Music & Theatre

O Sweet Oliver

Today’s #WeeklyWednesday is a #Renaissance piece from Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It. The character Touchstone sings “O Sweet Oliver” in Act 3, Scene 3.

Shakespeare’s plays included a number of songs, but little information about the music used in his productions has survived. Some pieces were popular songs from the period (particularly the dances mentioned), others had lyrics written by Shakespeare set to an existing melody (though the name of the melody often was not included), and some tunes were likely original for each play.

When Shakespeare used a popular song, it often communicated an additional meaning – a joke or common reference that period audiences would have well-understood – but unfortunately, those clever bits are no longer accessible to most of us. If you’re interested in a very thorough and well-researched discussion of this topic, I’d highly recommend Shakespeare’s Songbook by Ross W. Duffin. The version I performed is very similar to the excerpt included in that book on p. 292.

A very enjoyable part of my work has been arranging songs based on known excerpts and also writing original music to Shakespeare’s lyrics. If you’d like to hear some of those pieces, check out my Shakespeare playlist:

My performance of “O Sweet Oliver” comes from the musical pre-show I designed for Coronado Playhouse’s production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (thanks to John Pauter for the archival footage!). Thanks also to the team at the Coronado Playhouse for giving me the opportunity! I learned a lot from my work on that show and really enjoyed being part of it ?I’m also grateful for the recognition of my work in the form of CPH Blue Ribbon and San Diego ACT Aubrey Awards (for sound design, musical direction, and acting [Ursula/Balthasar])!

I hope you enjoy my rendition of this piece, and thank you, as always, for watching!