Shakespeare is 449 years old today!

I’ve been invited to participate in the ‘Happy Birthday Shakespeare’ project again this year, so I place keyboard under fingertips to ponder Shakespeare’s influence on everything cultural. Just a short post this time, because to do it justice you’ll need to watch a few links.

In 1974 I saw a production of Twelfth Night, with its first line: “If music be the food of love, play on.” Forty years later, I can still hum lines from Feste’s song, “When that I was and a little tiny boy”. As I was searching the web for that melody (Edward Petherbridge does it here), I discovered an astonishing array of music composed for Shakespeare’s songs.

Here are just three modern compositions worth listening to:

1. Anne Sofie von Otter gives us Four Shakespeare Songs (from Othello and As You Like It) by Erich Korngold.

2. Camerata chamber choir from Copenhagen sing Three Shakespeare Songs (from The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

3. Roger Quilter’s Shakespeare Songs performed by Bryn Terfel features lyrics from Twelfth Night and As You Like It

Search around on YouTube for other songs. In addition to those listed above, I found ones from Cymbeline, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and the Sonnets.

And then think about how Shakespeare’s words still inspire not just directors and actors, but composers and singers. Hats off to the Bard of Avon. I hope to be part of this celebration next year for your 450th!


BTW, the cast of that 1974 RSC production (in Stratford) included Jane Lapotaire as Viola, Nicole Williamson as Malvolio, Frank Thornton as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Richard Griffiths as one of the officers. Visit the Blogging Shakespeare project to read and view what others have created to honor the world’s most famous dramatist.

About Lizzie Ross

in no particular order: author, teacher, cyclist, world traveler, single parent. oh, and i read. a lot.
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