Free vocal sheet music from the English Renaissance: "Break now my heart, and die..." by Thomas Campion. This brisk minor song can be sung by male or female vocalists, by substituting "he" for "she," and "his" for "her," etc.
I first heard this energetic English Renaissance song in college. I had a nice video of a young man singing it, but unfortunately it is no longer available, so I am putting up this second-choice recording of the same young man... nice (if a bit stiff) singing, but bad video, taken from across a crowded room (with a few inattentive children in the mix):
This piano accompaniment was adapted from lute tablature by Frederick Keel:
Download free vocal sheet music "Break now my heart, and die" in Key of Am
Download Elizabethan music "Breake now, my heart, and die" in Key of Em
Download music from the English Renaissance in the Key of Gm
Any difficulties in this song?
The range of "Break now my heart, and die" is an octave plus a third (a 10th). Though the melody is made up primarily of scale steps, there are some tricky thirds for the singer because the chord changes are frequent. (That also makes the piano accompaniment a bit of a handful. You are going to want a pianist who is good with chords for this one -- don't let it drag!)
The time signature changes in measures 18 through 20 require careful counting... they will not feel natural at first.
Here is another video, VERY SLOW, but rather beautiful:
The song interpretation...
There is room for a bit of acting in this song (which the young man in the video did not choose to take advantage of). At every phrase, the singer first despairs at the futility of his love, and then reconsiders why he should persevere. He chides himself that the loss (of her love) is surely an easy burden if all it takes is a smile to fix it! Indeed, someone else would be just as good, if she were as pretty.
But what is the singer TALKING about?
In the second verse, the singer alludes to classical mythology, which is much less familiar to our modern students than it would have been to singers of Elizabethan music of the English Renaissance. "The Grecian" who was "enchanted in all parts but the heel", the mighty hero Achilles, was finally brought down by an arrow -- to his heel. So might the heart of the singer's beloved eventually be touched, in spite of "ribs of steele".
What's wrong with Thomas Campion's spelling?
The old style of spelling might be confusing to non-English speakers, or even for those who speak and read English well, but for whom English is not the first language. This song was written before spelling was standardized; the poet John Donne, a contemporary of Thomas Campion, enjoyed trying out different spellings of his own name. In fact, a famous poem of his, talking about his secret marriage to the daughter of his employer, which resulted in their impoverishment for many years, goes like this:
I hope you and your students enjoy this beautifully-crafted song, "Breake now my heart, and die," from Elizabethan England!
Do you have a story or even a question about this vocal piece? Share it!
Please note that all comments are moderated, and will not appear until I have approved them. Also, IF YOU ARE ASKING FOR MUSIC THAT IS NOT IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, YOUR REQUEST WILL BE IGNORED. That's pretty much any music written in the last 75 years...