‘ENERY THE HATETH AND GREENSLEEVES


King Henry & Will Somers

King Henry VIII has come into fashion here just lately, first with Kate Shrewsday and followed up by NR Hatch.  The posts reminded me of one of my favourite songs/melodies, Greensleeves, and the irrational disappointment I felt when various experts debunked the idea that Henry wrote it.  Why I wanted him to, I know not.  He was brilliant in many ways, but a despicable character nonetheless.  Anyway, the main argument was that it follows an Italian style which only came to England after Henry’s death.

It appears, however, that there is convincing evidence that he did, in fact, compose it: a document in his hand, signed by him, setting it out.  Expert analysis has confirmed this, as well as the fact that it was penned left-handed, which in those days only the king was able to do without risking being bumped off very promptly.  Sinister people were regarded as children of Satan.  That blows the arguments of those who deny it completely out of the water.

Henry certainly had the ability.  He was a musician of note – lots of notes, actually – as evidenced by his many undisputed compositions like the Kynges Balade – Pastime with Good Company, and Grene Growith the Holy.  He is reputed to have owned 78 flutes, 76 recorders, 14 trumpets, 10 trombones, and 5 bagpipes.  Even at his most girthsome I doubt if he played all of them at once, though.

The wistful effect of Greensleeves is typical of the Dorian mode.  This is not a true minor key, but can be played all on all white notes on the piano from A: ABCDEFG, where one has (T=Tone; S=Semitone) TSTTTST.  No actual minor key can avoid black notes. ‘Drunken Sailor’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ are other examples of this mode.  People are conditioned to minor, though, and so there is a tendency in many versions to introduce semitones which actually don’t belong

I enjoy playing Greensleeves on piano, violin, recorder or harmonica and wish I could try it on guitar; but I have never got the hang of that.  Whether the style is said to be Italian or not, to me it has a quintessentially English feel.  I find it has the same haunting effect as that gem among folk tunes, She Moved Through the Fair.

One of the most famous treatments of the melody is the Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughan Williams.  It incorporates the lesser-known second melody, and is truly music to stir one’s gentler emotions.

I was going to lower the tone of this post by referring to the Herman’s Hermits comic song, ‘I’m Henery the eighth I am I am’ – but I won’t.

 

© October 2012 Colonialist (WordPress/Blogs24)

About colonialist

Active septic geranium who plays with words writing fantasy novels and professionally editing, with notes writing classical music, and with riding a mountain bike, horses and dinghies. Recently Indie Publishing has been added to this list.
This entry was posted in Composition (classical), History, Music and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to ‘ENERY THE HATETH AND GREENSLEEVES

  1. elspethc says:

    I enjoyed reading this – thanks – the info about the melody and variations especially

    Like

  2. optie says:

    Wow Col, it seems you have taught many of us things we never knew about Henry, fascinating stuff :0

    Like

  3. arkenaten says:

    Nice post Mr. N. Interesting read.I love history stuff.

    Like

  4. adinparadise says:

    I’m so glad that you restrained yourself, Col. 😆 Now, I’ve got that blessed song going round in my head for the rest of the evening. Thanks so much. 🙂

    Like

  5. EVERY ONE WAS AN ‘ENERY (*Echoes* ‘ENERY!)
    SHE WOULDN’T HAVE A WILLIE OR A SAM (*No Willie?*)
    I’M THE EIGHTH OLD MAN, I’M ‘ENERY (*ENERY*)
    ‘ENERY THE EIGHTH I AM!

    I had to have six pints to sing that authentically for you, Col.

    Like

  6. susielindau says:

    That is pretty darn cool! I love that little tune…

    Like

  7. nrhatch says:

    Excellent, Col. The melody flowed from note to note with nary a misstruck chord.

    Mayhaps Will Somers’ greene jacket (above) inspired Henry to pen the tune . . . GreenSleeves? 😉

    Like

  8. Pingback: Rose Without A Thorn « Spirit Lights The Way

  9. Marco says:

    off to investigate the song – okay so I don’t know the name – oops.

    Like

  10. 68ghia says:

    Well, I know the tune.
    And that’s about it.
    You’ve enlightened me 😉

    Like

  11. Granny Blossom says:

    Col this is one of the most interesting posts I have read for awhile. Thank you for sharing these unknown facts about Henry VIII.

    Like

  12. Barb says:

    I’d never heard this info before. Interesting, Now I’ll think of this each time I hear the song this Christmas season.

    Like

  13. melouisef says:

    And on a different note – Henry remains in the news as Hillary Mantell won the Booker prize

    Like

  14. I just love Greensleeves too!

    Like

  15. The Asian says:

    He sure didn’t have the reputation of writing music… Thanks for the interesting read

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  16. Colline says:

    An interesting read. I would never have thought he was a musician – he is known only for having many wives!

    Like

  17. Patti says:

    I never knew that Henry the VIII supposedly had anything to do with Greensleeves – I love that melody as well – now I hope he did write it.

    Like

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