[Summer arrived here on June the 21st and after a bit of seesawing has settled in nicely to the delight of our inhabitants of the Northeast who have been seen taking full advantage of the glorious sunny weather under sparkling blue skies. It’s time, therefore,
to revel in some celebratory words and music in the “shape” of a musical round.]
“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”
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!
[Note: Online viewers may press Ctrl and Click on the above score to follow the link.]
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.
References: My Diary
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