Ensemble Chaconne to perform music from Shakespeare’s plays Oct. 6

Though no scores are included in his published works, William Shakespeare (1564-1616) frequently employed music in his plays, writing poems for new songs and adopting existing ballads. Numerous characters allude to then-popular tunes while composers such as Thomas Morley (c. 1557-1602) and Robert Johnson (c. 1580-1634) also contributed original compositions.

Ensemble Chaconne
Ensemble Chaconne

In October the acclaimed period music trio Ensemble Chaconne, joined by mezzo-soprano Pamela Dellal, will present a concert of music associated with Shakespeare’s oeuvre. The performance, titled “Measure for Measure: The Music of Shakespeare’s Plays,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6, in Edison Theatre.

Tickets are $15 — $10 for seniors and Washington University faculty and staff, or $5 for students — and are available through the Edison Theatre box office, (314) 935-6543. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call (314) 935-9226 or email jgartley@artsci.wustl.edu.

The concert is sponsored by Washington University’s Performing Arts Department, the Department of Music and the Department of English, all in Arts & Sciences, and by Edison Theatre.

“Some of the most prominent Elizabethan and Jacobean composers wrote music for the Bard’s plays,” notes Ensemble Chaconne’s Olav Chris Henriksen, who performs on lute, theorbo and guitar. For example, Morley, who served as organist for St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, published setting to Twelfth Night, Henry V and As You Like It. Meanwhile Johnson, who served as composer to the court of James I, wrote music to Shakespeare’s lyrics for songs in The Tempest.

Henriksen also points out that, “Throughout the plays, Shakespeare refers to ballad tunes in passing. His audience was familiar with the songs and their stories, and they serve as shortcuts in conveying various ideas and circumstances.”

For example Ophelia, descending into madness in Hamlet, quotes several contemporary ballads, while Sir John Falstaff, in The Merry Wives of Windsor, refers to the song “Fortune My Foe,” with which bystanders often taunted prisoners being led to the gallows.

“‘Greensleeves,’ the most famous ballad tune, is mentioned twice in The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Henriksen adds. “It’s largely forgotten today that the title refers to ladies of ill repute, who were recognized by their green sleeves.”

Also on the program will be “The Lord Souches Maske,” which was frequently used as an opening piece for Shakespeare’s plays, followed by Morley’s “O mistress mine,” which is sung by Feste in Twelfth Night; “La Volto” from Henry V; and “It was a lover and his lasse”, from As You Like It.

Johnson is represented by songs from The Tempest as well as by three compositions that, following Shakepeare’s death, became popularly associated with Macbeth: the first and second “Witches’ Dance” and “Come away, Hecate”.

Rounding out the program will be the songs “Hark, hark! The lark”, “Take, O take those lips away” and “The Willow Song”; “Callino Casturame,” an Irish/English ballad quoted in Henry V; and several songs written for the rogue balladeer Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale.

In addition to Henriksen, Ensemble Chaconne includes Peter H. Bloom (Renaissance and Baroque flutes) and Carol Lewis (viola da gamba). The three musicians have performed together since 1985, while also appearing in solo recitals and concertizing widely with other ensembles.

Dellal — a frequent guest artist with Ensemble Chaconne — is a founding member of Favella Lyrica and a current member of the Blue Heron Renaissance Choir. She has appeared in concert in major cities in Europe, the United States, Australia and Japan.


WHO: Ensemble Chaconne, with mezzo-soprano Pamela Dellal

WHAT: Concert, “Measure for Measure: The Music of Shakespeare’s Plays”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6

WHERE: Washington University’s Edison Theatre, Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

COST: $15, or $10 for seniors and Washington University faculty and staff, and $5 for students.

SPONSOR: Performing Arts Department, Department of Music and Department of English, all in Arts & Sciences, and Edison Theatre

TICKETS: Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543

INFORMATION: (314) 935-9226 or jgartley@artsci.wustl.edu