Our music is provided by a band of musicians and singers, some of whom form a group called Capriole. They play a variety of Renaissance woodwind and percussion, and sing songs ranging from the 13th to the 17th century. We never use recorded music.
Capriole was formed in 1983; originally just three women with a love of early music. It was the existence of Capriole that ultimately led to the formation in 1993 of A Companye of Strangers, the original dancers all being members of a Morris side called Offcumduns. A Companye of Strangers is more or less a medieval version of this name!
As well as providing the dance music for Companye, our musicians add variety to our performances by interspersing the dancing with songs and tunes. Their repertoire includes romantic songs from 13th century France, elegant medieval arrangements, lively Renaissance pieces from France and Italy, and a variety of songs from Tudor England – several attributed to Henry VIII.
They also lead Companye in singing various “mass songs”, guaranteed to draw the audience at the beginning of a performance! For example, at the appropriate time of year, (and sometimes at totally inappropriate times!) we sing “Sumer is Icumen In“, which is the earliest known English round, thought to date from about 1260.
Another popular song which Companye sing en masse is “Pastime with Good Company“, attributed to Henry VIII.
The words of this song –
“Pastime with good company,
I love and shall until I die….
For my pastance, hunt, sing and dance,
My heart is set.
All goodly sport, for my comfort.
Who shall me let?”
– seem to sum up not only Henry’s philosophy, but also our own!
…if you are surprised to see our musicians playing the ubiquitous recorder, you may be interested to know that this was a highly respected instrument in Tudor times, and Henry VIII had 76 of them!