“April is the cruelest month,” T.S. Eliot famously wrote. But May is here, and what better way to welcome this merry month than with music? Here are six songs to help you say goodbye to April showers and say hello to May flowers.
1. Ludwig Senfl, “Im Maien”
The song by the Swiss-born Senfl is, perhaps, one of the oldest surviving May songs. Like the composer’s many secular Lieder, “Im Maien” is in New High German.
2. William Byrd, “This Sweet and Merry Month of May,” from Italian Madrigals Englished
Byrd’s Italianate madrigal was so popular he published it in two arrangements, for four voices and for six voices.
3. Thomas Morley, “Now Is the Month of Maying,” from Balletts to Five Voyces, Book 1 (No.3)
Italian-style madrigals were so popular in Renaissance England that even this well-known work, “Now Is the Month of Maying,” is based upon an Italian piece: “So ben mi ch’a bon tempo” by Orazio Vecchi.
4. Johannes Brahms, “Die Wollust in den Maien,” from 14 Deutsche Volkslieder, WoO 34
Brahms set many texts about May and springtime to music. This folksong arranged for four-part mixed chorus is a rousing way to welcome the month.
5. Richard Strauss, “Fröhlich im Maien,” from 3 Männerchöre
This work by Strauss is arranged for a four-part men’s chorus. Part of its carefree charm comes from the time signature(s): it alternates between 6/8 and 9/8.
6. Lerner and Loewe, “The Lusty Month Of May,” from Camelot
“It’s mad, it’s gay, a libelous display,” but we’d be wrong not to include it on a list of May Day songs.