeast of these United States will be wallowing this weekend in bright sunshine under cerulean skies after consecutive days  of spotty rain and threatening clouds – all to the enjoyment of its outdoor-loving citizenry!

Reading Abbey
Sumer Is Icumen In is a traditional English round, or a musical composition in which two or more voices sing exactly the same melody but nevertheless fit harmoniously together. It is possibly the oldest such example in existence of counterpoint, which is the relationship between two or more voices. The title might be translated as “Summer has come in” or “Summer has arrived”.
The song is composed in the Wessex dialect of Middle English. Although the composer’s identity is unknown today, it may have been W. de Wycombe.
Summer has arrived,
                        Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
                  The seed grows and the meadow blooms
                And the wood springs anew, Sing, Cuckoo!
        The ewe bleats after the lamb
     The cow lows after the calf.

    The bullock stirs, the stag farts,

Merrily sing, Cuckoo!

Cuckoo, cuckoo, well you sing, cuckoo;
Don’t you ever stop now,
Sing cuckoo now. Sing, Cuckoo.
Sing Cuckoo. Sing cuckoo now!
The round is sometimes known as the Reading Round because the manuscript comes from Reading Abbey, which was founded by Henry I in 1121 “for the salvation of my soul, and the souls of King William, my father, and of King William, my brother, and Queen Maud, my wife, and all my ancestors and successors.” The round may not have been written there, but it is the oldest piece of six-part polyphonic music, that is, music with two or more independent melodic voices. Its composer is anonymous, and it is estimated to date circa 1260. The manuscript – written in Middle English, extant between the late 11th and the late 15th century – is now at the British Library.
Reference: Diary of my ‘St. Paul’s Church: The Messenger July 2011’