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Voces8 make 200-year-old music sound so fresh

J-P Mauro - published on 07/26/17

They have yet to make a recording we have not loved

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Voces8 continues to impress with this wonderful 200-year-old chant. The group always sounds like more than 8 voices. One way they accomplish this is with an unbalanced mix of the voices, only two women and six men. This music was generally written for two of each voice part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) and even with men on the alto part, the timbre and richness of the sound changes.

Voces8 performed this song in their first concert, which took place during the London bombings of 2005. They have kept the piece in their set lists ever since as a memorial to this national tragedy.

“Lay a Garland” was written by Robert Lucas de Pearsall, who was primarily self taught as a composer. He took the text from a play called The Maid’s Tragedy and is sung by the character Aspasia who was made to watch her true love marry another. They lyrics are quite sad:

Lay a garland on my hearse
of the dismal yew.
Maidens, willow branches wear,
say I died true.
My love was false, but I was firm
from my hour of birth.
Upon my buried body lie
lightly, gentle earth.

“Lay a Garland” is a madrigal, from the Regency era. Madrigals were some of the first secular compositions of western music. They can sound much like sacred music of the time, but the texts are pulled from plays or literature and often contain themes of romanticism and comedy.

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