"Bryd one Brere" is a middle English love song from the early 1300s and would have been sung by trained musicians of the time. The original manuscript can be found at King's College in Cambridge.
Bryd one brere, brid, brid one brere,
Kynd is come of love, love to crave
Blythful biryd, on me thu rewe
Or greyth, lef, greith thu me my grave.
Hic am so blithe, so bryhit, brid on brere,
Quan I se that hende in halle:
Yhe is whit of lime, loveli, trewe
Yhe is fayr and flur of alle.
Mikte ic hire at wille haven,
Stedefast of love, loveli, trewe,
Of mi sorwe yhe may me saven
Ioye and blisse were were me newe.
Bird on a briar, bird, bird on a briar,
(Man)kind is come of love, love thus craves.
Blissful bird, have pity on me,
Or dig, love, dig thou for me my grave.
I am so blithe, so bright, bird on briar,
When I see that handmaid in the hall:
She is white of limb, lovely, true,
She is fair and flower of all.
Might I her at my will have,
Steadfast of love, lovely, true,
From my sorrow she may me save
Joy and bliss would wear me new (i.e., me renew).
The only tool used for this project is a 29-string gothic style frame harp. No intact harps from this time period exist, however, they can be seen in various illuminations. In comparison to scraps of harps that have been found, the harp that I use is consistent with harps from the era in terms of construction. The only variance is in the strings, which would have been made of gut. Mine are nylon, which create a similar sound to gut strings without the unpleasantness of being made from animal material.
Vocal techniques were not remarked on until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so the techniques that I have chosen come from these periods as they are the closest information available.
Phrasing: This is unfortunately something I have not been able to find, so I use modern practices of ending my phrases where there is a natural break in the poetry.
Tempo: In period, tempo was regarded as fluid, therefore I chose to use varying tempos at different points in the music.
Dynamics: A sixteenth century musician urged instrumentalists to use varying dynamics such as singers used. This suggests that singers varied their dynamics in some way, although the specifics are lost to time. I chose to use dynamics where I thought appropriate.
Pronunciation: I do not have much knowledge of middle English, so I relied on a specialist in the field for a pronunciation guide for this piece.
Vibrato: This area of vocal music has long been debated as there are period sources on both sides. I used a bit of vibrato in this piece to make it more palatable to modern ears.
Accompaniment: Musicians of the time would have been expected to be able to create their own chords to a melody that was presented to them, so chord structures were typically not written down. Therefore the chords that are played on my harp are my own composition as the original music did not include them.
Andreas Ornithoparcus: His Micrologus or Introduction Containing the Art of Singing by Andreas Ornithoparcus (1609)
Playing the Late Medieval Harp by Cheryl Ann Fulton (2000)
Medieval and Renaissance Music: A Performer's Guide by Timothy McGee (1985)
Plucked Strings by Herbert Myers (2000)
Singing Early Music by Timothy McGee (1996)
The Cambridge Music Guide by Stanley Sadie and Alison Latham (1985)