Saturday 1st May 2021 saw the in-person return to one of Downside’s much-loved traditions – the May Morning Madrigals.

The weather was bright and cheery as the Downside Schola began their early-morning climb to the top of the Roberts Tower to perpetuate the 500-year-old tradition – which originated in Oxford – of singing madrigals to the rising sun welcoming the arrival of spring. The precise origins of the Oxford May Morning Madrigals are uncertain, but the tradition is thought to date back to at least 1509, when Magdalen College’s Great Tower was completed.

At this year’s Downside event, amid delightful spring birdsong, the glorious sound of well-known favourites such as Sumer is icumen in, April is in my Mistress’ Face, and Now is the Month of Maying echoed down to the spectators in the School’s main quad below. Downside pupils and staff sang with gusto at being able to perform together again in person as much as celebrating spring. Sixth Former Owain Daley rounded off the madrigals with a rousing rendition of Itchy Fingers on the bagpipes.

There are few better ways to start off the month of May than with madrigals in the sun followed by the traditional post-madrigals bacon sandwiches!

Click here for a snippet from this year’s madrigals.