A lot has been written over the centuries about Shakespeare’s musicality. Over one hundred songs with lyrics by him have survived. We know that as a professional actor in his time, he played musical instruments. A snide comment made by one contemporary shows that he played the fiddle.
Recently I’ve had the chance to test that musicality firsthand. A program was held at Studio 24 in Syracuse to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death. For this event, I set five of his texts to music on guitar or piano. These included “Take, o Take Those Lips Away” from Measure for Measure, “Sigh no More” from Much Ado about Nothing and the 29th Sonnet.
While not all of my material made it into the program, it was a congenial experience. Shakespeare was indeed a musical spirit. His lyrics are easy to set to music, and his words contain music of their own. The Bard of Stratford was nothing less than a great lyricist.
So I note in passing just one more aspect of this colossus.