The World Encompassed

Sir Francis Drake’s Circumnavigation of the Globe 1577-80

When Drake set sail from Plymouth on 15th November 1577, he took with him four viol players: Simon Wood, Thomas Meckes, Richard Clarke & ‘George’, who almost certainly had no idea that they were about to embark on such an epic journey. The viols played music to accompany Drake’s private worship – he prayed for over an hour each day, and sang hymns to the viols; they also entertained him while he ate; he also used the pacific nature of the music to impress the natives in South America, and then also in Java, where the king retuned the favour:

“One day amongst the rest, viz. March 21. Raia Donan coming aboard us, in requital of our musick which was made to him, presented our generall with his country musick, which though it were of a very strange kind, yet the sound was pleasant and delightful.”

Fretwork have commissioned Orlando Gough (Birds on Fire) to use these scant facts to create a journey in sound that charts Drake’s remarkable feat. Music from the 16th century prior to Drake’s departure is woven seamlessly into a through-composed piece of music lasting 70 minutes. Drake stopped in Morocco, The Cape Verde Islands, Brasil, Argentina, Patagonia; passed through the Straights of Magellan (where he lost one of the sister ships, and another turned back, and where Drake’s ship, the Pelican, was renamed The Golden Hinde); then up the coast of Chile, Mexico, California, across the Pacific Ocean to the Moluccas, Java, then round Cape of Good Hope, Sierra Leone and finally Plymouth in September 1580.

The few hymns popularly sung at the time, published in 1562 & 3 by Sternhold & Hopkins, severe and austere, will be contrasted with the exotic and ‘strange’ music of these countries. The structure of the work is as follows, with the original 16th century music:

Leaving Plymouth
Robert Parsons: The Song Called Trumpets
Preserve us O Lord

John Taverner: In Nomine

Maio Santiago Fogo

Port Desire
Parsons: In Nomine

Terra Incognita
The Humble Suit of a Sinner

The Spanish Main
Parsons: De La Court


180 Degrees: Homesickness
Pavin of Albarti

Picforth: In Nomine

Da Pacem Domine

Reaching Plymouth
Parsons: The Song called Trumpets