William Byrd – Though Amaryllis dance in green

This fast paced piece is written for 5 voices; Soprano, Alto I, Alto II, Tenor and Bass. It furthermore has a rather unusual 3/2 – time signature and a C-major key signature. The mood of the piece is mainly  happy and cheerful.

The whole piece is being repeated 5 times, due to the five stanzas, whereas the first half of the piece always has a different text and the second half sticks to the same wording. Some of the notes in the second half are sun “staccato”, which helps to emphasize the joyful character of the piece.

At the beginning of the first half the piece seems to be well  structured, having groups of two or three singers, singing the same text at the same time. But after the third part the voices start to distribute themselves already. Nevertheless, four out of the five singers end in the same way in bar 16, forming an interval of a major third on d (f#), which creates a major sound on the supertonic. Before that, Byrd uses some sharp accidentals on C and F to work towards that interval. Towards the end of the first half, the mood also slightly changes to something more serious which is also evoked by a slower tempo.

The second half starts rather abrupt, with an increased pace. All voices start at different times either on D or A. Due to the sharp accidentals used for all the f-notes up to bar 23, the key signature changes to the dominant G for a few bars. All voices come together for a moment in bar 27 to form a C-major chord, which indicates that the melodies have now come back to their original key. The voices then move forwards in a similar way to the G-part and land with a ritardano on another C- chord at the end of the piece.

I think I wouldn’t have enjoyed the piece that much if the stanzas would have been longer. Due to the abrupt start of the second half and its cheerful character I was rather entertained. Even though the second half is the part of the piece that never distinguishes itself from the other stanzas, it was the half I preferred. It was probably the always slightly changing mood that made the first half of the piece a bit boring for me after a while.

A score of the piece from the Petrucci music library can be found under the following link : https://imslp.org/wiki/Though_Amaryllis_Dance_in_Green_(Byrd%2C_William)