Michel Lambert: Le repos, l’ombre, le silence

Written by Daniel McGrew


In category: Song of the Day

Published April 22, 2019

Airs de cour were the songs of late 16th, early 17th century France. It’s a huge repertoire to which Michel Lambert contributed many extremely beautiful compositions. Lambert (c.1610–1696) was a composer and singer, and also famously taught singing. His contemporaries, magistrates, famed musicians, musicographers, etc., called him things like “Amphion of our days,” and considered him “the best master to have appeared in centuries.”* Indeed his airs are characteristic of all the sensitivity and nuance one would expect of the songs of a famous singer and teacher of singing.

This song, to an anonymous poem, has always struck me as particularly moving. In it, the “secluded place” to which the text refers—a quiet, darkling forest, cloistered, safe for confession—becomes a metaphor for song itself. And perhaps when I hear it, I imagine Lambert himself singing, telling us about his songs: what they are, what they mean. Sure, it’s just a song, (“though I speak only to a forest…”), but a song can hold so much.

Stillness, gloom and silence: 
everything here compels me to divulge 
my innermost troubles;
relating my suffering brings me solace, 
though I speak only to the forests;
at least, however, my woes are told. 

If you would speak, leaving nothing unsaid, 
you are free to do so in this secluded place. 
You need have no fear at all of listening ears: 
relating my suffering brings me solace, 
though I speak only to the forests; 
at least, however, my woes are told.

*Anthony, James R., and Catherine Massip. 2001 “Lambert, Michel.” Grove Music Online. 20 Apr. 2019.

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Praised for his “lovely, nuanced tenor” (Boston Musical Intelligencer), Daniel McGrew is an active performer of a broad range of repertoires spanning opera, musical theatre, early, and new music. Recently at Tanglewood, he appeared as François in Bernstein’s A Quiet Place and participated in the annual Festival of Contemporary Music. An early music specialist, Daniel has performed Bach with conductors including Matthew Halls, John Harbison, David Hill, and Masaaki Suzuki, and toured India and the Baltic region with Juilliard415 and Yale University’s Schola Cantorum. He participated in the symphonic premier of James Lapine’s Sondheim on Sondheim with the Boston Pops Orchestra and appeared in David Loud’s Sondheim revue A Good Thing Going. Daniel holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Yale School of Music; he is currently pursuing a DMA at the University of Michigan. 

Daniel McGrew will make his debut with NYFOS this June in Manning the Canon.


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