John Wilbye, considered the greatest of the Elizabethan madrigalists, spent his entire working life in the service of Sir Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Kytson at Hengrave Hall in Suffolk. This was not unusual – composers in the sixteenth century either worked for the Church or one of the great households. What is unusual is that after Wilbye’s second book of madrigals was published in 1609 he appears not to have composed anything else, yet Lady Elizabeth kept him on in the house until her death in 1628, showered him with gifts and gave him the tenancy of the most prosperous sheep farm in the area.
So why, when Elizabeth died, did Wilbye throw all this up and spend the rest of his days with her daughter, the divorcee Lady Mary Darcy in Colchester? Why did he dedicate his second book of madrigals to the beautiful and notorious Lady Arbella Stewart? One answer may just be that talent can often be attractive and musical talent an aphrodisiac. That is the premise of ‘Draw on Sweet Night’
Throughout the film, we intercut with the internationally revered vocal group; I Fagiolini’ as they record the soundtrack of madrigals; these highly charged and incredibly sensual ensemble songs that create such a unique aural backdrop to the narrative. Joined together with a contemporary score by Tony Britten, referencing the sixteenth century source material, the film leaves us in no doubt of the power of music at its most profound level.
Costumes designed by Andrew Joslin. Hair and make up by Valerie Butler.