Sing in ex-ale-tation


With a few weeks to go until our conference on John Taylor, the Water Poet, we were delighted to receive an email from JoAnn Taricani, Associate Professor of the History of Music at the University of Washington. Taricani is working on online and print critical editions of John Playford’s musical anthology An Antidote against Melancholy (1661), and she has just recorded several stanzas from a song that (although it was probably written by Thomas Randolph) made an appearance in two of Taylor’s pamphlets.

The song (a ‘catch’ or round) was entitled ‘The Ex-Ale-tation of ALE’ and it was, as the title suggests, an encomium to drink. Taylor was evidently so impressed by the pun-laden ditty that he took it as the inspiration for his even more pun-laden work, Ale ale-vated into the ale-titude (1651); the song was, he said, ‘written in merrier Times, by a most Learned Authour’. Singing about ale (doubtless whilst drinking copious quantities of it) was clearly intended to warm the heart of the forlorn Royalist reader in the aftermath of Charles I’s execution.

Taricani’s website gives us not just a sound recording but also video, allowing us to see how sociable performance among friends might have cheered the soul, both during the Commonwealth and (in the Antidote) after the Restoration.

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