THE FULL SONG-CYCLE: 

Song 1: No.128: How oft, when thou, my music, music play’st  
The Keeper of a Dozen Doves, Countertenor
represented by the Flûte Traversière Obbligato  
sings to his Beloved Heavenly Harpsichordist 
represented by the Harpsichord Obbligato 

Song 2: No. 129: Th'expense of spirit is a waste of shame  
The Knife Swallower, Countertenor, sings to his Beloved Fire Eater  

Song 3: No. 130: My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun  
The Clown, Countertenor, sings to his Beloved Clown  

Song 4: No.131: Thou art as tyrannous so as thou art  
The Strongman, Countertenor, sings to his Beloved Bareback Rider  

Song 5: No. 139: O, call not me to justify the wrong  
The Knife Thrower, Countertenor, sings to his Beloved Lady Target  

Song 6: No. 140: Be wise as thou art cruel; do not press  
The Illusionist, Countertenor, sings to his Beloved Assistant  

Song 7: No. 141: In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes  
The Acrobat, Countertenor, represented by the Flûte Traversière Obbligato  
sings to his Beloved Acrobat, represented by the Baroque Triple Harp Obbligato 

Song 8: No. 142: Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate  
The Ringmaster, Countertenor: represented by the Baroque Bassoon Obbligato 
with his Troupe of Horses: represented by the Baroque String Orchestra 
sings to his Beloved on the Flying Trapeze: represented by the Baroque Oboe Obbligato 
accompanied by the Barrel Organ Continuo: represented by the Harpsichord Obbligato

 

INSPIRATION

These songs are inspired by Circus Arts & Characters. The choice of Circus Character for each song relates to the literary allusions in the Sonnets. For example: No. 139 O, call me not to justify the wrong has fencing and sword/blade allusions:

“wound”, “slay”, “glance”, “defence”, “turns”, “dart”, “Injuries”, “slain”, “Kill me outright with looks, and rid my pain." 

and so is sung by the Knife Thrower to his Beloved Lady Target. 

The songs were also inspired by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells' new edition All the Sonnets of Shakespeare, which lays the sonnets out in their probable chronological (and thematic) order. 

PROGRAMMATIC ELEMENT & MISE EN SCÈNE: 

There is a programmatic element to each song that can be performed in 3 ways: 

1. As a concert work: with the programmatic element, inspired as it is by Circus characters, implicit within the work. 

2. As a staged performance in a theatrical setting: where the programmatic element is alluded to with the mise en scène: costume, setting, lighting, light installation, cinematic backdrop, animation, movement & props. The Countertenor and Baroque Orchestra would be performing on stage as part of the action. The Eight Characters of the Speaker (the Countertenor), and the Eight Characters of the Beloved to whom he sings each song, could be represented by a Pair of Dancers, with costume changes for each song. 

3. In a real live Circus setting: with real live Circus performers, where the programmatic element is fully staged and enacted with the Countertenor and Baroque Orchestra performing the music live. Our wonderful local Giffords Circus could be approached about a possible collaboration.

PROGRAMMATIC ELEMENT OF:
Song 8: No. 142: Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate 

The Ringmaster, Countertenor: represented by the Baroque Bassoon Obbligato  
with his Troupe of Horses: represented by the Baroque String Orchestra  
sings to his Beloved on the Flying Trapeze: represented by the Baroque Oboe Obbligato  
accompanied by the Barrel Organ Continuo: represented by the Harpsichord Obbligato 

The programmatic element of this piece explores ideas of Time in Slow Motion and Stasis:  

The Ringmaster, Countertenor Solo, sings to his Beloved on the Flying Trapeze of their mutual transgressions. He marches around the Ring leading his Troupe of Horses accompanied by the Baroque Strings, playing in the style of a French Overture, and the Barrel Organ Continuo, played by the Harpsichord Obbligato. The Ringmaster is represented by the Baroque Bassoon Obbligato. As the Ringmaster looks up at his Beloved on the Flying TrapezeTime goes into Slow Motion and Stasis (Bar 23). The Baroque Oboe Obbligato enters here with the Baroque Violin Solo. The Ringmaster appeals to his Beloved on the Flying Trapeze to consider her own faults: Like a Prayer (Bar 43). The music moves through a descending chromatic bass line with false relations clashing over the top. She then descends on the Trapeze to pull him up into the air where they perform a Barcarolle Pas de Deux en L'Air (Bar 48). As he chastises her lack of pity, she lowers him to the ground (Bar 54). The Baroque Oboe and Baroque Bassoon Obbligato then play out their entwined themes to the accompaniment of the French Overture Theme played by the Strings, which represent the Troupe of Horses (Bar 58). The song is accompanied throughout by the quaver Barrel Organ Continuo part played by the Harpsichord Obbligato. The Barrel Organ starts to grind down and the French Overture Theme descends in pitch and is given over to the Cellos and Double Bass (Bar 74). At the end, in the final Bar 78, having heeded his warning to 'root pity' in her heart, the Beloved rapidly descends on the Flying Trapeze and lands in the Ringmaster’s arms