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Galliard number 6 by William Byrd …

William Byrd (1540-1623)

Byrd was a student of the great Thomas Tallis. His gift for music really emerged in Elizabeth’s reign, when he became a sort of “house” composer for the queen’s Catholic subjects.

A galliard is a dance – brief, athletic – popular throughout Europe in the late Renaissance. Elizabeth loved it, performing six or seven in a morning, even in her mid fifties. Apparently the dance gave her the ability to levitate …

The Volta, an elaboration on the galliard (said to be of Elizabeth, but really an unknown dancer at the French Valois court)

The dance move is explained here:

The Volta required the partners to dance in a closed position but with the lady to the left of the man! The man held the lady about the waist, and the lady put her right arm on the man’s shoulders, and held her skirt with her left. This was necessary to stop it flying up, because the dance involved the man lifting the lady using his left thigh under the lady’s right thigh.

Confused? I’ve read that there’s an accurate performance of the dance in the movie Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Back to the galliard. Here’s a modern piano version of Byrd’s short piece (1:48), by the strangely brilliant Glenn Gould:

Wikipedia has an excellent article on Byrd – a rich musical life.

 

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