Pastime with Good Company

Pastime with Good Company

:"For the live album by Blackmore's Night, see Past Times with Good Company."

""Pastime with Good Company", also known as "The King's Ballad" ("The Kynges Balade"), is an English folk song written by King Henry VIII in the first years of the 16th century, shortly after being crowned. It is regarded as the most famous of his compositions, [cite web|title=The Music of Philip Sparke|url=|publisher=Anglo Music|work=Pastime with good company|accessdate=2007-04-27] and it became a popular song in England and other European countries during Renaissance times. It is thought to be written for Catherine of Aragon.

Historical context

The early years of Henry VIII's reign marked a distinctive character of exuberance and extravagances in the English court, made possible by the political stability of the kingdom and wealth of the state's finances. Royal banquets and feasts were held on a continual basis, as were outdoor sports and pastimes, such as hunting, hawking, and jousting and archery tournaments. The young King himself was a skilled sportsman, excelling in horse riding, archery, wrestling and real tennis. The song was penned during this period, and presents a general praise to all these entertainments and diversions, depicting the general state of mind of leisure and unconcern that prevailed in the royal court at the time. At the same time, the text provides a moral justification for all this merriment: company is preferable to idleness; for the latter breeds vice.

The song

As with every man of noble birth in Renaissance times, Henry VIII was expected to master many skills, including fencing, hunting, dancing, writing poetry, singing, and playing and composing music, and was educated accordingly as a prince. Henry was considered a talented composer and poet by his contemporaries. [cite web|title=King Henry VIII|url=|publisher=Luminarium|work=The times and works of Henry VIII|accessdate=2007-05-03]

The song is supposed to have been played in court, along with all the other of the King's compositions. [cite web|title=The Cardinal Wolsey history|url=|publisher=Cardinal Wolsey House|accessdate=2007-04-26] However, due to its simple and catchy melody, it became a popular tune and was soon afterwards interpreted frequently at English fairs, taverns and events. It is also believed to have been one the favourite musical pieces of Queen Elizabeth I. [cite web|title=King Henry VIII|url=|publisher=Stainer & Bell|accessdate=2007-04-27] The song is referred to in a number of contemporary documents and publications, attesting to its popularity, and was subject of a wide number of variants and instrumental rearrangements by different musicians in the following years. [cite web|title="Pastime with good company" - arr. for Countertenor, Consort of Viols and Clavichord by Gerald Manning (1527) by Henry VIII|url=|publisher=Sibelius Music|accessdate=2007-04-27] In the 1548 work "The Complaynt of Scotland", the anonymous author mentions "Passetyme with gude companye," as being among the popular songs within the kingdom of Scotland in the early part of the 16th century.

The oldest known version is part of the "Henry VIII Manuscript" (c. 1513), a collection of 14 works of his authorship currently preserved at the British Library (BM Addl. MSS. 31,922; Addl. MSS. 5,665; MSS. Reg. Appendix 58), [cite web|title=English 362: The Lyrics of Henry VIII|url=|publisher=R. G. Siemens|accessdate=2007-04-26] which are signed: "By the King's Hand". The manuscript also includes two masses, a motet, an anthem, and other songs and ballads, both vocal and instrumental.

"Pastime with Good Company" remains a favourite piece in choral repertoires, and has been recorded in many variants that include lute, recorder, trombone, percussion and flute, among other instruments. Because of its distinctive early Renaissance melody, it has also been included in different movies and documentaries based on the figure of Henry VIII and the Tudor era. [cite web|title= "Henry VIII" (2003) |url=|publisher=Internet Movie database|accessdate=2007-04-27] [cite web|title= "The Tudors" (2007) | url=|publisher=Internet Movie database|accessdate=2007-04-27]

The song was also the third track on "Under a Violet Moon", the second album by Renaissance-inspired folk rock group Blackmore's Night.





*"Viva l’amore. Bassano", 1999, Flanders Recorder Quartet and Capilla Flamenca, 1999 (OPS 30-239). Contains a recordig of Pastime with good company.
*"Pastyme With Good Companye. Music at the Court of Henry VIII", Ensemble Dreiklang Berlin, 2004 (CHAN 0709).

External links

* [ The Works of Henry VIII] . Includes MIDI files and other multimedia. Accessed on April 27, 2007.
* [ Choral Wiki] , "Pastime with good company (Henry VIII)". Includes scores for different versions and MIDI files. Accessed on April 27, 2007.

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