In an England long before before Brexit, an enterprising gentleman called Nicholas Yonge decided to publish a book of madrigals – songs in four and five parts.
The year was 1588 and the songs, written by some very fine Italian composers had quite literally crossed the Alps on their way to London, so Mr Yonge decided to give his collection the title Musica Transalpina.
The title was doubly apt as many of the composers working in Italy at that time were actually Flemish, so the music had in fact crossed the Alps twice.
Mr Yonge’s compositions proved to be explosively popular, beginning (or fueling) a vogue for madrigal composing and singing in England, which lasted into the first two decades of the 17th century. Indeed, William Heather, founder of the music chair at Oxford University, included the book in his portrait, painted c. 1627, confirming the longevity of Musica transalpina's influence and popularity.
Musica transalpina contains 57 separate pieces by 18 composers, with Alfonso Ferrabosco the elder having the most, and Luca Marenzio second most. Ferrabosco was living in England until 1578, which could explain the large number of his compositions in the book; he was relatively unknown in Italy.
The venture was a huge success and Mr Yonge soon put out a second collection. Meanwhile all the English composers of the day started writing superb madrigals of their own, similar in style, but quite distinctly English.
For their concerts on October 22 and 23, conductor Philip Hartstein and the Montague Choristers will present a selection of these magnificent songs from both sides of the Alps and Narooma’s keyboard virtuoso, William Hawkey, will round out the program with some wonderful interludes on piano and organ.
The Montague Choristers have been rehearsing intensively at All Saints' Church, Bodalla. Those rehearsing have included Meg Gordon, Margaret Moran, Nanda Taylor, Shirley Blanshard, Cathy Smith, Mandy Wheatley, Helen Ryan, Elizabeth Hawkey, Chris Franks Robyn Miller and John Blanshard together with conductor Philip Hartstein.
Why not join them as they explore a world of nymphs and shepherds, maypole dancers, country fairs, heartbroken lovers, lonely nights, dying swans, and honey-sucking bees?
Concerts are at 2.30pm on Saturday, October 22 at the Bermagui Community Centre and 2.30pm on Sunday, October 23 at All Saints’ Church, Bodalla. Tickets $25 at the door, $23 from Mitre 10, Narooma or Nested on Wallaga, Bermagui, school students free. Enquiries 4473 7541 or to www.montaguechoristers.org