Adam Lay Ybounden

Have you heard this song? Oh…my goodness. Listen to it before you read my post. Please.


Our Fearless Leader sprang this song on us at choir rehearsal last night. I regret to tell you that the experience sent me into a fit of laughter. I thought I would never make it through the song. How embarrassing! It’s also distracting, I know. The last thing the choir needs is someone who can’t stay focused when we’re learning a new piece. But seriously–this piece is ridiculous. Maybe it was just a crazy end to a crazy Monday (after all, I did field several insane phone calls at work yesterday [seriously, I’m going to start keeping tabs to see which question gets the most phone calls–the cheese or the sinus infection]). I digress. I felt terrible, but the song just struck me with the ridiculous stick, and I feel my only recompense is to list the ridiculousness here on my blog. These are the things that kept me in stitches.

  • Ybounden is a ridiculous word. Seriously. Ybounden? Okay. 15th century English, I get it. Still. Ridiculous.
  • Adam lay ybounden, bounden in a bond. Really? Bounden in a bond? Is that how one is bound–with a bond? Brilliant!
  • Four thousand winter thought he not too long. What? That doesn’t even make sense to me. And of course, as our Resident Linguist explained, it makes perfect sense because it’s a reference to the span of time between the Fall in Genesis and the Crucifixion. Okay, but…it doesn’t make sense to my speaking (and singing) parts. At all.
  • As clerkes finden written in their-e book.I know the “e” belongs to “their,” but I have to tell you, my first thought was: “It was written in an e-book?!”
  • Pulsing Light. Fearless Leader said the drone of this piece should feel like a pulsing light. I won’t tell you what Liesl said it sounded like; as for me, I thought it felt like a death march.
  • F. F. F. F. E. D.; D. D. C. C. C.; F. F. F. E. D.; D. D. C. C. E.; etc ad nauseum.  Wow. I love being an alto, but I do grow weary of the F’s and E’s. There are a whole lot of them in an alto line.

All of this being stated, I have to confess to you that the most difficult pieces are those I end up falling in love with. I already love it more than I did last night. This song is not at all ill-written; quite the contrary, it is an astounding piece. Its difficulty is what will leave the audience with goosebumps, if we do it well. I hope we will do it justice! Skempton’s work is impeccable.

I must close, but I need to add that, upon further reflection, I think the death march feeling is effective. We are, after all (I think) talking about the Fall of Man, the Curse, Death. The unsettling nature of the piece (lyrically and musically) suddenly makes sense to me in light of the beautiful resolution (again, lyrically and musically): Deo gratias!

It’s quite theological (aside from the e-book, of course).

Yes, folks…I may just learn to like this one.

Deo gratias!