An excerpt from The Lost Boys: Music or Myth?
By Myron G. Hill, Ed. The New Collegiate Encyclopedia of Music
(as published in The International Musicians Society magazine, October 2005)
"Teal sightings... Power chords... 'Show us the sign...' The legend of the Lost Boys is truly one the most fascinating musical enigmas in the history of western music. Rumors of their exploits exist in every European country, and traces of their presence extend to the Americas, to the Middle East and beyond. But nowhere is there more evidence to be found of this late 16th century musical phenomenon than in the British Isles, where, during the cultural flowering of Elizabethan England, the combination of artistic freedom and the popular demand for exciting entertainments brought forth a musical group whose influence could be clearly felt even after four hundred years.
I began my serious research into the history and lore of the Lost Boys over two decades ago while working on my dissertation, 'Musical Practice and Repertoire in the Works of William Shakespeare,' at the Guildhall School of Music in London in the mid 1980's. All the usual suspects were accounted for in my studies, from Playford to Peele, Byrd to Ballet, but my own personal agenda involved the musical accomplishments of four 'Bonny Boys in Blue,' whose influence on the music and culture of their day I felt surely warranted more thorough documentation.
I began publishing articles on the Lost Boys towards the end of the decade, and eventually I was fortunate enough to contribute an entry on Our Lads to the 1994 edition of The New Collegiate Encyclopedia of Music, as a newly appointed editor for that time-honored resource. These scholarly endeavors brought me to the attention of the venerable Norman E. Kyle, who, through his tome The Complete Works of Anatole Krovny (published, 1973) presented to the world the first substantial reference book concerning the Lost Boys and their work (Krovny was the Lost Boys' patron and liaison over much of their career). Kyle was quick to support my efforts and encouraged me to carry on the task of increasing awareness of the Lads and their music in our modern era.
However, my professors at the Guildhall remained dismissive of my interest and met my inquiries with such offhand comments as, 'Kyle's a doddering old fool, and Krovny a mad eccentric who could barely discern one end of the lute from another. Who knows what he thought he was patronizing! The Lost Boys? A band of ruffian hacks, if they existed at all. These anonymous pieces you present are inconsequential and of no musicological significance. Focus on Thomas Morley, Mr. Hill; you'll enjoy a much greater success.'
I persisted with my fascination, however, and in equal measure, as I speculated on the inclusion of 'Greensleeves' in the Merry Wives of Windsor, I pored over remnants of Krovny's journals, first hand accounts of journeys throughout England, Scotland, France, Italy, and even North Africa. Kyle and I enjoyed a lengthy correspondence over the years, trading lore and bits of information, and his sage advice was indispensable in guiding my research. But in the spring of 2003, during preparations for a new doctoral thesis, I made a startling discovery that would change all of my previous findings forever.
Many of the more common LB texts and musical excerpts are well documented in Kyle's volume, but records of the pivotal year of 1599 remain significantly incomplete. Early in 2003, my studies uncovered several bits of manuscript for which there were no extant references, no auxiliary sources, most notably an uncredited setting of 'The Horn' from As You Like It, and even more intriguing, a piece of parchment emblazoned with what looks to be a hastily drawn 6/8 instrumental motive and the cryptic words, 'Henry IV, "I Do, I Will" - AAD' scrawled above it. What could this mean? Where did these pieces come from?
I was fascinated by these discoveries, but my research at the British Museum was always met with a certain measure of suspicion and resistance. My grant allowed me access to the Archives, where I discovered treasure upon treasure of these strange artifacts, but my inquiries of the staff as to the nature and context of these articles yielded only muttered utterances of ignorance and of pressing business in other departments.
Something didn't make sense. As unverified as they are, accounts of various Lost Boys adventures concerning Clarence, Johnny, Michael, and String are fairly common, bordering on urban legend in some circles (Mr. Kyle's text is an excellent source), but towards the end of my studies, my long hours at the Museum uncovered dozens of references to certain Lost Boys whose names I had never heard. Of Prince Aaron the Moor striding nobly from the desert wastes of Marrakech; of an angry Scotsman from the clan Douglas, at once the scourge of the English constabulary and the heartthrob of maidens throughout the land; of a percussionist named Tom Smiter whose endless wit was a personal favorite of Queen Elizabeth, herself. The evidence was indisputable: various playbills, woodcuts and drawings, previously unseen vocal texts, even personal letters from the royal court, all making reference to three new Lost Boys.
And then one morning I found it, burned, blackened, missing a cover and an unknown number of pages, the remains of a large handwritten tome that turned all of my previous LB research upside down: a record of those missing months of 1599, written by one of the Lost Boys themselves.
Hours I spent, delicately turning the pages, making volumes of notes for myself, still unsure of what I had discovered. The contents were incredible: a first hand account of the Lads' arrest at Nellie's Pub; a description of a cell at the Tower of London, and of first meetings with Aaron and the Scotsman, Angus (were they incarcerated as well?). Later, of release from the Tower, of speculation and a fruitless search for the missing Lost Boys, of a meeting with Tom Smiter on a bridge over a riverbed (a hastily written word in the margin: 'trilobite?'), and what of these continual references to Merlin the Magician?
And then, at last, I came to the music. New music, never before heard! Full scores! Page after page of lyrical texts! An unbelievable find that if published could revolutionize our modern perception of the music of the Renaissance, and best of all, concrete evidence; proof that the Lost Boys existed and that all the stories were true. And all of it written in a hand that could clearly be recognized from the scores unearthed by Norman E. Kyle. I gathered my notes and raced from the museum.
I arrived at the Guildhall late in the afternoon, and was fortunate to find many of my former colleagues and professors suffering through an administrative staff meeting. Bullying my way inside, I interrupted their gathering with a breathless and enthusiastic summary of my discovery. Flushed with my findings, I described in detail the miraculous book and its contents, certain that many in the room would be swept up in the same fervor as I.
To my surprise, my presentation was met with cold, stony silence from my peers, and some oddly nervous shifting of the eyes. An old history professor of mine cleared his throat, and the Chairman began to speak as I drew from my case the one clear bit of evidence I had to support my claim: a loose leaf of ancient manuscript which I had removed from the book and smuggled out of the museum under the very nose of its security guard. There, in the upper right hand corner of the page, above several staves of music simply entitled 'Shepherds' Dance,' was written a single, underlined word: String.
At this revelation, a stillness silent as death fell on the room. Without so much as a nod, the Chairman rose to his feet. 'That will be all, Mr. Hill.' I opened my mouth to protest, but then recoiled as he extended his hand for the parchment. I realized then that I had made a mistake to come there, and I quit the chamber as quickly as possible.
Once outside, I was struck by a sudden panic. Cold sweat chilling my brow, I dashed for my car, and with all haste returned to the museum. I was too late. Returning to the basement archives, I found that all of the materials I had been studying had been removed, and the mysterious book had vanished..."
Myron G. Hill, September 21, 2005