Johnson: Jhonson’s delighte

Johnson: Jhonson’s delighte John Johnson (fl. 1579 – 94) was a lutenist and composer and attended the court of Queen Elizabeth I. You can read his biography here. I posted arrangements a couple of his pieces (from facsimiles of the Brogyntyn Lute Book) at the end of 2018.

The last two lines of the original (from Lute Society website).

Here I had an easier job. I was given a copy of Russel Brazzel’s Music from Wickhambrook (Mel Bay 2009), which contains arrangements, in notation for re-tuned guitar, of the music of Johnson, Dowland etc. It includes mp3 files of Brazzel’s performance of the pieces showing his remarkable playing skills, with all the ornaments.

This piece and the following seem to occupy an important place in the development of lute music in England during the mid 16th century. According to an article by Chris Goodwin on the Lute Society’s website here:

A milestone seems to be John Johnson’s ‘Pavan and Galliard to Delight’ in the Willoughby lute book (1570s) ‘the first fully extended piece by a known English composer in a completely English idiom’.

Jhonson’s Delighte [sic] consists of three themes of 8, 10 and 8 bars.  In the original each statement is followed by a challenging variation, the divisions involving with much rapid scale work (see facsimile above), which I have yet to attempt. I have therefore transcribed only the first statement of each theme. It’s tuneful and not too difficult to play, though I found I had to pencil in some fingerings where the “default” finger wasn’t the best option.

You can find more information about the Wickhambrook Lute Book in a most fascinating and exhaustive thesis on lute scribes by Julia Craig-McFeely here.

My first step was to pretend that my ukulele was a guitar, and reverse-tabulate the pieces. As usual, we don’t have enough room on the ukulele for all the bass notes, but fortunately most of the activity is on the upper lute (and guitar) strings. Bass notes have been raised an octave where possible, sometimes becoming parts of the chords, but I have tried to keep to the rhythm of the piece.

In places Brazzel has discerned 4 voices, but in the limited scope of the ukulele I have had to reduce these, mostly to 2 with the odd sustained note in the bass. Following Brazzel I have used the mordent symbol to indicate where a grace is indicated in the lute MS. If the grace is not played on the upper note, the string is indicated by a circled number. The meaning of grace symbols in Renaissance music seems to be the subject of much dispute, so I leave it to you to decide on how to play them, if at all – they can overwhelm the player, and sometimes the music too.

Available to download free in the following formats:

  • pdf
  • TablEdit
  • MIDI

Johnson also wrote a galliard on this piece, which I will post soon.

Tags: #delighte #jhonson #johnson

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