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Track(s) taken from CDA67754

The Black Man

probably before 1633; Francis Kirkman's The Wits, or Sport upon Sport, Part II, 1673
author of text

The City Waites, Lucie Skeaping (director)
Recording details: April 2008
St Paul's Church, New Southgate, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Steve Portnoi & Lucie Skeaping
Engineered by Steve Portnoi
Release date: April 2009
Total duration: 21 minutes 43 seconds

Cover artwork: Bedroom scene by Jan Steen (c1626-1679)
Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague / Bridgeman Art Library, London


'Lucie Skeaping and The City Waites have given us several anthologies worth of enjoyably ribald fare over the years. This is their most substantial project yet … the listener becomes an active participant, imagining the décor, the costumes and attitudes of the characters, and the frequent bouts of slapstick, all of which are enacted as lustily as one expects … great performances, without doubt' (Gramophone)

'These performers … provide a fascinating, informative glimpse into what the general populace of England was enjoying … the singing and instrumental performances are as genially accomplished as ever … skeaping and the Waites let in a bracing breeze' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A truly unusual program of musical comedy all recorded for the first time … these are excellent performances' (American Record Guide)

'Clarity of diction, inventive direction and an infectious sense of fun combine to capture the spirit of the genre' (Early Music Today)

'This is definitely a disc to keep in your car for frustrating traffic-jams or other such moments when a little hilarity would be the perfect tonic. After all, who wouldn't be cheered at the prospect of hearing Catherine Bott and Lucie Skeaping scratching each others eyes out. Laugh? I couldn't stop' (Musical Criticism.com)
The only extant English version of The Black Man appears in Francis Kirkman’s The Wits, or Sport upon Sport (Part II, 1673). However, the style seems considerably earlier and a Dutch version, Monsieur Sullemans Soete Vryagi, dated 1633—although by no means identical—has many common factors, suggesting it could have been derived from the English Jig, possibly the result of one of Kemp’s tours. Interestingly, a similar Jig entitled Mum, was performed by Hamburg comedians in 1674, the year after Kirkman’s publication. No tune titles are given.

The Black Man, a pedlar of boot polish, stove black, ironware etc
Thumpkin, a country clown
Two Gentlemen, city bullies/pimps
Brush, a brush pedlar
Susan, a barmaid

In a touching pastoral scene, sweethearts Thumpkin and Susan declare their love. They are interrupted by the Two Gentlemen, who kidnap Susan. Disguised as an old man, Thumpkin returns to rescue her and, while her captors are fighting over her, the young couple escape. The Gentlemen catch up with them again and, in revenge, force Thumpkin to stand on a stool covered by a sheet and command him only to cry ‘Mum’. A passing brush pedlar takes Thumpkin for a ghost. Deciding to have some fun, Thumpkin changes his ‘Mum’ to a devilish ‘Ho ho’ and at first frightens The Black Man (whose blackened face may, like the collier, have associated him with the devil). The two friends change places and the returning Gentlemen are scared away, first by the ‘ghostly’ Black Man’s ‘Ho ho!’ from under the sheet, and then by—the now also blackened—Thumpkin whom they take to be the devil.

from notes by Lucie Skeaping © 2009

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