I'm sending this to the lute list, as I have been invited to do so by
   my old friend David Hill (ex-countertenor singer of lute songs) and I
   think you might find it stimulating.  I have to say that when I wrote
   my blog I was not recommending the use of OP, just trying to set out
   what the possibilities and problems might be.

   Fundamentally, I agree with David.  The most important consideration is
   whether the song can be made to speak to the audience, whoever they may


   P.S. Don't even get me started on concert etiquette....
   -------- Forwarded Message --------
   Subject: OP
      Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 12:50:38 +0000
      From: David Hill [1]<div...@tiscali.co.uk>
        To: Martin Shepherd [2]<mar...@luteshop.co.uk>

   Dear Martin,

   you know precisely where I'm coming from here, so you will understand

   I really didn't want to wade in on the online OP for lute songs debate.
   I'm sure it will all get heated and some name-calling will ensue, as I
   noticed happened to the Lute List with another topic recently, with
   egos bouncing off one other like Sumos. Already some folk are referring
   to ‘Pirate' R sounds, so it is clear this will be an inflammatory
   topic.  I now choose to say about OP - ‘it is an irrelevance'. It's
   pointless - a mere curiosity.
   I have discussed the issue of OP in lute songs with David Crystal, and
   anyone who is keen to experiment should just consult his website. There
   are CD recordings available from him in which he reads Shakespeare
   sonnets and other relevant material. This is the quickest way to
   acquire a knowledge of how OP works,
   I used to think this subject was very relevant and important for
   singing lute songs, but I don't any more, because ultimately: ‘we are
   dealing with SINGERS'. Now, we all know about singers. I still am one,
   albeit hobbled, you married one, so we can call a spade a spade,
   without calling it a ‘spud', as Dowland would have.
   OP will never catch on because: a) singers will not take the trouble to
   learn it, and b), even if they do, listeners just think it sounds like
   pirates. Those singers that have looked into it have often used the
   simplified Dobson-inspired crib sheet (I have one from her classes)
   that was circulating after Glenda Simpson tried to popularise it in the
   80s (I still have one from her classes). Now we have the wonderful
   'Oxford Dictionary of Shakespearean Pronunciation' by David Crystal, so
   for the first time we can easily re-create a perfectly plausible
   version of OP for singers, IF WE CHOOSE TO, but nobody will ever do
   this. In fact, I will give away my mint copy of this lovely book  to
   anyone interested.
   Singers only care about how beautiful their voices sound, because this
   validates their own sense of self-worth and self esteem, the result of
   the horrific amount of work it has taken to arrive at the (percieved)
   perfection it enjoys. They want to sound beautiful and be loved,
   naturally. Freud could easily have written a volume on singers. But
   they do not have any fascination for the actual pronunciation, I feel,
   and will always wish to deliver everything in posh, BBC
   English-accented RP, like any Lieder singer - it's part of the
   training, no matter what your relevant local accent is. They seldom
   perform any of the relevant research on the poetry, culture or history
   of the songs. They will spend hours working on the lovely arc of ‘I saw
   my lady weep' to ensure focussed, beautiful, long tied notes, but they
   will not spend a single minute on the concept of rhetoric, the imagery
   or metaphor contained in the songs, or stuff like that. Neither will
   the audience. They simply do not care. They just 'love the noise it
   makes', to quote Beecham. If it suddenly sounds like pirates to them,
   they will simply dismiss the music along with the often dense, puzzling
   Imagine one of the wonderful Tom and Jerry cartoons ‘re-mixed' with a
   soundtrack that was, instead of Scott Bradley's clever Gershwin to
   Schoenberg - inspired scores, it was now cut together with Tudor/Stuart
   viol consort music (e.g. Jenkins' 'Newark Siege') - fast semiquavers
   for the mouse scuttling along in a chase, dramatic bowstrokes for when
   one of them gets an anvil dropped on them, chromatic passages for the
   pathos, and so on. We would be confused and disorientated, no matter
   how cleverly it was done. This is how an audience hears OP. We can
   never have an educated audience who will be able to come to terms with
   OP. We have enough trouble getting any audiences these days, because
   few today seem to understand how music performance even happens,or
   concert etiquette - they are now so removed from it. The audience has
   aged - and we're it.
   Today we are far more likely to hear lute songs being sung by the wrong
   voice types anyway. There is still that deluded belief that
   countertenors sang these songs all the time, and, as you know, nobody
   who has studied this properly can find any evidence that they ever did.
   Not even once. They are an imaginary piece of fake history that has
   been perpetuated because audiences continue to be fascinated by men
   singing high. It never happened before the 1950s. It may be beautiful
   sometimes, and it will fill the Wigmore Hall every time another RSM
   squealer warbles a recital out, but, like so much of the history we
   ‘like/want to believe', bottom line - ‘it never happened - it's a lie',
   exactly the same as 'Raleigh introducing the Potato', 'George
   Washington and the Cherry Tree' or 'Robin Hood really existing'.
   Countertenors and lute songs are fake history, but the audiences like
   them, and will never accept the scholarship that proves the practice
   never happened because they want to continue to enjoy the music done
   this way. Countertenors will not stop because they want to have some
   repertoire they feel they can call their own, ironically.  But if we
   can't even choose to get the voices right, how relevant is
   Sorry to sound so negative about this, but recently I have finally
   become aware that we are living in an era where scholarship is simply
   not happening or impacting on anyone any more, or even being applied.
   Maybe it is being applied in medicine, physics and other areas (I
   hope), but the fact is, the pace of life is now such that nobody feels
   they have the time or even wants to investigate anything like this.
   So - that's my attitude to OP now - it's a completely irrelevant
   wormhole of performance practice. As usual, Bob Spencer was right -
   song performance is about communicating the composer's idea directly to
   the audience to move them - to ‘affect' them. But if you add the layer
   of performing in a funny voice, you are just being Kenneth Williams (or
   Robin Williams, for US readers) showing off by doing a voice, and the
   voice itself is smeared all over the message, and the text can go screw
   And if you are a countertenor singing in OP, you are just making your
   own history up, aren't you? I discard you.
   Sorry to have repented utterly of my former beliefs, but honesty is the
   best policy.
   If you want to upload any of that onto the Lute List, please do!

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