1620: Music of the Mayflower

Into the Unknown - Travelling to the New World with the Pilgrim Fathers

The Pilgrim Fathers, a Puritan community persecuted by the Church of England, were driven by their hope for freedom of religion and the need to shape their community according to their own ethical and spiritual convictions, to seek a home in the New World. This hope and their firm belief in a better, godly world on the new continent left an imprint on the American way of life, and the feast they shared together with the Native Americans in gratitude for the first harvest in 1621 is observed as Thanksgiving until the present day.

In their exceptional program, Joel Frederiksen and Ensemble Phoenix Munich bring to life a soundscape of the early 17th century with a unique cast of eight musicians and six Native Americans: The Pilgrim Fathers’ journey begins in England and leads via their exile in the Netherlands to the dangerous ocean passage aboard the Mayflower in 1620, the foundation of Plymouth Colony during a hard winter that brought heavy losses, and finally to a moment of deep gratitude for the first successful harvest in 1621.

On this journey, metrical psalms sung from Henry Ainsworth’s Book of Psalmes: Englished both in Prose and Metre gave them comfort and support. From historical sources it is known which hymnbooks were taken on board the Mayflower by the musically educated Pilgrim Fathers. This rarely heard, mostly unrecorded repertoire with its intimate spirituality is supplemented with music present in the Pilgrim Fathers’ environment: virtuosic psalm settings by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, spiritual and secular lute songs by John Dowland or Thomas Ravenscroft, but also anonymous dance tunes which might have been played by the sailors of the Mayflower.

Ensemble Phoenix Munich: Michaela Riener — soprano / Petra Noskaiová — mezzo-soprano / Timothy Leigh Evans — tenor, percussion / Joel Frederiksen — bass, lutes, musical direction / Karen Walthinsen — violin / Andreas Haas — flute / Domen Marincic — viola da gamba, virginal / Jan Cizmar — lute, cittern

David Skudliken-us