Fantastic Filth From Farmer

Fair Phyllis

The Old Vic, 7th Feb 2016.

John Farmer’s legendary madrigal about love, sheep & imaginative lip work! A somewhat hastily rehearsed & sometimes slightly over caffeinated performance, on the stage of the oldest working theatre in the English speaking world.

Fair Phyllis was written by the English composer and organist John Farmer (c.1570 – c.1601). and was published in 1599 in his only collection of four-part madrigals. It is sometimes given the longer title of Fair Phyllis I Saw Sitting All Alone, sometimes Fair Phyllis I Saw.

Like many English madrigals it uses double entendre to carry a ribald subtext. Amyntas, Phyllis’s lover, goes searching for her on the mountainside: “Up and down he wandered, whilst she was missing”. Then, “When he found her, O then they fell a-kissing” – and in comes the (very rhythmic) “Up and down… up and down up and down he wandered”.

Madrigals don’t really lend themselves to a great variety of styles of interpretation, only quality of performance and we’d had too much coffee and not enough practice before this one :)