The Tudors are coming to Cape May. Attendees of Access to Art’s Renaissance Redux will have a fun discussion on the English court and its 16th century music given by Dr. Bert Greenspan, Emeritus professor of Music from Rowan University. Dr. Greenspan, violinist, a Juilliard undergraduate, with a performance degree from Indiana University, will explain the English Renaissance in music, and give us a backgrounder on it, at the Southern Mansion, 720 Washington St., Cape May at 7 p.m. on December 13th.
His topic? “The English Renaissance: Political Intrigue, Sexual Misadventures, and a Musical Miscreant.” He will speak for 35 minutes, have a question and answer period, play a little music, and then we will break for wine.
Following that, we will have selections of a new play reading by four actors, of “Bound by Truth,” by Sheila Lynch Rinear, commissioned by Access to Art, Inc. exploring a narrow period in the life of Sir Thomas More, former chancellor of England, renowned humanist, with his daughter, Margaret More Roper during the reign of Henry VIII. It covers the period of Henry VIll’s attempt to annul the marriage of himself and his wife of 20 years, Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. Cardinal Wolsey was unable to obtain an annulment from the Papacy. Catherine of Aragon was dangerously related to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who was her nephew. Thomas More was thrust into the position of Chancellor, against his better judgment, after Wolsey had been condemned to death. Wolsey, after 20 years of service to the king, died a week before his trip to the tower of London, which spared him the terrors of decapitation. The period discussed is limited to Thomas’s interment in the Tower of London, when everyone, the Lords and Elders and Bishops of the realm, had gone with the king, except for Bishop John Fisher, a few Carthusians and a Birgittine Confessor General and Thomas More stayed with the church. His wife, sons in law, friends had all disappeared. Margaret, his beloved eldest, and brightest daughter, went to work to support her father who was not good at being alone and away from his family. She took Henry’s oath, to get access to her father, on the subterfuge that she would convert him to Henry’s cause, and his new self-appointed role as head of the church in England.
Margaret, saved his works, caused him to write, and through her daughter, Mary, twenty years after More’s execution, we actually have his words written from the prison which Margaret spirited out.
Henry VIII was the most musical of Renaissance kings: he sang, read music, composed music, and played lute, virginals and organ. He hired more court musicians than any other Renaissance monarch, and his courtiers, and queens, all had to play the lute, sing, dance and entertain. Henry’s court was known for its revels, music, and its Royal Chapell. Dr. Bert Greenspan, who taught violin, and music history, at Rowan for five decades, will give us an entertaining talk on the greatest period of English music. He will perform something that everyone is familiar with, a tune from the Renaissance, and ask people to identify it. Currently Dr. Greenspan is performing in a baroque orchestra in Fort Myers, and with the Naples Opera Company.
He will describe Henry VIII as brilliant, handsome, an author, a musician, a humanist…who also turned out to be not as playful and erudite as he was in his youth, when Cardinal Wolsey was his chancellor, but in his pursuit of his legacy and a male heir turned into someone who brooked no differences.
Dr. Greenspan, who taught over 2000 students at Rowan, and spent 30 years as a concert master at the Reading Pa. Symphony Orchestra, performed for the Pennsylvania Ballet & Opera Companies . Joe Mayes, from Rowan, head of the Early Music Department there, will come and play his lute within the context of the reading performing a composition of Henry VIII in the play.
The talk will transpire, with questions from the audience, and a little wine break, to be followed by the reading selections of a new play by Sheila Lynch Rinear, playwright from San Antonio, Tx. who has written over 50 plays. Her play, Bound by Truth, will be read by four Equity actors who perform for East Lynne on occasion, as well as other venues. The reading will be directed by Mark E. Lang. It will look extensively on the relationship between Thomas More, former Chancellor of England, consigned to the Tower of London, for refusing to sign Henry’s oath making him the head of the church in England. If he did not renege, More would be decapitated and perhaps, disemboweled in a public display reserved for traitors. His head would decorate the Tower. He had monks, Bishop John Fisher the confessor of Henry VIII’s mother, who founded several schools at Oxford, Richard Reynolds, a confessor general of the Brigittines, a learned order brought to England by an earlier king to pray for the soul of his father, who had murdered family members in pursuit of the throne. Accompanying them was John Houghton, the head of the Carthusians, and 54 of his monks, who marched to their deaths before More’s window in prison as an object lesson to Thomas More from Henry VIII.
Margaret More Roper, whom More had educated as well as anyone who attended Oxford, in his home at Chelsea, enjoyed the study of Greek, Latin, English, science, math, astronomy, music and even medicine. She was particularly fluent at translation from Greek to Latin to English. At Chelsea, More’s home, he set up a school where Margaret, along with his other two daughters, his step-daughter, adopted daughter, and his son, and various relations and neighbors, where students were treated to their father’s ideas of a humanist education. They were taught by dons from Oxford and scholars from the continent, friends of More and Erasmus. More was fascinated with education, and thought that women should be educated, unlike most other men of his era. Margaret More Roper, and her humanist skills, will also play a prominent part in the new play. In the 16th century, education was foreign to women. Only queens and princesses received an education, and a king’s educations may have been inclined more toward jousting and hunting than Greek and Latin. The More girls were asked, because of the fame of their learning, to give a debate before the king, to decide how he would educate his male illegitimate offspring. They were famed in Europe for their scholarship. Henry had heard of their skills, and wanted to see a demonstration.
Margaret translated Erasmus from the Greek to English. She was a brilliant writer and translator, but, because of her sex, she was not allowed to write. Her father wanted her virtuous, humble, and not seeking after vain glory. But he also wanted her educated. More was a famed English humanist who had written “ Utopia.” He was a best friend with Erasmus, the most famous humanist in Europe, who wrote “In Praise of Folly”, which he dedicated to More. More, like a group of young humanists at Oxford, was infatuated with the idea of the new learning: returning to Greek and Latin, translating from Greek to Latin to English. He studied the Greek moralists, poets, scientists. Erasmus translated the bible from the original Greek. He mocked the excesses of the scholastics, and called people to a simpler lifestyle modeled on the bible and on Christ. Both were church reformers, who, in their youth, desired to reform the church from within. The church had too many politicians and businessmen who created problems by their venality and lust for power. Earlier, in his Catholic days, Henry VIII wrote a diatribe against Luther and was named “Defender of the Faith” by the Pope.
In the age of Henry VIII, the world of the middle-ages was rapidly coming to an end, and the age of the Renaissance was ascending. The world departed from the thought of Augustine which had held the Middle Ages together: “ The common good is to be preferred to our own selfish interests, and not our own selfish interests to the common good.” It was a period when theology was the Queen of the Sciences, and God was at the center of the universe. The dawning age was now in all out pursuit of individualism. The age of God as the center of the universe, the Middle Ages, was replaced by the age of man. The community was about to be severed, and the Catholic faith, which had held for l000 years, was to be splintered. More was one of the last medieval minds in England, who harkened back to the church of l000 years, the church of the apostles, and the church fathers, that began hospitals, universities, monasteries, and kept the bible through the ages, writing it by hand in monasteries. It was the age of the printing press, and the common man reading the bible in the vernacular. It was the age of exploration by sea to foreign lands. Join Access to Art, Inc. as we seek insight into the origins of the modern age which began in the Renaissance and now seems sated with individualism, individual rights, and the cult of the self.
Tickets are $25. Adults; Seniors, and students, are $20. Call Access to Art, Inc. at (609) 465-3963 to reserve tickets. Send checks to Access to Art, Inc., 4l7 E. Pacific Ave., Cape May Court House, N.J. 08210.