In May, the birds are singing, the bees are buzzing, and the weather is perfect for singing outdoors. Or if you’re not much of a singer yourself, May is the perfect time to hear the “merry lads” of the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School sing outdoors. On a trip to Bad Tölz, in Bavaria, Germany, the group treated a crowd to Thomas Morley’s “Now Is the Month of Maying.”
The English composer Thomas Morley was born and died just a few years before William Shakespeare. Though we’re not certain the two ever collaborated, Morley did set “It was a lover and his lass” from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. (Listen to it on here.)
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Italian theater, music, and opera influenced artists in English, including Shakespeare and Morley. Shakespeare set one third of his plays in Italy, and Morley was inspired by Italian madrigals when writing his own English works. In fact, Morley’s “Now Is the Month of Maying” is based on an Italian piece, “So ben mi ch’a bon tempo,” published by Orazio Vecchi in 1590. (Listen to it here.)
Morley’s ballet, published in 1595, has become an integral part of May Morning celebrations that take place annually in Oxford, England. You can watch the Magdalen College Choir sing it from the Great Tower to welcome the first day of May in a video here. But staring at a tower while people sing this charming little ditty inside isn’t quite as charming as watching the young performers of the Schola Cantorum of London Oratory School.
If you need to sing along, you can find sheet music from the International Sheet Music Library Project. You can also watch more of the boys on their Bavarian adventures below.