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Notes from the Past

Faculty member brings old choral tune into the present
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How do you make something old new again? Just ask Bridgewater State University’s veteran music Professor Carol Nicholeris, G’83, G’91.

Dr. Nicholeris set the text from English composer Thomas Morley’s 16th-century song Now is the Month of Maying to new music. It is, to her knowledge, the first time in about 400 years someone has done so with the popular choral tune.

“His is very regular, very metered, which was expected in those days, and for a dance especially,” said Nicholeris, who earned a master of arts degree in teaching in creative arts and a certificate of advanced graduate study in education administration from BSU. “In our time we have many more musical options and much more freedom. I can go more with the flow of the text, or change meters, or include more dissonance in the harmonies."


Nicholeris adapted the text and wrote a new song with different melodies, harmonies, rhythms and meters than what Morley used. She made her composition more closely resemble how someone might speak the words, in part by changing how syllables are accented. She also made the piece more playful. The text is, after all, about springtime.

“It’s just a different style,” she said. “Morley did a great job given the conventions of the time. I tried to make a closer relationship to the freedoms of phrasing that we have in language and, now, in music.”

Nicholeris, who has written music since her teens, has a special connection with Now is the Month of Maying. Morley’s version was the first piece of its type she sang as a freshman at Braintree High School in 1970.

She actually composed her take several decades ago. But, publishing companies thought no one would want to sing it because they had Morley’s composition.

Nicholeris knew otherwise.

“If it were all just about the words, why even bother about the music?” she remembers thinking.

She was thrilled to learn in recent years that ECS Publishing wanted to publish her piece. It is part of the company’s spring 2019 catalog.

Nicholeris hopes that choruses of all types perform the piece, which, when compared to Morley’s, is an excellent example of how music evolves over time.

“I just hope people have some fun with this,” she said, “and realize we can bring these texts into our time.” (Story by Brian Benson, University News & Video)

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