So it only seems fair to start this series of Golden Oldies with the First – Ever – Song that was written in the Anglo-Saxon realms. Of course I have to add ‘Profane’ as we say here in France, or, ‘Worldly’ which of course is more neutral. Right, so the first worldly song on paper: Sumer is icumen in!
The good thing is that you can sing this in a pop concert and nobody looks at you in a funny way. Find out the concert of the 1,000 Years of Popular Music by Richard Thompson (writer of the haunting Bonnie Raitt hit ‘Dimming of the Day’ and many other good songs). And then check out Bonnie Raitt just because she is such a great performer and gives you so much joy.
We sing that very ancient song too, in the Singing Holidays of Southwest France. And the funny thing is that it does not sound ancient at all! The words need a little getting used to, but after seven times of repeating and a glass of the local Cahors wine the song actually swings.
The best thing about Sumer is icumen in however, is that it has got what we call a pes. A pes is a musical phrase functioning as a ground bass. Now bass lines are so fundamental that our bodies, which after all are our musical instruments, can produce them with no problem at all. We therefore tend to let the audience in our concerts (each Singing Holiday concludes with a little festive concert in the lovely chapel of Cazals) sing that bass and they usually master the pes within one minute. It is so much fun to have everybody sing together. And it’s not just fun. Music is magic. It creates an energy that everybody remembers long afterwards. Long afterwards.