Thursday, April 24, 2014

Shakespeare 450th Birth Anniversary Festival – Opening Ceremony Apr 21, 2014

Mr Jose Dominic, MD of CGH Earth, who sponsored this Festival at David Hall opened with a few remarks, quoting from Romeo and Juliet, the text in school from which he remembered the famous lines beginning But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?



KumKum Cleetus welcomes the audience 

The KRG Elizabethan Singers, comprising Talitha Mathew as Director, with singers, Esther Elias, Thomas Chacko, Geetha Chacko, Sheila Cherian, Elizabeth Thomas, and Ajoy Jacob were accompanied on the keyboard by Ruben Jose of Virtuoso Music, and Rahul Chacko on the guitar.

KRG Elizabethan singers, and the accompying musicians on stage

 The songs date from ancient times. Composers, great and small and anonymous, have been happy to set music to the delightful songs with which Shakespeare satisfied eager theatre goers in his time.



The audience for Shakespeare's songs from the plays 

The show ended with the reading:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:

 Thomas Chacko & Ajoy Jacob sing with Ruben Jose on the keyboard


You can view the video of the songs, about 14 minutes worth at 
Shakespeare Songs.


 To read more click below …

Full Account and Record of the Opening Ceremony of the Shakespeare Festival Apr 21, 2014

Mr Jose Dominic, MD of CGH Earth, declared the festival open at 5:05 pm with a few words to thank the organisers, the Kochi Reading Group, and remembered these lines of Romeo and Juliet, from when he had prepared for the Senior Cambridge in Lovedale School:
But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.
(Romeo and Juliet Act 2, scene 2, lines 2–6)

Accompanied by Ruben Jose (http://virtuosomusic.in/index.php) on the keyboard, and Rahul Chacko on the guitar, the KRG Elizabethan singers put on a feast of music from the songs in Shakespeare’s plays, for which Talitha Mathew had the sheets from her long familiarity with the songs since her college days in Madras at the Women’s Christian College (http://www.wcc.edu.in/). She fondly remembered her Shakespeare teacher and choir-mistress, Miss Lalitha Choweller, who retired to Bengaluru after a long career. She taught Talitha this music and was delighted. to hear that KRG was planning to sing songs from Shakespeare's plays to celebrate his 450th Birth Anniversary.


 Talitha was the power behind the first all-Shakespeare reading at KRG four years ago (http://kochiread.blogspot.in/2009/05/shakescene-all-shakespeare-poetry-event.html).

The main hall was filled to capacity almost when the singers broke out into the opening number Where the Bee Sucks – Ariel’s song from The Tempest, Act 5, scene 1.  It’s a sprightly song, but Thomas Bowdler's ‘improved’ version of Shakespeare for genteel folk gives this as ‘Where the bee sips, there sip I.’  Talitha drew attention at a previous reading to the fact that Shakespeare uses language directly and does not pussy-foot around with words, however bawdy it might have sounded.

The Willow Song next brings out the tragedy in Desdemona’s life, when she finds Othello suddenly changed. The dirge-like tune tells of her sorrow, the willow itself with its drooping branches representing mourning. It is not until one hears the pathos of the song, which would have been set to music by the Chamberlain’s Men in Shakespeare’s time, that one realises the fine harmonisation of the lyrics, the melody, and the atmosphere of the play at that point. Without hearing the song set to music, one misses a part of the tragedy whose premonition is signified by this song.

Music pervades The Mercahnt of Venice and there is a tender scene towards the end when Lorenzo and Jessica are awaiting the return of their mistress, Portia, and Lorenzo pointing to the stars declares:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,

This passage of 12 lines of blank verse was read out.

The merry jester’s song by Feste from the Twelfth Night, Act 5, Scene 1 conceals the pity of a second-class citizen, always up to entertaining the crowd, but making no headway himself in the world because The rain it raineth every day. The last verse strikes home:
A great while ago the world begun,
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that's all one, our play is done.
And we'll strive to please you every day.
And the rain it raineth every day…

The very merry tune conveys the determination of Feste to persevere in his part beyond the play’s end. A true professional. Perhaps Armin or William Kempe played Feste in Shakespeare’s time.

Tarun Cherian and Joe enacted a scene called The Clash of the Sonnets, reciting Nos. 18 and 130 by interspersing the verses. The hyperbole of No. 18, a very sunny piece, perhaps the most popular and famous of the sonnets, is contrasted with No. 130, where extravagant praise of the mistress is replaced by a down-to-earth assessment (I grant I never saw a goddess go;/ My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:) and the final couplet of No. 130
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

is set against the proud boast of the poet in No. 18 that the beloved will remain eternally engraved in his verses:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Do people who use the metaphor ‘sea-change’ realise that it comes from the next song Full fathom five thy father lies – Ariel's song from The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2?
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change

The next song was Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun from Cymbeline, Act 4, Scene 2.  It’s a requiem for Princess Imogen sung by her brothers. Appropriately, it was also the final closing words spoken by Madhav Sharma for William Shakespeare at the end of his show on the Bard’s life. The words
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

are very affecting. A.E. Housman no doubt had this in the recesses of his mind when he wrote No. 54 from A Shropshire Lad:
With rue my heart is laden
For golden friends I had,

Feste, the jester, figured again in the lovely song O mistress mine, where are you roaming?  from the Twelfth Night, Act 2, scene 3. It’s his response to a request for a love-song in the play, and treats the boy-meets-girl story with these words
Trip no further pretty sweeting.
Journeys end in lovers' meeting

At bottom it is a plea not to delay the kiss for Youth's a stuff will not endure.

The songfest came to a close with the great speech of Prospero, Our revels now are ended from The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1.  Prospero the wizard, like Shakespeare the genius, is taking leave from the wondrous world of characters he has created:
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

What a way to end the opening event of the Shakespeare Festival!

The Songs
Shakespeare Festival Opening Programme
– Song Lyrics from the Plays –
The KRG Elizabethan Singers, March 21, 2014 at David Hall, Fort Kochi
(Guitarist Rahul Chacko; Ruben Jose of Virtuoso Music on the Keyboard)

1. Where the Bee Sucks – Ariel’s song from The Tempest, Act 5, scene 1
(This song is sung by Ariel, a sprite in the service of the sorcerer Prospero, who decides to renounce his magical powers. Ariel sings this while helping to dress Prospero, as the sorcerer removes his wizard’s robes and changes into city clothes, in preparation for leaving his magical powers behind. The lyrics reflect Ariel’s anticipation of gaining freedom from service and being returned to the natural world.)

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry (when owls do cry, when owls do cry)
On a bat’s back do I fly
After summer merrily, merrily, after summer merrily, merrily,
Merrily, merrily shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs from the bough,
Under the blossom that hangs from the bough.

2. The Willow Song – Desdemona's song from Othello, Act 4, scene 3.
(The earliest copy is in a lute book dated 1583. The willow tree with its drooping branches signifies sorrow and mourning. This song expresses Desdemona’s sorrow over her husband’s changed behaviour and carries a premonition of the tragedy to come.)

A poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree
Sing all a green willow
Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,
Sing willow, willow, willow

Sing all a green willow
My garland shall be,
Sing willow, sing willow.

The fresh streams ran by her, and murmur'd her moans
Sing willow, willow, willow
Her salt tears fell from her and soft'ned the stones,
Sing willow, willow, willow

Let nobody blame him, (let nobody blame him), his scorn I approve
Sing willow, willow, willow
I call'd my love false love but what said he then?
If I court more women, you'll couch with more men.
Sing willow, willow, willow

Sing all a green willow, my garland shall be,
Sing willow, sing willow,
Sing willow, willow, willow
3. Reading 1: from The Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene 1
(This passage from Shakespeare’s comedy is spoken by Lorenzo to his bride-to-be, Jessica. They have just eloped—seeking sanctuary at the home of the aristocratic Portia. Yet he addresses us too, bringing every member of the audience into the couple’s breathless intoxication with nature and music.)
Lorenzo
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

4. When that I was and a little tiny boy – Feste's song, Twelfth Night, Act 5, Scene 1
(Feste’s song concludes a play celebrating misrule and mistaken identity. Feste, the jester, is also singer, psychologist, philosopher. The play delivers happy endings to its noble people, but Feste and the rain tell a different story of striving and coming to nothing; yet, he will continue to entertain.)
When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man's estate,
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas! to wive,
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that's all one, our play is done.
And we'll strive to please you every day.
And the rain it raineth every day…


5. Reading 2: The Clash of the Sonnets – No. 18 read with No. 130
(No. 18 is full of unbridled praise for the beloved person; it’s the most famous of the sonnets and makes the bold claim that the poet’s verse will confer immortality. In No. 130 the speaker replies to this braggart poet who has spoken extravagantly of his mistress’s qualities,  as if to say, “my mistress is nothing airy-fairy, like yours, but a real woman.”

Sonnet 18
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 130
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.


6. Full fathom five –Ariel's song, The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2
(This song addresses Ferdinand, who with his father has just undergone a shipwreck in which the father supposedly drowned.)

Ding dong, ding dong, ding-dong bell.
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are corals made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Ding-dong, ding-dong, Hark! now I hear them,
Ding-dong, ding-dong, Ding-dong, bell.

7. Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun – from Cymbeline, Act 4, Scene 2
(A requiem for Princess Imogen sung by her brothers Guiderius and Arviragus. The tone of sadness and resignation is contrasted with the vigorous close, which invokes a blessing to protect the dead.)

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
        Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
        Home art done, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
        Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to clothe and eat;
        To thee the reed is as the oak:
The Sceptre, Learning, Physic, must
All follow this, and come to dust.

Fear no more the lightning-flash,
        Nor th’ all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
        Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

No exorciser harm thee!
Nor no witchcraft charm thee!
Ghost unlaid forbear thee!
Nothing ill come near thee!
Quiet consummation have,
And renownèd be thy grave!

8. O mistress mine, where are you roaming? –Feste’s song, Twelfth Night, Act 2, scene 3. (This song is performed by the jester, Feste, in answer to requests for a love-song. It portrays the events of Twelfth Night. "Journeys end in lovers meeting" hints at the ending of the play. The song also talks about the cheerfulness of the season and encourages the hearers to live today, for tomorrow is uncertain)

O mistress mine where are you roaming?
O stay and hear, your true love's coming,
      That can sing both high and low.
Trip no further pretty sweeting.
Journeys end in lovers' meeting,
      Every wise man's son doth know.

What is love, 'tis not hereafter,
Present mirth, hath present laughter:
      What's to come, is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me sweet and twenty:
      Youth's a stuff will not endure.

9. Reading 3: 'Our revels now are ended' – Prospero, The Tempest, Act 4, Scene 1.
(Many readers see the ageing Shakespeare in the wizard, Prospero. The way he moves characters around the island, conjures visions, makes pointed comments about 'the great globe itself' and finally throws aside his staff and forswears his art – does this not remind one of Shakespeare, the playwright, writing his final play, before retiring from the stage? No more appropriate last words could be spoken for the genius from Stratford than this famous speech. He asks the audience to give him their applause and so set him free.)

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.


2 comments:

Amita said...

The Shakespeare festival was lovely! Thank you so much for organizing it! .....Amita

Anonymous said...

My Shakespeare teacher and choirmistress Miss Lalitha Choweller lives in Bangalore and was delighted to hear that we were planning to sing some songs from Shakespeare.


- Talitha