Trouvère at Large Summer 2014 – Episode Two: Bellegarde

Bellegarde is a small town in the Gard region of the Languedoc, roughly half-way between Nimes and Arles. We went to take part in their Fêtes Médiévales, having enjoyed a few days on the Mediterranean coast after our exploits at Puivert.

The town lies below a substantial hill, crowned with the chunky remains of a twelfth-century tower, named ‘La Madone’ after its statue of the Virgin. The area around the La Madone has been (and is being) landscaped and has a lovely large performance area with seating around. This was the main venue for the Fêtes, but there was also a daily parade down into the town and back again.

A view of La Madone

A view of La Madone

The performance arena

The performance arena

The parades into and out of town were fun – we made our way to the church in the middle of the town and different groups took it in turns to entertain the assembled good people of Bellegarde, with fights, dances, music, and so on.

Knights clash outside St Jean Baptiste

Knights clash outside St Jean Baptiste

And we contributed our bit by joining in with the music in our guise of Reynard and Tibert.

Reynard goes to town

Reynard goes to town

We had a great time providing music for the dancers of Médiévalys. This wonderful troupe are based at Tarascon, not far from Bellegarde, and perform at many historic events. They danced magnificently, and also made us very welcome. We spoke a lot of French with them, and they likewise practiced their English on us! We have very fond memories of M. Gui, M.Alain and Mme la Présidente. Here is their website if you’d like to know more:
Médiévalys 

Médiévalys dancing

Médiévalys dancing

I particularly enjoyed their version of Arbeau’s ‘Scottish Branles’, which had real pace and energy.

Saturday was a bit quiet at the Fêtes, although the evening feast was very well attended, but Sunday was much busier, and the weather improved as well. We had been pounded with rain on Friday night and on Saturday night too there was more rain and powerful winds too. However, Sunday afternoon turned baking hot, and we had to make the most of the shade provided by La Madone as we played for the dancers – who had no such shelter!

This was to have been the last stage on the far southern part of our adventures, for we needed to head north towards Germany to collect my new harp. But Philippe Bolton had invited us to come and visit his workshop a few miles east of Avignon and it was a chance not to be missed! So our next thrilling instalment will be a tour of luthiers from Provence… to Baden-Württemburg… to Poitou-Charentes… to Brittany… watch this space…

Medieval Costume Guides

Earlier in the year, I put together some guides on late medieval clothing, as part of the Facebook group ‘Making Fifteenth Century Reenactment Glorious’. The aim of the group is to improve standards in the presentation of ‘Wars of the Roses’ period reenactment and living history, and an important part of this is ensuring beginners get good quality information and don’t waste their time and money on inappropriate kit and equipment. So I took on the task of preparing costume guides for beginners and ended up producing one for men and one for women. They list all the main parts of period kit and are stuffed with period illustrations to back up my sketches as well as photos of people in excellent kit!

The Guides are attached to the Facebook group page:

Making Fifteenth Century Reenactment Glorious Files Page

but it seems a good idea to make them more widely available, so if you would like to use them please feel free – but please acknowledge their origin as follows “by Gill Page, for Making Fifteenth Century Reenactment Glorious“.

The guides are intended for beginners setting out to make or acquire kit suitable for late fifteenth-century England – I’ve avoided continental sources as much as possible. I had great fun searching out English material and was helped enormously by some wonderful online collections of stained glass, misericords, wall paintings, English alabaster… all these are credited in the guides and are well worth a look!

Guide for Men

Guide for Women

Here are a images of a few of the pages in the guides:

Page Two

Men: Page Two

Page Three

Men: Page Three

Women Beginners_Page_06

Women: Page Six

 

Trouvère at Large Summer 2014 – Episode One – Puivert

We spent all of June and the beginning of July this year abroad, mostly in France with a brief excursion into Germany. It was a splendid holiday with bits of work thrown in – three gigs and some instrument collection too. I meant to keep a blog through the trip, but in the end I didn’t have access to wifi reliably enough, so this is the first episode in what is more of a retrospective, including some notes I made at the time. 

Our first appointment was at the incredibly romantic castle of Puivert, way down south in the Languedoc-Roussillon.

A view of Puivert in the last light of the day.

A view of Puivert in the last light of the day.

Puivert was featured in The Ninth Gate, starring Johnny Depp. It’s in pretty good repair – the keep especially – and has a dramatic profile suitable to its film role of the devil’s castle.

The castle viewed from the campsite soon after dawn.

The castle, from the campsite soon after dawn.

The Puivert festival (properly ‘Les Rencontres Internationales de Lutherie et Musique Médiévale de Puivert’) started life as a meeting of luthiers specialising in medieval instruments. This is its third year and it has been growing all the time with luthiers, musical performances, talks and presentations, and living history. We were involved on three levels. Firstly, on Saturday afternoon, I presented a talk – in French – on the Chansonnier du Roi and its links to medieval Greece. This is the manuscript we mined for all the material on our CD Music for a Medieval Prince. I recently wrote about the manuscript as part of a chapter on a forthcoming handbook of medieval Greece (published by Brill, should be out next year!) and it had been a major challenge for me to put together this presentation in French!

Preparing for my presentation

Preparing for my presentation

At first, it looked like no one was going to turn up, but by five minutes in there was quite a crowd, so I had to start all over again… after that it all went pretty well. I think the French were able to understand me! and Paul joined me at various points in the presentation to present music from the manuscript.

I guess one of the strangest things for us was playing our music without our medieval ‘superhero outfits’ on – just in modern civvies as it were… We are very used to performing in medieval garb, so this was something new. It was the same for the concert on the Saturday evening, our second involvement. But this too went well – we presented a selection of thirteenth century music, with an estampie real, two cantigas, a ductia plus Miri it is, and Chanterai por mon corage. The concert took place in the chapel in the village, which had very lovely acoustics and it was a pleasure to perform there. We also very much enjoyed other contributions to the evening – notably Hortus Deliciarum, a choir of students from Montpellier who presented truly delicious motets and liturgical music. We also at last got to hear Vicente La Camera Mariño playing so sweetly on the lyre and on the harp.

Playing at the concert

Playing at the concert

Hortus Deliciarum

Hortus Deliciarum

Vicente La Camera Mariño playing his Ardival 'Kentigern'

Vicente La Camera Mariño playing his Ardival ‘Kentigern’

Our part of the concert seemed to go down well and it was a great evening all round.

On the Sunday we were able to take a proper look at the luthiers and we succumbed to two new instruments… Paul ordered a vihuela from Asier de Benito, and a new alto recorder from Philippe Bolton. The range of luthiers on display at the festival was extremely impressive, especially with regard to the instruments being pretty much universally medieval in period – there was very little later and even some earlier! We were also very taken with Bryan Tolley’s symphonies, but more of that later…

Asier de Benito's vihuela based on the illustration in the Cantigas de Santa Maria

Asier de Benito’s vihuela based on the illustration in the Cantigas de Santa Maria

Paul with Philippe Bolton

Paul with Philippe Bolton

As our final contribution to the festival, we at last got into our outfits, set up our awning on the castle lawn and played our way through the afternoon. This was lovely – the weather was perfect, and people sat around and soaked up our sounds. We got to meet up with many of the singers from Hortus Deliciarum – they were keen to learn Brid one brere and we worked on the song together.

Paul sounds the greatpipes

Paul sounds the great pipes

Playing on Sunday afternoon

Playing on Sunday afternoon

In the evening we all retired to the nearby festival HQ for a meal and a drink – a perfect end to the festival. We really hope to come back to Puivert in future years. Here’s the link for more information: 

http://www.festival-de-puivert.com