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date: 21 November 2019


  • O.W. Neighbour


The name most commonly applied by contemporary scribes to instrumental settings of an English 16th-century popular tune. It resembles an eight-bar galliard strain and was sung to various texts. The words, beginning ‘Browning my dear’, are otherwise lost, though they may be echoed in Ravenscroft’s round on the tune (in Deuteromelia, 1609) which starts ‘Browning Madame, browning Madame, so merrily we sing, browning Madame’. Two alternative titles, The leaves be green, and The nuts be brown, derive from a couplet underlaid to each statement of the tune in one source of Byrd’s Browning: ‘The leaves be green, the nuts be brown, they hang so high they will not come down’ (Byrd Edition, xvii, 39). One consort version is called Hey down, and Danyel’s lute variations (EL, 2nd ser., rev., viii, 72) are headed Mrs Anne Green her leaves be green.

Like Taverner’s somewhat earlier ‘Western Wynde’ mass, the mid-century Browning settings consist of continuous variations on a tune that moves freely from one part to another. One distinctive characteristic, shared by only two or three other pieces, is the use of these migrations as a formal principle. Thus Henry Stoning, in his five-part Browning (MB, xliv, 70), composed five variations with the tune occurring once in each part; Clement Woodcock (MB, xliv, 72) doubled these proportions (though the bass has only one variation); and Byrd quadrupled them, as the composer of the fragmentary anonymous ...

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