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The Night Watch : An hevenly Songe

An hevenly Songe is from the 15th century manuscript, Arch. Selden B.26, England, c. 1425–50. We have ever-so slightly modernised the words.

The Night Watch : Edi beo þu heuene quene

To read about Edi beo þu heuene quene, visit

The Night Watch : ductia (or nota), 13th century

This instrumental two part polyphonic piece is from Harley 978, folio 8v.-9, England, 1250–1275, and is without title in the manuscript. It is often called a ductia (untexted, phrases of equal length) in modern commentaries, but it may also fit the description of a nota (untexted, a type of ductia, 4 phrases of equal length). Both descriptions are given by Johannes de Grocheio (or Grocheo, or Jean de Grouchy), Parisian music theorist, in his Ars musicae (The art of music), c. 1300. In this performance we hear the “cantus inferior” on gittern accompanied by a rebec drone, the “cantus superior” on rebec accompanied by a gittern drone, then the two parts played together, largely in contrary motion. To read more about the gittern and rebec, see

The Night Watch: Fortune my foe (orpharion, recorder, voices)

The Night Watch play the 1590 broadside, Fortune my foe, played on orpharion, recorder and voices. To read about the orpharion, visit

Delilah (in the style of William Shakespeare) - The Night Watch

A recently-found broadside ballad folded into a manuscript from Glamorgan reveals that William Shakespeare stole some of his best and most famous lines from a 16th century song he knew in his youth, reconstructed here by The Night Watch. To read more, go to

The Night Watch: My Lady and her Mayd (William Ellis) 1652

William Ellis’ 'My Lady and her Mayd' from 'Catch that Catch can', 1652, sung by The Night Watch. This surprising song is one of many examples of the bottom burp in early music and literature. For more, see 'A brief history of farting in early music and literature' at

The Night Watch : Tourdion - Quand je bois du vin clairet

Crumhorn played by Andy Casserley, lute by Ian Pittaway, together as The Night Watch, playing their arrangement of the 16th century French traditional song/dance tune in the form of a tourdion, Quand je bois du vin clairet / When I’m drinking claret.

For an article on the history of the crumhorn, go to

For the history of the lute, visit

The Night Watch

The Night Watch : La Quinte Estampie Real

The Night Watch (Ian Pittaway on gittern, Andy Casserley on simfony) play La Quinte Estampie Real (The Fifth Royal Estampie) from one of the oldest manuscripts of French courtly repertory, Manuscrit du Roy, compiled c.1250 (songs) and c.1300 (dances). With thanks to Derek Lovell for filming.

The Night Watch: All in a Garden Green / Gathering Peascods

'All In A Garden Green' appears in 1565-6 in the Stationers’ Register, recording 'All in a garden grene, between ij lovers; a Merrye new ballad of a countrye wench and a clowne'. Another song of an outcast lover, to 'All in a Garden green', appears in 'A Handfull of Pleasant Delites', 1584, by “Clement Robinson and Divers Others”. However, neither set of words fit this tune, though they do appear to fit the altogether different 'All in a Garden green' set by William Byrd in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, early 17th century, so it is entirely possible that the two earlier 'All in a garden green's are musically unrelated to that in 'The English Dancing Master or Plaine and Easie Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances', compiled by John Playford (1623-1686), first edition, 1651, as played here.

That is followed by a tune which musically shares the notes of the first 8 beats, 'Gathering Peascods'. Twenty or thirty years before Playford's collection it was intabulated in the personal lute music collection of Margaret Board, c.1620-30. A peascod is a pea pod.

The Night Watch: It was a lover and his lass (Thomas Morley)

'It was a lover and his lass' is from 'The First Book of Airs to Sing and Play to the Lute with the Base Viol' (1600) by Thomas Morley, now most remembered for his settings of songs in William Shakespeare's plays and for his madrigals. For a time, Morley lived in the same parish as Shakespeare, giving rise to speculation that the two men may have worked together, though there is no concrete evidence for this.

'It was a lover' appears in its entirety in 'As You Like It', Act 5, Scene 3, sung by the Second Page, with one word change: Morley’s “country fools” becomes Shakespeare’s “country folks”, an understandable alteration. 'As You Like It' was written 1599 or 1600, so Shakespeare may have incorporated the song as a favourite from the Morley book of the same year, or else he wanted to include a song already popular with the public. In the days before copyright and when authors and musicians freely ‘borrowed’ from each others’ work, it is not inconceivable that Shakespeare wrote the words and Morley the music specifically for the play, but since Shakespeare receives no credit in Morley’s book, which would have been a personal slight and a professional oversight, it is highly unlikely.

Thomas Morley was an organist at St Paul's Cathedral. He and Robert Johnson are the only composers to have, depending on your viewpoint, either written songs Shakespeare used in his plays for which the music has survived intact or made contemporary surviving settings of verse in Shakespeare’s plays.

The Night Watch : Sumer is icumen in (Warwick Folk Club)

'Sumer is icumen in' - in modern English, 'Summer has come in' - is the second oldest surviving English secular song, celebrating the sights and sounds of summer, written down c.1250. The song is a round (everyone sings the same part, but starting at different times), which can involve up to six singers plus those singing the ground bass (repeating bass line). This was recorded as a two part round with the audience singing the ground bass. Thanks to Warwick Folk Club.

The Night Watch : Lollay lay lay lay

'Lollay lay lay lay' is from a collection of words to carols in English and Latin (MS S.54 at St John's College, Cambridge), dated 1470s-80s. The fact that the book includes no music and is quite fragile (the folded papers only survived because they are stitched into a scruffy and ill-fitting vellum wallet), suggests that it was not a script for performance; though the unity of contents suggests the book was used as an aide-mémoire for two people serious about carolling.

At this point in time, a carol was not merely a Christmas song - it wasn't until c.1550 that 'carol' took on its modern meaning. These carols were round dances, sung by the participants. They were often sung with no musicians: the dancers provided their own rhythm by singing the chorus - always sung first - and the leader sang the verses while the circle stood still.

Since there was no music, Ian of The Night Watch composed some in keeping with the period.

Played on rebec and gittern from The Night Watch's show, 'Drive the Cold Winter Away', Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), 7 December 2012.

The Night Watch : Cantiga 353

Cantiga 353 is from 'Cantigas de Santa María' = 'Songs of Saint Mary', a song book compiled during the reign of Alfonso X, El Sabio (The Wise), 1221-1284, King of Castile and León. Almost all the songs have melodies taken from existing compositions; the words were written by the king himself, largely miracle stories about the Virgin, the rest songs in her praise. It is one of the largest collections of monophonic songs from the middle ages and its beautiful illustrations are an invaluable source of information about the musical instruments of the day, including the oud and bagpipes played by The Night Watch on this piece.

From The Night Watch's show, 'Drive the Cold Winter Away', Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), 7 December 2012.

The Night Watch : There Comes A Ship A-Sailing

'There comes a ship a sailing' is a traditional German nativity carol which accumulated verses through the late mediaeval, renaissance and early baroque periods. The first two verses are from a ms. dated 1470-80, now in the Royal Library, Berlin; the remaining verses are from Jan Suderman, 'Gesange' ('Song'), 1626; and the melody is that given for it in 'Andernach Gesangbuch' ('Andernach Hymns'), Köln, 1608. Ian of The Night Watch has made his own attempt to put the original German words into modern English.

Played on psaltery and gittern from The Night Watch's show, 'Drive the Cold Winter Away', Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), 7 December 2012.

The Night Watch : Noël nouvelet

'Noël nouvelet' is a traditional French new year carol, originating in the early 15th century and becoming one of the most popular of the 16th century. The earliest complete source for the words is the Arsénal ms. 3653 in Paris, copied in the 1490s, a beautiful representation by a professional scribe for a high born family of the different types of noël or Christmas song in the French oral tradition. The Arsénal ms. does not give the tune, which did not appear in writing until the 17th century. The words used here are selected and translated from the 'Grande Bible des noels, tant vieux que nouveaux' ('Large Book of carols, both old and new'), published in 1721. The refrain, "Noël nouvelet, Noël chantons icy" means roughly, 'New Christmas song, Christmas song sing here!' The hymn writer John M. C. Crum made the tune more widely known by setting his hymn, 'Now The Green Blade Riseth', to it in 1928.

From The Night Watch's show, 'Drive the Cold Winter Away', Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), 7 December 2012.