Mark Argent

Five Mediaeval Lyrics
for five solo voices

duration: 10 minutes

The Five Mediaeval Lyrics are settings of fourteenth and fifteenth century English texts which have a tremendous immediacy. The strong, almost percussive, sound of the Middle English words gives rhythmic energy to the music, while the harmonic language borrows from the modal scales used both by mediaeval and modern jazz musicians.

Three of the poems clearly relate to Christmas: whether the first two do as well depends on what the listener hears in them.

The opening poem "Dronken" pokes fun at Tabart who, along with everyone else, has had a little too much wine: things are fine as long as he stands very still, but not if he tries to move...

"Maiden in the mor lay" is an innocent poem in praise of a maiden who spends a week on the moor, but the way in which nature offers her food, drink and comfort among the flowers, makes this feel like a poem in praise of the Virgin Mary.

In "Nowel, nowel, nowel" the references to Mary are very clear, as the joyful refrain alternates with verses in which she looks forward to mothering the infant Jesus.

In rather more earthy vein "Syre Christemas" celebrates the joys of Christmas, with an affectionate nod to religious symbolism, and a wholehearted delight in the excuse for a celebration.

"Tyrle, tyrlo" tells the story of the shepherds, and brings the whole cycle to a close with an exortation to ‘Sing and make good cheer, in the worship of God this year’.

Mark Argent was educated at Robinson College, Cambridge. He studied conducting with George Hurst and Adrian Leaper, and cello with Jane Francis and (currently) Susan Sheppard.

His musical interests are very varied, from mediaeval music to contemporary music and jazz. His main musicological interest is in the musical life of eighteenth-century London, and his edition of the "Recollections" of the musician R. J. S. Stevens were published by Macmillan in 1992.

As a performer he is usually to be found playing a five string baroque cello. Often this means historically informed performances of baroque music, but he also uses the same instrument for appropriate modern music, and for jazz. He is the cellist of the ensemble "Catch!" which mixes baroque and modern music, played on baroque instruments. Bringing together the worlds of jazz and baroque music, he is currently working on the "Mystery Sonatas" of the seventeenth century German composer Heinrich Biber, to play with jazz bass and five-string cello (these were originally written for violin and continuo).

His compositions are mostly of chamber music. Recent small scale works include a variety of pieces for solo instruments, a meditative setting of the "Anima Christi" for tenor and cello, and the "Song of the Wayfarer" for solo tenor recorder. Larger scale works include a setting of the "Magnificat", written for the Loki ensemble to perform in the closing concert of the 1999 Kingston Early Music Festival, and his "Song of the Beloved", setting part of the "Song of Songs" for tenor, two baroque flutes, harpsichord and cello. He is currently working on his "Osterley Suite III" for cello and double bass.

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