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Wind in the Woods Early Music Ensemble and others

Wind in the Woods Early Music Ensemble

Medieval and Renaissance music for
The Merry Month of May
at 3pm Sunday May 21 2023
The Piano Preparatory School, 41 Grange Hall Road
(corner of Indian Ripple Rd.) Beavercreek OH

Most of us today get through the winter well-fed and able to stay warm in our homes. For people in13th to 16th century in Europe however, winter was a time of relentless bitter cold. Houses were poorly insulated with only a wood burning fire for heat, and candles or a rush lamp for relieving the many hours of darkness.

Spring though, then as now, is a time full of light and the promise of warm days and new crops. It is a time when flowers blossom, trees are mantled in green leaves and birds sing. One bird in particular, the Cuckoo, is a very welcome harbinger of spring. There is a note of warning though in the cuckoo’s mating call. This bird does, after all lay its eggs in nests other than its own and as May madness takes hold men are advised to keep a good eye on their wives and sweethearts. On the other hand in “Winter now your end is near” there is a cautionary note of a different sort - “Girls take warning while you May, let no man defeat you.”
From all the songs, pictures, poetry, stories and customs of medieval/renaissance Europe, it is clear that a great sense of joy and even giddiness prevailed by the time May arrived. In fact one of the songs in our program is entitled “O Lusty May.” Of course the meaning of the word “lusty” in those times had more to do with an exuberant fullness of life. Many of the retained elements of old pagan customs stressed fertility, rebirth and renewal. These customs were enthusiastically celebrated by young men and women who were, after the long winter, full of suppressed energy and certainly experiencing the same urges as the birds and bees. On the eve of Mayday girls went wandering in the woods, for if they slept there they would surely dream of the young men destined to become their husbands. Then, in the morning, they washed their faces in the morning dew which would enhance their beauty. Others went “a-Maying” for mayflower branches to decorate their homes and for flowers to weave into the garlands which would be used to crown the Mayday King and Queen. The happy culmination of all these festivities came as everyone danced with delight around the Maypole.

Margaret Erin