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Lully Lullay

Duration:
58 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 17 October 2009

Lucie Skeaping explores the tender art of the lullaby, from ancient melody to Elizabethan song, and discovers how this most intimate of forms offers inspiration to the world of early music.

The act of rocking a child to sleep with a gentle tune is one of our most simple and natural forms of music-making. They are common to all cultures and ages, and though they are varied, they all share remarkable similarities. Their words are soothing, using onomatopoeic and nonsense sounds, like the 'ninna nanna' of Italy and the English 'lulla lulla'.

Often these lullabies are passed down from generation to generation and are known throughout regions and countries. But they are also transformed by this oral transmission. Many look outward to nocturnal themes, or to daily chores and the baby itself.

Religious themes are also widespread. By its very nature, the lullaby has a certain gentle spirituality and its serenity is particularly suited to the Nativity. It reminds us of Mary's pure devotion to the baby Jesus, her gentle care and the universality of this particular kind of miracle. Many Christmas carols incorporate gentle rocking rhythms, simple structures, repetitive motifs or common phrases, like the 'Lully Lullay' of the well-known Coventry Carol. Many were also well-known secular tunes that were given devotional subjects in an attempt to lead audiences away from profane subjects. Others depict holy figures in easily-recognised scenes from daily life - Joseph rocking the cradle or Mary washing nappies.

As well as featuring traditional music, and anonymous composers from around the world, the programme features pieces by English composers Anthony Holborne, William Byrd and John Bennet.

Music Played

30 items
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
  • Image for Anon (England c.1580 – though often attributed to Byrd)

    Anon (England c.1580 – though often attributed to Byrd) My Sweet Little Darling

    Performers: Alain Zaepffel, Eugéne Ferre, Les Elements

    ADDA, 581033

  • Image for [anonymous]

    [anonymous] Lullay - I Saw A Swete Semly Syght

    Performer: Anonymous 4

    HARMONIA MUNDI, HMU 907099

  • Image for unknown

    unknown unknown - Turkmen Lullaby

    BBC archive recording

  • Image for Anthony Holborne

    Anthony Holborne The Fruit of Love

    Performer: The King’s Noyse

    HARMONIA MUNDI, HMU 907238

  • Image for Anthony Holborne

    Anthony Holborne Pavan The Cradle

    Performer: The York Waits

    AMON RA, CDSAR 62

  • Image for Anthony Holborne

    Anthony Holborne Galliard Lullabie

    Performer: The King’s Noyse

    HARMONIA MUNDI, HMU 907238

  • Image for William Byrd

    William Byrd Lullaby, my sweet little baby

    Performers: David Cordier, Tragicomedia

    HYPERION, CDA 66307

  • Image for Alfred Deller & The Deller Consort

    Alfred Deller & The Deller Consort Alfred Deller & The Deller Consort - Song of the Nuns of Chester

    VANGUARD CLASSICS, 08 5065 71, track 23

  • Image for [anonymous]

    [anonymous] Swete was the song the Virgine soong

    Performers: Taverner Consort & Players, Andrew Parrott

    EMI, CDC 7498092

  • Image for [anonymous]

    [anonymous] Lullaby, lullow

    Performers: Taverner Consort, Andrew Parrott

    VIRGIN CLASSICS, VC 5451562

  • Image for [anonymous]

    [anonymous] Coventry Carol

    Performer: Sneak’s Noyse

    AMON RA, CDSAR 62

  • Image for [anonymous]

    [anonymous] Canção de embalar - Jose embala o menino (arr. J Savall)

    Performers: Montserrat Figuerres, Hesperion XXI

    ALIA VOX, AV 9826

  • Image for [anonymous]

    [anonymous] Berceuse - Noumi, noumi yaldati

    Performers: Montserrat Figuerres, Hesperion XXI

    ALIA VOX, AV 9826

  • Image for John Bennet

    John Bennet Venus' Birds

    Performers: David Cordier, Tragicomedia, Stephen Stubbs

    HYPERION, CDA 66307

  • Image for [anonymous]

    [anonymous] Baloo, my babe

    Performers: Evelyn Tubb (soprano), Michael Fields (lute)

    MUSICA OSCURA, 070980

  • Image for [anonymous]
    00:02

    [anonymous] My Sweet Little Darling

  • Image for Anonymous 4
    00:04

    Anonymous 4 Lullay - I Saw a Swete Semly Syght

  • Image for [traditional]
    00:08

    [traditional] Turkmenistan Lullaby

  • Image for Anthony Holborne
    00:10

    Anthony Holborne The Fruit of Love

  • Image for Anthony Holborne
    00:11

    Anthony Holborne Pavan The Cradle

  • Image for Anthony Holborne
    00:14

    Anthony Holborne Galliard Lullabie

  • Image for William Byrd
    00:19

    William Byrd Lullabye, My Sweete Little Baby

  • Image for [anonymous]
    00:26

    [anonymous] Song of the Nuns of Chester

  • Image for Anonymous
    00:31

    Anonymous Anonymous - Swete was the song the Virgine soong

  • Image for [anonymous]
    00:33

    [anonymous] Lullaby, lullow

  • Image for [anonymous]
    00:35

    [anonymous] Coventry Carol

  • Image for Anonymous
    00:39

    Anonymous Anonymous - Cancao de embalar - Jose embala o menino

  • Image for Anonymous
    00:46

    Anonymous Anonymous - Berceuse - Noumi, noumi yaldati

  • Image for John Bennet
    00:52

    John Bennet Venus' Birds

  • Image for [anonymous]
    00:54

    [anonymous] Baloo, my babe

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