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The Poet and the Spy
Richard Rastall and Helen Atkinson

Poet and the Spy
  • Tuesday 9 June 2015, 1.00PM to 2.00pm
  • Free admission
    No booking required Retiring collection will be taken at the end of the service
  • St Helen's Church, St Helen's Square (map)


Wheelchair accessible.

Event details

St Helen's Stonegate

A feast of poems, both spoken and sung, by Shakespeare and the greatly under-valued Sir Fulke Greville – soldier, courtier, statesman, and, after a long life of service to successive monarchs, murder victim. Among the poems performed are some of Greville’s Caelica poems, which constitute a treatise on human love, and texts set as lute-songs by John Dowland, the greatest lutenist-songwriter of the age.

Many of us learned Shakespeare at school and wondered why  “Blow blow thou winter wind / Thou art not so unkind …” fails to rhyme; and why do the stresses and the syllable-count sometimes come out wrong? These problems occur in Greville’s work, too, and in that of other poets of the time. What is the solution? This event offers the chance to find out, presenting poems by Shakespeare and Greville in the pronunciation that they used.

The songs are performed by lutenist-singer Helen Atkinson, who has made a study of Elizabethan and Jacobean song, and the poems by Richard Rastall, a specialist in early-modern English music.


Richard Rastall has acted for as long as he can remember – sometimes the fool, occasionally his age – and is a member of the Leeds-based theatre group Trio Literati. In real life he is Emeritus Professor of Historical Musicology at Leeds University, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Helen Atkinson started playing the lute as a teenager, but focused on singing as an adult, receiving vocal training and performing as a soloist with several Oxford-based choirs. Since moving to York in 2007, she has returned to her first love, playing the lute and accompanying herself singing. She enjoys performing regularly, both in Yorkshire and further afield.

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