John Johnson: The Old Medley (Brogyntyn) After the previous short piece by Johnson, here is a longer one, also from the Brogyntyn Lute Book. I considered adapting a transcription by Sarge Gerbode of another version of this piece from the Marsh Lute Book in Dublin, but it is so full of fast divisions I feel it is out of the scope of this amateur blog.
|The first 3 lines from Johnson’s The Old Medley.
Facsimile from https://www.library.wales/discover/digital-gallery/manuscripts/early-modern-period/brogyntyn-lute-book/
It’s a nice clean MS, carefully written, with only one small error that I can detect.
On the whole, it’s quite an easy piece, with a few tricky bits. The harmonies are mostly quite simple, with some quick chord changes and patches of syncopation to cope with.
There are eight themes, each followed by an often minor variation. These are indicated in Roman numerals by I, I’, II, II’ and so on. The first three themes are set in in common time annd are 8 bars long; the fourth fits most comfortably into 3/4 and is 4 bars long; and the rest are in 6/8 time and 4 bars long. This ukulele version has been set at 4 bars per line, to make the structure clearer.
The themes are presumably arrangements of old songs and dances, whose identities remain unknown to me.
The abundance of block chords in this 4-string version give a possibly misleading impression that they would have been strummed, but checking the lute originals shows most chords include unplayed internal strings; but, there’s no reason that we can’t strum them (anachronistically) in the fashion of Gaspar Sanz et al. if we want to.
In chords such as E and F which do not have a root note available on a lower string, I have often added B and A respectively on the 4th string, mainly where a fuller chord is indicated in the MS.
To help in interpretation, I have tried to identify voices by stem direction, but this was not always possible.
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