Posts Tagged ‘Roman’

Norwich Sculpture Commemorates Elizabethan Performer Will Kemp

Kemp's Sculpture in Chapelfield Gardens

Sculpture of Will Kemp's famous Morris Dance between London and Norwich in Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich, England Photo: Eric Ortner

Norwich, England is a wonderful city filled with history dating back to the Roman Empire and before. There are glimpses of it everywhere, including remnants of ancient walls and even an intact Norman style keep. One reminder is this carved log, which stands near the bandstand that Glenn Miller performed on in Chapelfield Gardens. The relief wooden sculpture was carved by Mark Goldsworthy and was dedicated in 2000.

The sculpture is reminiscent of a Maypole, with Morris Dancers being led by a Pipe and Tabor player. Pipe and Tabor was a favorite folk dancing instrument during the medieval and early renaissance periods and would have been an important part of a peasant class wedding celebration.

It turns out, though, that the sculpture commemorates Will Kemp an actor, Morris Dancer and personal friend of William Shakespeare. There is conjecture that several of Shakespeare’s works had parts written specifically for Kemp.  Will Kemp was especially renowned for dancing all the way from London to Norwich in 1600 which was towards the end of his life. The 125 mile trip only took him nine days, which means he would have danced for roughly 14 miles a day. He must have had sore feet by the end of that gig.

Will Kemp also was famous for his Jigs. In the Elizabethan Era, a Jig was a comic song and dance routine that was often performed between the acts of a dramatic performance. One Jig performed by Will Kemp has survived to this day and is named, fittingly, Kemp’s Jig. The following recording of Kemp’s Jig by Harmonious Music is based on an arrangement by Tom Wills. This version includes both violin and piano parts with a nice improvisation added.

A visit to Norwich should not be completed without a stroll through Chapelfield Gardens. The public space is a testament to music history and the human spirit.

The Ancient Roman Wedding Processional

Many of today’s wedding traditions base their origins from the customs of Ancient Rome. A key example is the Wedding Processional. However, many of the Roman’s customs have changed quite a bit over the past 2,000 years.

In ancient days, the Roman wedding processional began at the bride’s house where the wedding vows were exchanged. The deductio in domum mariti or pompa, procession, was a necessary part of the Roman wedding ceremony, it publicly acknowledged the rites of marriage and anyone in the community was allowed to join in the procession as it moved to the groom’s home.

Music was certainly a part of the processional. The groom would take part in singing the Fescennine verses. A surviving specimen of the Fescennines used at weddings is the Epithalamium of Manlius. These verses are distinguished by their licentiousness.

The groom would also take part in lighting a wooden torch called a  Spina Alba from the bride’s hearth. At the door of the bride’s house, the bride and groom would re-enact the scene of the seizure of the Sabine women. The bride would clutch her mother’s arms, only to be pried away by the groom.

Illustration of an Ancient Roman wedding procession. courtesy New York Public Library

Illustration of an Ancient Roman wedding procession. Courtesy New York Public Library

The bride was then escorted by three boys as she traveled to the groom’s home. One of the boys would hold the Spina Alba.  Priests would lead the bride to her future home followed by her family, friends, musicians and slaves. The slaves would carry gifts that would no doubt be needed for the bride’s new life.

As the bride processed, her guests and on lookers would take part singing the hymen hymenaee, and shouted Talasio, or other crude jokes. Hymen Hymenaee is an epithalamium or bridal song. It was to be sung by a chorus of youths and maidens singing alternately, but not always with precisely equal stanzas. The youth would sing sections praising the Hesperus and marriage, while the maidens would recite the stanzas pertaining to the fears and sorrows of surrendered maidenhood.

Roman Mosaic depicting street musicians performing on syrinx and aulos, and tympani.

Roman Mosaic depicting street musicians performing on aulos, Cymbalum or cymbals and tympani.

The procession was often accompanied by musicians performing on, flutes, pan-pipes, syrinx and aulos (reed instruments), the kithara (a Greek lyre), and tympani (early tambourine). It is interesting to note that musicians in the time of Ancient Rome held low social position, although, they sometimes enjoyed public patronage and even imperial patronage.

The groom would need to arrive at his home to greet the bride as she arrived so the procession would split into two parts giving the groom time to arrive home first. Once the bride arrived the torches were thrown away and the bride would rub the doorway with oil and hang wool over the door. She was then lifted over the threshold. It is believed that the threshold was sacred to the goddess Vesta and stepping on it could lead to infertility. The Ancient Romans were also very superstitious and should the bride trip while walking through the door it would have been a sign that ill fortune would be ahead for the marriage.