Le Ray Au Soley! is a short work by Johannes Ciconia, one of two he wrote in the form of a canon. This is in three parts, with the top two parts texted and the bottom part untexted. One reference gives this as preserved in a Ciconia manuscript, Perugia, f.83 and from its title, is obviously a work done in the French style.  Planchart, in the liner notes of the Ensemble PAN recording, describes this as an early work when he was strongly influenced by French music; I need to examine any links in this piece with Ciconia’s role model, de Caserta. Exactly which of the three possible Johannes Ciconia of the period becomes a factor here – how this French influence was activated and whether or not he spent time in Avignon. Planchart concludes that “our” Ciconia was an Italian composer with north European training.

As seen below, it has been recorded consistently but not as often as some others. It lasts for a minute as sung, in all parts, by the Orlando Consort, who sing it at a Goldilocks pace, not too fast and not too slow. The character of this all-too-brief piece lends itself to asking for more, so Ensemble PAN have on their track 10 done just that pushing it out to 2mins 12secs, with an opening focussed on the rocking lullaby nature of the rhythm, followed by a very light touch in the voices. This is an arrangement by Shira Kammen. Both so far have been all-vocals, so Ensemble PAN launch in their track 11 into a treatment with vielles and harp in the lowest line. To keep the whole thing from sounding laboured, they’ve done it as-is in 1min 12secs. Track 11 reprises the whole thing in a large ensemble-sounding effort, voices and strings. The melodic fragments falling over each other is enormously infectious and this “bubbling” effect, so often used by Ciconia, makes me wonder whether he was enormously influenced by highly resonant performance spaces, exploiting echo and reverb. Its “modern” soundscape lends itself well to a contemporary group like  Alarm Will Sound arranging it over 2’47 mins, starting with a solo voice joined by violin; the Blindman Saxophone Quartet has also recorded a version lasting 6’23 mins. 

The sparkling, effervescent quality immediately falls into place once we consider the lyrics (rhyme scheme is ABBA). Whoever the ‘laquel compagnon’ is, it’s an ode of sunshine, with a strong hint of a dedicatory intent in the mention of the “dove”.

To quote at length from Timothy Dickey, “All Music Guide”:

The manuscript copy that preserves the music for us today makes this clear: the scribe has highlighted words within the text that point to elements of Visconti’s crest: soleyl (the sun), tortorelle (the turtledove), and a bon droyt (faithfully). The text otherwise appears to be a rather simple pastoral image of the turtledove waking a lover in the rays of the sun. The wit and true cleverness of Ciconia’s music here comes in the canonic conception: in the manuscript, only one musical melody is notated, with a Latin inscription indicating that all three voices should be derived from the single melody, as each reads its notes in a different mensuration, or rhythmic framework. The esoteric and rarefied nature of this musical device has actually tended to obscure our understanding of it, as no one is completely sure how to properly interpret the canon.


Le ray au soleyl qui dret som karmeyne/En soy bracant la douce tortorelle/Laquel compagnon onques renovelle/A bon droyt sembla que en toy perfect reyne.

The ray of sunlight, in whose true enchantment/sleeps the sweet turtledove – in his embrace -/ever rejuvenating that beloved one;/faithfully makes his appearance in your perfect kingdom. (Trans. John Fleagle)


2009      A/Rhythmia. Alarm Will Sound. Nonesuch. (15/9/09). Inter alia: Le Ray Au Soley! arr Gavin Chuck, 2:47.

2005 (Dec 13) Ars subtilior: Dawn of the Renaissance. Ferrara Ensemble, Ensemble Organum, Hilliard Ensemble, Huelgas Ensemble, Orlando Consort. Harmonia mundi Fr. Inter alia: 2. La fiamma del to amor; 3. Le ray au soley!

2002    Multiple Voice, Blindman Saxophone Quartet. Universal 472596-2. Inter alia, Le ray au Soley! puzzle canon,  4 saxophones (6’53).

1999     The Saracen and the Dove: Music from the Courts of Padua and Pavia. Orlando Consort. Deutsche-Grammophon, Archiv, 2894596202. Inter alia: Doctorum principum; Per quella strada lactea; O felix templum jubila; O Padua sidus praeclarum; Con lagreme bagnandome; Una panthera (5’24); Sus une fontayne; Le ray au soley! (1’01).

1998       En doulz chastel de Pavie: Chansons a la cour des Visconti vers 1400. Inter alia: La fiamma del to amor; Le ray au soley! (1.30) and Le ray au soley (8:15).

1992      Homage to Johannes Ciconia c.1370-1412. Ensemble P.A.N. New Albion, NA 048. Includes Shira Kammen and Steven Lundahl on medieval slide trumpet. Inter alia: 2. Chacando un giorno (2:27); 3. O Padua sidus praeclarum (2:52); 4. Regina Gloriosa (2:15); 5. Aler m’en veus (5:15); 6. Io Crido amor, arr S Kammen (3:20); 7. O rosa bella, ballata (5:02); 8. Poy che morir (4:49); 9. Ben che da vui donna arr. C Young (2:18); 10. Le ray soley! (2:12); 11. Le ray soley! arr S Kammen (1:12); 12. Le ray au soley! (1:18); 13. Petrum Marcello Venetum (2:45); 14. Chi nel servir antico (2:34); 15. Per quella strada (3:47); 16. Una panthera (4:51); 17. Gli atti col dancar (3:02); 18. Sus une fontayne (5:23); 19. O Petre Christi discipule (2:28); 20. Doctorum principem (2:41); 21. O Virum omnimoda (2:17). Reissued 2009.

1982 L’œuvre intégral / Johannes Ciconia. Huelgas Ensemble, dir Paul van Nevel. Musique en Wallonie, MW 80040-44. (10 and 12/80). Œuvres italiennes I: Una panthera; Chi nel servir; Poi che morir ; I cani sono fuora; Motets I: Albane missi celitus; O Petre Christi; O virum omnimoda; Doctorum principem; Parties de messes I: Et in terra pax “Regina gloriosa” & Patrem omnipotentem “Regina gloriosa”; Et in terra pax & Patrem omnipotentem; Œuvres italiennes II: O rosa bella; Chaçando un giorno; Lizadra donna; Deduto sei a quel; Œuvres françaises: Le ray au soleil; Aler men veus; Quod jactatur; Sus un fontayne; Motets II: Petrum Marcello; Ut te per omnes; O felix templum; O beatum incendium; O Padua sidus praeclarum; Œuvres italiennes III: Merçe o morte; La fiamma del to amor; O donna crudele; Per quella strada lactea; Parties de messes II: Et in terra pax; Et in terra pax & Patrem omnipotentum; Et in terra pax; Motets III: Regina gloriosa; Venecie mundi splendor; Parties de messes III: Et in terra pax; Patrem omnipotentem; Œuvres italiennes III: Dolçe fortuna; Chi vol amar; Con lagreme bagnandome nel viso.

1972 Johannes Ciconia (1335-1411), Early Music Studio, dir. Thom. Binkley. EMI-Reflexe 1C06330102, LP/Cass and CDM (or 555) 7 63442 2 (CD). (12/1970)2. 1. Una panthera; 2. Chi nel servir anticho; 3. Lizadra donna; 4. Per quella strada; 5. O rosa bella; 6. Le Ray au soleil; 7. Sus un’ fontayne; 8. Aler m’en veus; 9. Albane misse celitus; 10. Gloria; 11.Credo “Regina gloriosa”. (mezzo, tenor, c/tenor, vielles, lute/sackbutt, sop, sackbutt). Reviewed in Diapaison, Gramophone, Fanfare 4/5, MayJune 198

Ciconia Dufay Isaac.  Renaissance Telefunken Alte Werk. Capella Antiqua Munchen conducted by Konrad Ruhland. (LP) 1. Una panthera, (5:42; 2. Chi nel servir (3:11); 3. Lizadra donna (4:10); 4. Per quella strada, (3:48); 5. O rosa bella (5:35); 6. Le ray au soley! (1:50): 7. Sus un’ fontayne (5:57); 8. Aler m’en veus (3:54); 9. Albane misse celitus (2:45); 10. Gloria (3:45); 11. Credo (5:38).

2. YouTube videos

Johannes Ciconia – French Ballads (1/3) Le ray au soley! bartje11, 16 Jan 2010 (1:57). Source: Andrea von Ramm, mezzo; Willard Cobb, tenor; Thomas Binkley, sackbut. Visuals: lyrics.

Johannes Ciconia: Le ray au soley! musiquedumoyenage, 28 Feb 2010. Huelgas Ensemble.

“Le ray au soley! qui dret som kar meyne”. MONTENSEM, 21 Dec 2009 ( : ). Voices. Visuals: still image. 


I almost didn’t attend this week. Working as an actor under a strong director or producer, working as a chorister under a strong conductor is all about dogged subservience to one person’s vision. It’s of course masochistic, but the rewards are worth it. In absenting myself this week, I would have set myself up for some quite exquisite torture next week. The process is not dissimilar to that of a personal trainer who is asking for more, for my own good. I learned this week, from a performance of a chamber opera for deaf students, assisted by two signers, that the Auslan sign for “stone” is the index finger pointing at one’s chin. Given elaborate explanations at previous choir practice sessions about the difference between a loose jaw as opposed to a loose chin (and how one is not the other), I’m seeing singing pedagogy everywhere I go.


Main points this week:

* unless the air is allowed to come up, or be pushed up, from the lungs, singing in tune will falter

* be aware of maintaining an open mouth at all times, whether or not there is any sound issuing forth (!)

* think vowels and working the soft palate before working the lips to sound/sing words

* sing the whole thing in vowels – only when they’re correct start “half”-adding consonants and finish up eventually with some lip activity.

* I am the Instrument. For one who’s been playing instruments outside my body all my life, this is an amazing realization!

Implications for Medieval/Renaissance music study:

* consider the breath and voice dynamics involved in singing Kyrie eleison. Watch how the breath and voice moves through these vowels from the lungs initially, “ky”  through loose tongue (“r) and the vowels and the “el” to get the tuning right, o a finish with “son”, a bright soft palate sound. The perfect way, honoured over centuries of Western singing, of warming up a voice and getting all the necessary components ready.

* Godhead here in hiding: start and and end on the same note C, first line rising and falling through the hexachord, falls nicely in most people’s range. A nice slur in each of the four lines.


I was out of the firing line this week, most attention going to convincing the women their ‘natural’ voices lay – a lot higher than they anticipated. I heard some astounding Cs from women who thought they had no singing voice!

Okay, so I’ve drawn up a list of Ciconia’s work from LPs/CDs/YouTube and matched them this week with Margaret Bent’s edition of the complete works, mercifully located in the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Library thus saving me a trip to Canberra’s National Library, which is the only other copy in NSW that I know of. Concerned primarily with those works recorded with instrumental accompaniment, the list below is light-on when it comes to the religious/Mass movements and the oft-recorded “Gloria”.

Listed Number is from the Complete Works, edited by Margaret Bent. Pls ignore the recording durations. Pls note that Margaret Bent has commented on the veracity of particular works in her article in New Grove Online.


Gloria and Credo (listed as nos 1 and 2), SST voices all texted, 9.30mins.

Gloria and Credo (listed as nos. 3 and 4), SS voices texted and TT parts untexted, 8mins.

Gloria (listed as no.5 subtitlted Spiritus et alme), SS texted and T untexted, 4.30mins.

Et in terra pax “Regina gloriosa”Et in terra pax & Patrem omnipotentem

Albane, misse celitus, motet, a4 (SS voices texted and TT parts untexted), 3mins.

44. Aler m’en veus, virelai, a2, texted, French.

37. Amor perti, ballata, a1, texted, incomplete.

35. Ben che da vui donna, ballata, a1, texted, incomplete.

25. Cacando un giorno, madrigal, a2, texted, Italian.

32. Che nel servir antico, ballata, a3, top two lines texted, Italian.

38. Chi vole amar, a2, ballata piccola, texted. Opus dubium.

29. Con lagreme bagnandome nel viso, ballata, a2, texted. See Appendix 1, five keyboard versions.

42. Deduto sey, ballata grande, ballata, a3, texted, all in bass clef, Italian. Opus dubium. See Appendix 2, keyboard versions.

Doctorem principem/Melodia suavissima/Vir mitis, motet. SS voices texted and TT parts untexted, 2.30mins

30. Dolce fortuna, ballata, a2, texted.

43. Gli atti col dancar frances, ballata, a3, top line only texted. Opus dubium.

26. I cani sono fuora, madrgial, a2, texted, Italian.

36. Io crido amor, ballata, a1, texted, incomplete. Opus dubium. 

31. La Fiamma del to amor, ballata, a2, texted (Lucca f.54v).

47. Le Ray au soley! canon, a3, two lines texted, Perugia, f.83

33. Lizadra donna, ballata, a3, top two lines texted, Italian. 2 Versions. 

39. Merce o morte, ballata, a2, texted. Opus dubium. 2 Versions.

40. Non credo, a2, ballata, texted. Opus dubium.

22. O beatum incendium, motet/Latin contrafactum.

O donna crudele, Italian

12. O felix templum jubila, non-isorhythmic motet. SA voices texted and TT parts untexted, 3.30mins.

13. O Padua sidus praeclarum, non-isorhythmic motet. SA voices texted and T part untexted, 3mins. 

23. O Petre Christi discipule, motet/madrigal Latin contrafactum.

34. O rosa bella, ballata, a3, top abd bottom line texted, Italian.

15. O virum omnimoda, non-isorhythmic motet

27. Per quella strada lactea, madrigal, a2, texted, Italian

Petrum Marcello Venetum, motet

41. Poy che morir, ballata, a2, texted, Italian. Opus dubium.

46. Quod jactatur, canon, a3, all texted, French.

24. Regina gloriosa, motet/Latin contrafactum. Opus dubium.

45. Sus une fontayne, virelai, a3, two lines texted, French (Mod.f.27v-28)

28. Una panthera, madrigal, a3, texted, Italian.

Ut te per omnes/Ingens alumnus Padue, motet. SS voices texted and TT parts untexted, 2.30mins. 

14. Venecie mundi splendor/Michael qui Stena domus/Italia mundicie, non-isorhythmic motet, a3. SAT voices, all texted, 5mins.



Time is being divided between vocal technique (closed/dark and open/bright vocalising in my case) and reading music, with some overlap between the two (how coordinating the different physical components of making a sung sound can affect things like pitch and intervals). This week’s lesson started with the alphabet and went on to identify and sing back concordant and discordant intervals as well as 4ths, 5ths and octaves as well as 3rds and 6ths. Perhaps the most lasting outcome from this week’s session was how the body has its own ‘brain’ and that’s the one we have to tap into as musicians and singers, the one associated with the interface of music and movement (dance), as well as the persona of the Inner Singer.

Top Ten Points this week

* reinforcing lip position/attack of sung letters of the alphabet

* identifying tones and semitones (revision from last week)

* singing back the notes of the octave while retaining pitch through coordination of breath from diaphragm via vocal chords, soft palate, tongue and lips (sometimes requiring unlearning of habits acquired through ordinary speaking!), including pitch recovery

* identifying internvals (dissonant 2nd and 7th, consonant 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, octaves and tritone)

* transferring interval recognition to notation

* relaxing the tongue for trilled ‘r’ (needs a push of air to begin with)

* tongue movement with and without synchronous jaw movement, on single notes and moving notes

* posture and ‘looking-straight-ahead’, including chest expansion with requisite back arching/pressure on coccyx in upper register (as reinforced by raked stages); undoing postural habits associated with standing straight.

* individual attention to closed/open and bright/dark voice, relaxation in the jaw, posture assisting push from diaphragm and not cramping the vocal chords.

This is an entirely new way of working for me. Each and every individual is singled out on every possible occasion; every sound is critiqued.  This approach is entirely at odds with almost every musical environment I’ve been in where the individual is shielded from having to make a solo statement; it’s obviously challenging (there’s absolutely no room for self-consciousness or embarrassment) and gratifying (instant feedback). The momentum is of course building for ‘choral music’ beyond individual ‘singing lessons’ and the team is dividing already between those keen on staying back and listening to the proper choir later in the evening and those who are deciding not to continue after these lessons designed at learning how to read music and introduce one to one’s voice.

Implications for Medieval and Renaissance musicology

 The working through the sung alphabet is an object lesson in the vocales and consonantes (themselves divided between mutae and  semi-vocales) – see p.181 of Leo Treitler, The “Unwritten” and “Written Transmission” of Medieval Chant and the Start-up of Musical Notation,  Journal of Musicology vol10 no.2 (Spring 1992): 131-191.

Of note also in the identification and singing back of intervals is the concept of consonance in the Middle Ages, of the ambitus in modes,  the tritone, of the principles underpinning organum. Other aspects include the power relationships in the monastic community and exercise of that power in the musical context, notions of mind and body in the Medieval world view and how ambiguous singing is as a bodily function: both sensual/expressive, and spiritual/godly.

Choir Practice (Week 4 of 10)

February 26, 2010

* A life-changing breakthrough. One continuous air flow from diaphragm to lips, with brighter sound through exercising the soft palate muscles. I put it all down to having the tongue rest lightly against the back of lower front teeth. The difference caused by relaxing the tongue and keeping it out of the way was phenomenal. Letting my body decide what I’m doing instead of my brain. I think all my long life I’ve been allowing the singing to be dominated by the lips and the tongue jumping all around the place madly.

* Confident deportment and expanding the chest to get the breath going.

* Clapping back dotted rhythms – four to half to single beats to half beats.

* Moving from throwing out the voice with a lot of air, to making the same sound with virutally no air at the lips.

* Attacking the note with tongue and soft palate ready right on the start of the note, not the slow ‘revving up of the engines’.

* Arrogance/hubris of getting everything right and refraining from knocking others over with the vocal power generated, especially at the first note – making it ‘natural’.

* Moving effectively from chest to head voice in the top of our vocal ranges.

* Rescuing pitch by moving to “ell” or “hll” mouth/lip position.

* Moving from ha to he to hi in quick succession and mopving (while maintaining a loose jaw) the back of the mouth in concert with the subtle changes in the lips and pushing as required from the diaphragm (especially if lack of air causes the vocal chords to wobble or ‘crack’). Emphasis on the word subtle, because for the most part it’s about an open mouth.

* Tone and semitone gradations within the major scale and implications for notating with sharps. Investigated hearing and repeating sung semitones and tones. This was Pyhagorus and Plato and the systems of music for the Ancient Greeks and the early Christians and the medieval period. Behind all this sits the Greek and Medieval modes.  It doesn’t bear questioning – it simply “is”!

* Singing major scale in groups of one, two, three and four slurred notes.

Chunes next week!

Choir Practice (Week 3 of 10)

February 21, 2010

As an off-campus university student reading music history, this 75-minute session once a week is just about the only practical music-making I am doing at the moment! The director has to deal with a dozen adults, the majority of whom have no prior exposure to reading notation. All of us have issues about our voices, about singing, about our sense of rhythm. The concept of perfect pitch has been touched on, but not tone deafness, nor singing in public. I am enthralled, mainly from the point of view of applying what I’m seeing before my eyes and how music might have been taught ‘from scratch’ in medieval Europe. As in past weeks, I’ve tried to crystallize matters into ten or so dot points. What intrigues me so how long we might go without seeing vocal music on paper. Certainly in fluffing an exercise where crochets (without pitch) were separated by six or seven crochet rests and lamenting the absence of barlines, I’ve learned the importance of my saying as little as possible. What I say as one who knows can adversely impact on the pace of learning of the others. What I also find intriguing from a pedagogical point of view is that there is no learning from the individual’s weaknesses, just an imposition of an external standard. The time this week was equally divided between grappling with notation and half revising bel canto singing technique. Bel canto explained in Week 1 is now settling into our brains!

The main points from this week’s Lesson:

* keep away from the notes on paper till as late in the piece as possible. This is something Tobias Cole wanted the newly formed group of singers, almost entirely unknown to each other, at Armidale for the Dido. Obviously with the pressure to have the entire piece done, largely from memory, within a week precluded that. I find it intriguing though that we will do a public concert though in seven more sessions. This speaks volumes about vocal technique being paramount; the actual notes are something one can ‘throw into the mix’ at the last minute, so to speak

* reading barless music in music and rhythm practice. Having been introduced to one-. two- and three-beat notes (as well as four this week), and the one-beat rest, I’m intrigued we’re doing this all without barlines. I’m learning how important clapping rhythms without pitch really is. 

* lipless singing and poking out the tongue in time with the rhythm.  Singing isn’t done from the lips (if it was, it puts too much stress on the vocal chords). The brain tends to seize up the tongue when tackling difficult rhythms, which is fatal for voice quality.

* A brighter sound (Italianate, soft palate sound) vs (closed) English sound. What this is all about is a loose tongue, the same loose tongue required to roll “r”s in Italian spoken language and sung language. What I need to develop is a loud, raucous cockatoo sound to loosen up and re-teach my soft palate.

* relaxed opening and dropping of the jaw. And the jaw isn’t the chin, it’s the whole mechanism back to the ears. Self-esteem and a whole bunch of brain “static” help lock up the jaw when we sing. The personal psychology has to remove its hold on our bodies. Our (child) bodies actually “know” how to sing; it’s our (adult) brains which override the automatic.

* practise complex rhythms by clapping and singing “la” (or “ha” to get the diaphragm going); do it with gusto, as if public performing – not a “private” interior thing. Clapping is all about corporealising rhythm, allowing the body to absorb it. Of course, we know that singers have to be expert dancers.

* talking without lips, like Peter Cook in Cook & Dudley Moore, a strange vague ‘funny voice’ – that’s how the singing voice is liberated

* don’t think of musical rests as “rests”, with connotations of “turning off”; think of them as “silence” – active, thinking silence. Practise stopping the sung note by keeping the mouth open. Don’t associate rests with closing your mouth.

* the body knows all along how to do it. So the body has to be let free. Our bodies will tell us how high to sing, how much support to give a note. Don’t judge your singing voice by your speaking voice. Don’t sing as you speak. We have to recover childhood memories of screaming and crying and tantrums. Only then will we sing. By inference, the musician inside me may end up being quite different from what I anticipate or expect. Do I know my Inner Musician? Especially if I don’t know my Inner Singer?

*  speaking and singing are worlds apart. If you’re gagging when you touch your soft palate, you need to relax more!

Implications for Medieval and Renaissance music history

This is like being amonst the pueri at the time of Guido of Arezzo! Learning notation from scratch. The only difference of course is that instead of using a palm as a musical Palm Pilot, we’re jumping straight to notation. We noticed immediately the difference when barlines were added to our singing/clapping rhythms (suddenly providing ‘natural’ first-beat-in-the-bar-emphasis), which for me recalls both the absence of barlines in Jacobean viol consort music and the presence of barlines denoting breathing points in cantus planus.

Choir practice (Week 2 of 10)

February 10, 2010

Despite this week being told to rein in my mania (I assume I was tired after a long day at work) and to heavily relax my tongue (pulling on my throat) and jaw, I managed what I thought were some bright, “golden” notes from the back of the mouth.

Margaret Throsby on ABC Classic FM radio this week has interviewed two singers, Yvonne Kenny and Barbara Bonney. Each had interesting insights to offer on the process of singing: that orchestras need to support not drown out singers, despite the pressing need of conductors to ‘sound’ like they are directing a symphony orchestra; Sir Charles Mackerras allowing singers to be heard whispering over an orchestra; the need to revive ones’ natural voice, the pre-trained voice (Bonney), aking to the point Christopher Bowen is making about the unself-conscious liberating screaming as a baby does; it’s all about letting go (Bonney); cut out the “thickness” in the voice that seems to be the fashion these days (Kenny); conductors trusting singers and musicians to get on with the job and get it right, to feel the energy of the enesemble (witness Jaroussky at the French singing awards and the way his conductor is ‘letting them get on with it’ – see YouTube); bring back the park-and-bark and cut out the spectacle, let singers stand and sing getting clarity in the diction and allowing audiences to hear the words clearly (Bonney).

Main observations from this week’s session:

* get those soft palate muscles moving!

* sing from the diaphragm without moving the lips

* rhythm goes hand in hand with bodily movement, hence the relationship between music, singing and dance

* once that air moves correctly and efficiently from diaphragm and lungs to mouth and the whole system is working well, one feels happy. One might not “be” happy at the time, but becomes happier once this singing thing is working properly. If not feeling happy, pretend to be happy. Pretend and by starting to breathe and sing properly you will become happy. Singing and happiness are very closely aligned. Singing is regrettably not the same as speaking in our way of life; I speak in a cramped, closed way, which means I become unhappy because my body and breath and pulse are all blocked

* exaggerate the required physical deportment, head high and expanded lungs. Try intoning words like “scum” (authoritatively and with vigour) to develop the necessary stance and almost haughty deportment required.

* music, by changing the body from the way we normally work (and speak), alters our mind, by making our mind work in different ways. In music, we work forwards and backwards – abcdefg and gfedcba (say those alphabetical letters backward at speed!).

* nerves effectively close off the airwaves at the vocal chords, causing us to choke, “crack” and “break”. Stop thinking and cry/sing like a baby instead.

Implications for Medieval & Renaissance studies:

* music and the creation of religious, spiritual energy and feeling; music and the maintenance of those feelings; singing as a way of not just expressing feelings and energy and devotion, but a way of becoming happy, spiritually

* the seamless moving from one note to the other in bel canto singing must surely have developed out of the melismatic melodic lines of cantus planus/plainchant, helped along by the reverb of a resonant architectural space like a church

* singers of plainchant must have protected their voices, for a lifetime of singing, by singing correctly, so their breathing must have been correctr and efficient. The vocal chords wouldn’t have been stressed otherwise the voice would have eventually worn out over time.

* be aware of what you’re doing when you’re singing – not the intellectual framework, but what your diaphragm, jaw, tongue are all doing.

Implications for viol playing:

* nerves are likely to freeze up the bowhand wrist, causing ‘scratchiness’ in the production of the bow stroke. Like a singer’s tongue and jaw, the wrist has to be completely relaxed with the fingers (vocal chords) doing all the work holding the bow. Don’t be manic, don’t be tight.

* the same four basic elements of bel canto singing lie at the heart of effective viol playing: proper breathing (full and proper bowstroke); adequate support (bowhand wrist and fingers); opening of the vocal cavities (full use of the resonating instrument space) and forward projection of the tone (mezza di voce bowing).