Medieval Music in the Dales – Time to Book Your Ticket!

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We are about to launch our Crowdfunding Campaign – which mean it is time for you to book your tickets! This blog gives the full programme for the event and tells you how to go about booking your tickets – or otherwise supporting MMITD – through this Campaign.

The Campaign is at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/medieval-music-in-the-dales. Please note that the site does not go live until the official launch at noon on Monday 15th February. But if you would like a sneak preview of the site, here it is.

You might not know how crowdfunding works, but it’s basically pretty simple. It’s a way of funding an project by attracting supporters who Pledge particular amounts of money in return for a Reward of some kind. So in its simplest sense, it’s a way of advance selling tickets for MMITD – the supporters Pledge the ticket price and in return you’ll get the Reward of a ticket.

But of course, it’s a bit more than that. As you will see when you take a look at the ‘Rewards’, it’s not just tickets. We offer everything from simple thanks (expressed via a rather fancy e-Scroll sent as a PDF!) for the smallest Pledged donations right up to a package of goodies for the maximum Pledge amounts. And the Rewards are all to some extent unique to the campaign – meaning it is a distinct advantage to you as well as to us to join in as a supporter. Some Rewards are purely and simply only available through the Crowdfunding Campaign. These are:

  • the Performer Pass for those who want to play on the Open Stages, and
  • all the Camping tickets

All the other Ticket Rewards offer tickets at a cheaper price than they will be available after the campaign – in other words, they are like Early Bird Tickets.

We can’t emphasise enough that it’s vital to reach our goal, or we simply don’t get the money! We need to know that we have our sound financial footing secured, and we have the six weeks of the Crowdfunding Campaign to do it. Please sign up early, and also spread the word – and it’ll be plain sailing!

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Different Kinds of Rewards

Basically, there are four kinds of rewards

  • A Festival Pass. This is the ticket for those who want to come to MMITD just like any other festival, to enjoy the music and the vibe, and perhaps join in on a few workshops if they want.  Some Festival Passes include lots of extras like workshops, Concerts, the Feast, and others simply give access to the Castle for the Instrument Exhibition, the Medieval Market, the Luthiers’ Demonstrations and the Open Stages. Some also include Camping on site, and some are specifically for Groups. So you can take your pick (our flow chart might help you here!)
  • A Performer Pass. This is the ticket for those who want to come to MMITD for all the same reasons as above, but also want to join in with the music by performing on our Open Stages. The deal is that Performer Pass holders get discounted tickets and other benefits in return for doing at least four half-hour sets over the weekend. All Performer Passes come with workshops built in and there are options to include Camping, and the evening Concert and Friday Feast.
  • The Evening Events. If you want to book just for the Saturday evening Concert or for the Friday evening Feast, then there are specific Pledges for these.
  • Other Ways to Help. You might not be able to get to MMITD in person but still want to help, or you may wish to lend us extra support on top of your tickets – very lovely in either case! There are a range of Pledges offering rewards like the CD of the event or our remarkable medieval-style Tile by the Company of Artisans, or our PDF E-Scroll of Thanks… Or you could be a Programme Sponsor and take an advert for your band or business in our programme… Or you could be a Luthier, Concert or Artist Sponsor. These last three offer great ticket packages but we are happy to discuss alternative benefits if you can’t come in person – just get in touch.

There are a lot of possible Pledges, and hopefully these categories might help you wade through them and choose what’s best for you!

But you may well be thinking, wow, I need a flow chart to work this out… Panic not – take a look here at our Online Charts that might help guide you through the options.

And if you’re stuck, just drop me a line saying what you want to do and I’ll sort out the best options for you.

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The Programme

Friday September 2nd
1pm
Opening of the Luthiers’ Exhibition and the Medieval Market (to 5pm)

2pm
Trouvere Workshop: ‘Instrumentarium – a Hands-on Tour of Medieval Musical Instruments’ in the Great Chamber (DE)
Open stages (every 45 minutes until 4.15pm): various locations

3.30pm
Beginners’ Bagpipe Workshop with Tom Hughes in Lord Scrope’s Chamber (1 hour) (DE)
Luthiers’ Demonstrations / Trouvere in the Great Chamber

7.30pm
Grand Medieval Feast in the Great Chamber
Saturday September 3rd
10am
Luthiers’ Exhibition and Medieval Market ( to 5pm)

10.30pm

  • Reed-making Workshop One with Lizzie Gutteridge in Lord Scrope’s Chamber (DE)
  •  Fifteenth-Century Dance Workshop with Cait Webb and Gaita in the Great Chamber (DE)
  • Open stages (every 45 minutes through to 4.30pm): various locations

12 noon

  • Hurdy-gurdy workshop (intermediate to advanced) with Steve Tyler in Lord Scope’s Chamber (DE)
  • Luthiers’ Demonstrations / Informal band performances in the Great Chamber – to 1.30pm

12.30pm
Blondel in concert in St Oswald’s Church (DE)

1.30pm
– Thirteenth-Century Dance Workshop with Charlotte Ewart in the Great Chamber (DE)
– Bagpipes Workshop (Intermediate-Advanced) with Paul Martin in Lord Scrope’s Chamber (1 hour) (DE)

2pm
Leah Stuttard in concert in St Oswald’s Church (DE)

2.30pm
Recorder Maintenance Workshop with Philippe Bolton in Lord Scrope’s Chamber (2 hours) (DE)

3pm
Luthiers’ Demonstrations / Informal band performances in the Great Chamber (to 4.00pm)

4pm

  • Gaita in concert in St Oswald’s Church (DE)
  • Informal group playing in the Great Chamber – All welcome, any instrument, come and bash through some medieval tunes (1 hour)

7.30pm
Evening concert in St Oswald’s Church with Blondel, Leah Stuttard, Steve Tyler & Katy Marchant, and Trouvere

Sunday September 4th
10am
Luthiers’ Exhibition and Medieval Market (to 4.30pm)

10.30pm

  • Thirteenth-Century Dance Workshop with Charlotte Ewart in the Great Chamber (DE)
  • Working with Medieval Sources Workshop with Gill Page in Lord Scrope’s Chamber (DE)
  • Open stages (every 45 minutes through to 4.30pm): various locations

12 noon

  • Singing Workshop with Richard de Winter in Lord Scrope’s Chamber (DE)
  • Luthiers’ Demonstrations / Informal band performances in the Great Chamber (to 2pm)

1.30pm

  • Medieval Bowed Strings Workshop with Paul Martin in Lord Scrope’s Chamber (1 hour) (DE)
  • Steve Tyler & Katy Marchant in concert in St Oswald’s Church (DE)

2 pm
Fifteenth-century Dance Workshop with Cait Webb and Gaita in the Great Chamber (DE)

2.30pm
Reed-Making Workshop Two with Lizzie Gutteridge in Lord Scrope’s Chamber (DE)

3.00pm
Trouvere in concert in St Oswald’s Church (DE)

3.30pm
Informal group playing in the Great Chamber – All welcome, any instrument, come and bash through some medieval tunes (1 hour)

4.30pm
Grand Finale in the Courtyard! Fanfares, singing and group playing, and general good cheer…

Daytime Extras

DE indicates that this is a Daytime Extra – you will need a Reward that includes Daytime Extras to be able to go to these. 

When you Pledge for a Reward that includes Daytime Extras you will be sent a registration form inviting you to state your preferences for Daytime Extras, in order of preference. As far as possible, and on a first-come-first-served basis, you will get your top choices.

If workshops are over-subscribed we will do our best to arrange a second session of that workshop and if you miss out first time around we will put you on the reserve list for a second session. 

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More Information on the Daytime Extras

Friday 2nd September

  • Trouvere – Instrumentarium Workshop: A hands-on introduction to the principal familes of instruments in the middle ages. Taking a chronological approach, this gives a good idea of what kind of instruments were when, and their development over the centuries. 2pm in the Great Chamber. 90 minutes.
  • Tom Hughes – Introduction to Medieval Bagpipes: Exploring the history and folklore of bagpipes, different forms, evidence in medieval records and iconography. How the instrument works with a chance to have a try, using pipes loaned by the Bagpipe Society.  3.30pm in Lord Scrope’s Chamber. 1 hour.

Saturday 3rd September

  • Lizzie Gutteridge: Reed-making Workshop One: Participants will make one or two reeds over the course of two 90-minute sessions (please note this counts as two workshops) with advice on reed and instrument adjustments. 10.30am in the Great Chamber, 90 minutes.
  • Cait Webb and Gaita – Fifteenth Century English Dance: Recreating the dances described in the late fifteenth-century Gresley manuscript. 10.30am in the Great Chamber. 90 minutes. Music from Gaita.
  • Steve Tyler – Hurdy-Gurdy Workshop: The workshop will look at monophonic and polyphonic music along with some work on trompette rhythm and technique. Suitable for intermediate players upward, 12 noon in Lord Scope’s Chamber. 90 minutes
  • Blondel in Concert: Zephyrus With His Swete Breathe: Music from the 14th and 15th centuries on recorders, bagpipes and shawms. 12.30pm in St Oswald’s Church. 1 hour.
  • Paul Martin – Bagpipe Workshop: A look at medieval tunes with ideas on ornamentation. Suitable for any except complete beginners, G pipes. 1.30pm in Lord Scrope’s Chamber. 1 hour.
  • Charlotte Ewart – Thirteenth-Century Dance: Historically informed interpretations of the high medieval estampie. No choroegraphy survives from this early but this workshop explores the possiblity of recreating a convincing estampie based on the music, the literature and the iconography. 1.30 pm in the Great Chamber. 90 minutes. Music from Trouvere.
  • Leah Stuttard in Concert: The Wool Merchant and the Harp: Fifteenth century music for dancing and singing based on the records of George Cely, a wool merchant apprentice now preserved in the National Archive. 2pm in St Oswald’s Church, 1 hour.
  • Philippe Bolton: Recorder Maintenance: Looking at (a) how to safely remove the block from the recorder, check the condition of the windway and remove any dirt or fungus, (b) how to replace leaking joints and (c) some techniques for tuning adjustments. It will also be a surgery if you have any particular problems with your own instruments. 2.30pm, Lord Scrope’s Chamber. 2 hours.
  • Gaita in Concert: Music from the Courts of France and Italy in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. 4pm in St Oswald’s Church. 1 hour.

Sunday 4th September

  • Charlotte Ewart – Thirteenth-Century Dance: Historically informed interpretations of the high medieval estampie. No choroegraphy survives from this early but this workshop explores the possiblity of recreating a convincing estampie based on the music, the literature and the iconography. 10.30am in the Great Chamber. 90 minutes. Music from Trouvere.
  • Gill Page – Working with Medieval Sources: An introduction to sourcing medieval manuscripts online and how to begin using them in your music, leading onto the basics of the palaeography of musical notation and written script. 10.30am, Lord Scrope’s Chamber. 90 minutes.
  • Richard de Winter – Medieval Song: The workshop is in three parts: (1) introduction to plainchant and learning a simple piece of melismatic chant, (2) secular song – the challenges of performing in medieval language to a modern audience and in particular story-telling in medieval song, and (3) trying out some magnificent medieval polyphony. 12 noon, Lord Scrope’s Chamber, 75 minutes.
  • Paul Martin – Bowed Strings: Looking at some medieval tunes with a focus on the use of drones, and also bowing rhythms and emphasis. Suitable for vielle, rebec, crwth and also for modern violins retuned to an open G chord. 1.30pm, Lord Scrope’s Chamber. 1 hour.
  • Steve Tyler and Katy Marchant in Concert: Medieval music on hurdy-gurdy, bagpipes, shawm, psalterio, gothic harp and recorder, with an emphasis on the 14th century. 1.30pm in St Oswald’s Church. 1 hour.
  • Cait Webb and Gaita – Fifteenth Century English Dance: Recreating the dances described in the late fifteenth-century Gresley manuscript. 2pm in the Great Chamber. 90 minutes. Music from Gaita.
  • Lizzie Gutteridge: Reed-making Workshop Two: Participants will make one or two reeds over the course of two 90-minute sessions (please note this counts as two workshops) with advice on reed and instrument adjustments. 2.30pm in the Great Chamber, 90 minutes.
  • Trouvère in Concert: The Revel & the Melodye: Music from medieval England, with Richard de Winter; songs from five centuries of English history. 3pm in St Oswald’s Church, 1 hour.

Last but very much not least, there is the Exhibition by instrument makers. We can at last confirm the line-up in full:

From the UK we have:

  • George Stevens with soundbox instruments including gittern, lute and harps
  • Jim Parr with bagpipes and shawms
  • Terry Mann with pipes and recorders
  • Helen Leaf with wind instruments in wood and horn, drums and jangling medieval triangles
  • The Early Music Shop with their wide range of historical instruments
  • Phil Bleazey with flutes, whistles and recorders
  • Eric Moulder with reed woodwinds
  • Erik Martens & Lizzie Gutteridge with shawms, rommelpots, reeds and more
  • and Kalum Hewitt of Alberic’s Workshop with his early medieval soundboxes

From France we have

  • Jean-Daniel Talma (Atelier Elbock) with wind instruments in wood, bone and horn
  • Ben Margotton (Margotton Lutherie) with soundbox instruments including lyres, citoles and rebecs
  • Philippe Bolton with medieval and other recorders
  • Benjamin Simao (Atelier Tri Nox Samoni) with wind instruments in wood, bone and horn and soundbox instruments including lyres and early guitars
  • Ugo Casalonga with sound box instruments including gittern, citole and vielle

And last but not least from Italy we have Danilo Turchetti with his magnificent bagpipes.

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Anyway, I hope all this has been helpful and please get in touch if you have any questions. And please pledge! We can’t do it without you…

 

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Trouvere at Large Summer 2014 – Final episode: Bayeux!

Our last weekend in France was spent performing at the Fêtes Médiévales at Bayeux. It was our second time at the festival as performers and our third time in all – our first time was as visitors, when we were massively impressed with the whole thing! Bayeux is a great place for a medieval festival – it’s not too big, there’s a good campsite a short walk from the centre, the centre  is dominated by an utterly magnificent medieval cathedral with several other nice medieval buildings close at hand, and of course the town possesses an iconic medieval relic in the Tapestry. Every year on the first weekend in July, the entire centre is taken over with the Fêtes. Market stalls huddle all about the Cathedral, and the streets – which are generally thronged with people – are packed with entertainments. The cathedral is thrown open all day and into the evening, with extra events taking place inside, and on the Sunday morning there is a massive parade of all participants which draws simple huge crowds. For the first time (I think) this year, the Tapestry Museum was a major venue, and (certainly for the first time) there were events there on the Friday night, in which we played a part.

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There were two elements to our involvement at the Festival. Firstly, we were presenting a short programme of English medieval music in the chapel of the Tapestry Museum – this happened on the Friday evening and on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Then – in complete contrast! – we were presenting masked mimed foolishness in the guise of Reynard the Fox and Tibert the Cat. We had three of these shows on the Saturday – two outside the western doors of the cathedral (an established performance space for the festival) and one on the stage in front of the Hôtel de Ville – the biggest performance area of the festival. And two of these shows on the Sunday. So we had a busy programme right through the weekend.

The performances in the Tapestry Museum chapel were quite special – it is a thirteenth century space and the only surviving element of the earlier medieval abbey which was rebuilt in the eighteenth century and done away with at the time of the Revolution. We had excellent attendance at all three performances and our music suited the space really well. Our programme travelled from a pre-conquest antiphon through to the fifteenth century ‘There is no Rose’, with St Godric’s ‘Sainte Nicholas’, ‘Parti de Mal’, ‘Ja nus hons pris’, a Ductia, ‘Verbum patria humanatur’, ‘Miri it is’, ‘The Song of the Nuns of Chester’ and ‘Brid one brere’ in between. I managed to introduce everything in passable French, and Paul managed to chat in French about the instruments to interested parties at the end of each show. All in all, we very much enjoyed doing these short concerts – it was a real treat for us.

47 Bayeux - Paul at the Chapelle 248 Bayeux - Paul at the Chapelle

The only problem for Reynard and Tibert was the weather – which was truly awful on Saturday.  The streets were still busy, but not as busy as usual and it was obviously impossible for some shows to go ahead at all, notably many of the déambulations in the streets. We were concerned about our first show, but then the (excellent) staff told us that if it was raining we should just move inside the cathedral! Well, if needs must… Being all English about it, we still had our doubts about this but as we were setting up one of the clerics came up to make sure we were okay and assure us that yes we should perform inside. It was something special to strike up our sounds within such an amazing space: in the first picture below I am standing more or less where we performed. The great pipes sounded IMMENSE! Our second Saturday show, outside the Hôtel de Ville, proceeded in light drizzle, but proceeded rather successfully for all that – the noble French gallantly gathered to participate in our nonsense. Thankfully on the Sunday the weather was much better by the afternoon, and our final show at the Hôtel stage gathered an sizeable audience and went down really well. We even got an encore! All in all, we felt rather pleased with our efforts to bring medieval mime to the French…

Article in Bayeux cathedral44 Bayeux - The stage at the town hall51 Bayeux - Reynard with fish

Finally we should mention the parade on the Sunday morning. The weather was still making its mind up what to do and we weren’t sure whether to wear our masks or not – but in the end we went for it and were glad we did as the rain disappeared and we were able to prance our way happily down the streets in fox and cat mode. We got a lovely reception as ever, and thanks to Stephen and Helen Jones for once again taking some amazing images of us prowling away.

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And so we returned to England with much improved French (let’s hope it lasts) and a new instrument or two, and a lot of great memories. We really hope to get back to France again next year to meet familiar faces and make more new friends, and to experience some more of those amazing French fêtes!

Trouvere at Large Summer 2014 – Episode Three: Heading North

Our visit to Philippe Bolton’s atelier was an absolute joy. We’d headed out of Languedoc, skirting past the magnificent citadel of Avignon. I’d visited Avignon thirty years ago, long enough for it to seem like it had happened in another life, and nothing seemed familiar; Paul was bowled over by the stunning battlemented citadel and it’s for sure that we will return to Avignon and spend a few days there. A campsite close by the centre was spotted, as we narrowly managed to avoid a low tunnel and sped north and east into the rolling Provence countryside.

The atelier is in Villes-sur Auzon, a charmingly round village. The workshop is small and packed with amazing tools and instruments in the course of being made. Philippe took us through the whole process of creating a hand-made recorder – it was a wonderful insight that has helped us understand the instrument a lot better.  The delicacy of some of the operations is remarkable.  We are looking forward so much to our new medieval alto.

45 Puivert - Philippe and Paul Here are Philippe and Paul exploring recorders at Puivert.

We had given ourselves a mighty day of travel however, and were soon back on the road heading north to Cluny: a long drive but successfully accomplished. Cluny is another charming town, dominated by the ghost of its abbey. As I am concentrating on luthiers in this post, however, I will hasten on to our continuing journey the next day north and east to Mulhouse… and the next day over the border into Germany and over the hills of the Black Forest… to finally pull up at the home and workshop of Eric Kleinmann, harp maker, in Rangendingen. We were here to collect my new Romanesque harp, and I soon had my greedy paws on this beautiful little beast:

89Rangendingen - new harp   unknown-artist-king-david-playing-his-harp-westminster-abbey-psalter-circa-1200

It’s based on an image of King David from the Westminster Psalter:

Eric and his wife Atsuko made us incredibly welcome over the next two days. We were given a whistle-stop tour of Swabian highlights, culminating in a visit to the wonderful reconstructed wooden castle at Bachritterburg. There was a living history group at the castle, who made us very welcome. One of them was a singer and it was great to play along with her in the beautifully dressed period rooms. Eric also took the opportunity to take some splendid shots of the harp in fitting medieval settings.

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The journey to our next atelier took us some time. In brief….

An amazing drive back through the Black Forest north and west to Strasbourg, which gave the brakes a good workout… Two wonderful days in Strasbourg which took in the annual Fetes de Musique; we heard and saw a very splendid baroque group… south and west to Troyes via the village of Villehardouin (special relevance to me from my Greek medieval history and the visit meant a lot to me)… a visit to Guédelon, which is a unique and thoroughly admirable project to build a castle using as authentically medieval techniques as possible; we played a little in the recreated painted chamber… five days rest at Rigny-Ussé near the Loire where we hoped for wild swimming and got torrential rainstorms but also saw the village’s amazing Romanesque church and ransacked various vides greniers and brocantes… south and west to Poitiers which just has the most wonderful Romanesque sites… and finally south to Luzon to pick up a medieval symphony from Bryan Tolley.

We had been massively taken by these symphonies at Puivert but had not succumbed as we then foolishly maintained that we had not come to France to buy another symphony and it was quite enough to buy a citole and a recorder. What nonsense, we had fairly swiftly concluded – obviously we have to have one of those little symphonies! We’d contacted Bryan and discovered a mutually convenient day – and here we were.

Bryan lies in a tiny quiet hamlet some miles south of Poitiers, and his workshop is a large sun-filled room haunted by two noble felines.  We were given plenty of instruction in the gurdy in general and the symphony in particular and were again impressed with everything we saw and heard. Here’s the symphony nestled amongst some of our other instruments – it really has quickly become part of our sound:

Symphony and shawms

Bryan has been very clever with this symphony design. For a start, he explained how he had developed a design with a much taller bridge and a wheel standing above the soundboard, and that this had increased the sweetness and volume. Secondly, the keyboard appears diatonic (no sharps and flats) as it should for a medieval instrument; however, the tangents inside have been constructed such that they can be moved to create B or B-flat, F or F-sharp and E or E-flat. Thus the symphony is just that bit more versatile in combination with other instruments. The chanter is tuned to G, with a G and a C drone and the sound is wonderfully sweet.

Later the same day we drove north and west into Brittany. After an overnight stop at the incredibly charming Pont-Aven, we made our way to Penmarc’h and Atelier Tri Nox Samoni to collect our double flute from Benjamin Simao. Benjamin has a great little workshop right on the main street and again we were swallowed up in the wonderful smells of woodworking! Unfortunately, it turned out that there was still a little work required on the double flute, so Paul arranged for this to be sent on to us as we had to make our way north to Bayeux, where the Fêtes Médiévales were about to get underway! But that must wait for the final episode of our summer adventure…

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…

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

Newsletter

Quite a summer…

Paul and I are just emerging from a very busy summer which saw us performing from Bayeux in the south to Hamilton in the north. Highlights included…

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Reynard the Fox at Rievaulx Abbey and at Knaresborough Medieval Day. This photo shows us at Rievaulx – an absolutely stunning setting for the fox’s devious shenanigans, and features our work placement Annabel. She was with us for a week and helped us in many and various ways from roadying for Reynard to demonstrating dance steps for our new school resource pack to helping me try out medieval recipes. Her pastry castle was – eventually – a notable success!

We also had a great time at the Fetes Medievales in Bayeux:

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Paul as Tibert the Cat joined me (as Reynard) for capering in the streets of this splendid medieval town, including taking part in the grand parade on Sunday morning. I was interviewed on French radio! These French festivals are just  enormous fun and we met some great folk.

Alongside the jousts at Pendennis Castle – always rather special – we also enjoyed being part of English Heritage’s Clash of Knights at Beeston Castle. This is a great format – four teams of twelve knights each all going hammer and tongs; one member of each team is the captain or king and he wears a dragon crest – the aim is to knock off the crests of the opposing teams while protecting one’s own. We provided musical accompaniment for these clashes and much music at our own tent in between.Image

We loved having our new Burgundian tent this year. The space it affords made it much easier to entertain larger groups especially.

Also in Cheshire we had a really enjoyable day at the Grosvenor Museum, hosted by Sue and Tom Hughes. We presented four different workshops over the course of the day in the lecture theatre and it was simply a pleasure.Image

We must also mention Scotland’s Festival of History at Chatelherault near Hamilton. It’s a multi-period event which always allows for some juxtapositions – our Facebook followers will already have seen this immortal image of Paul sounding his medieval greatpipes while being whisked about the site on Haydn Easy’s Edwardian trike. It’s one of my enduring memories of the season and it made me laugh like a drain…

ImageThis is only some of what we got up to in the summer – we also had some lovely days at Alnwick – performed at some very special weddings – and finished off in stunning sunshine at the Pensthorpe Medieval Spectacular, another incredible event from Black Knight Historical.  Now, after a few days at home we are starting to relax and think about the winter…

Forthcoming…

The next few months are largely taken up with ‘backstage’ work. We need to get down to our instruments and put the shine on some new repertoire. We are focusing especially on 12th century music – we’ve long wanted to expand our range and have been developing more of the tunes from the Ludus Danielis alongside more troubadour pieces; we also have our eyes on some Anglo-Norman repertoire. This new material will also come in handy for our latest recording project which is themed around the Magna Carta – coming up for its 800th anniversary soon!

And there are new instruments too with which we need to become familiar: Paul has his new Goodacre small pipes and also his high medieval lute – the latter is not that new anymore but with being away so much over the last several months it still feels new to him… I need to keep working on my hurdy-gurdy: doing a lot of playing on it over the summer has brought on my confidence on the instrument enormously but there’s a lot to do there. And we’ve just got hold of a couple of wonderful medieval trumpets – one straight and one a very fifteenth-century ‘S’ shape; this second one in particular has a very lovely tone that accords well with Paul’s new Moulder shawm. Even though I am completely new to it, we know from initial parpings that there’s potentially a great sound with these two.

We also have to continue work on our new educational resources – I did a lot of work on these earlier in the year but again had to put it all aside for the summer. I am working on new digital interactive versions of our ‘Medieval and Tudor Dance’ guide and ‘How to Be a Tudor’, as well as a new companion project, ‘How to Live in a Castle’.  Lots of material needing to be dragged together and made user-friendly!

So we are taking a bit of a back seat for the next few months, but not disappearing completely. Dates for the diary:

21-22 September: Medieval Music at Bolton Castle. One of our local castles, Bolton is a stunning venue in the most beautiful Wensleydale countryside.

October 30th: ‘Reynard the Fox’ at The Witham in Barnard Castle. A longstanding venue in the town, The Witham has recently undergone major redevelopment and we will be performing in their new music hall.

December 20th: ‘A Medieval Christmas’ at Barley Hall. We are delighted to be coming back to Barley Hall in York for another Christmas concert. Trouvere really got started at Barley Hall – many years ago! – and it remains a venue we are really fond of. Plus the Great Hall unsurprisingly suits our medieval sound perfectly!

December 27th-31st ‘A Medieval Christmas’ at the Tower of London – more details to follow!

2012…

Cantigas Trouvere reduced

 

I’ve decided to write a blog for Trouvère. It’s another way to keep people informed about what we have been up to and also what we are planning – and a useful discipline for me to keep me writing regularly…

As a first post – to get me underway! – I’m going to take a look back at 2012.  It was a busy year for us and we were especially pleased to be able to release our new CD ‘Music for a Medieval Prince’.  I’m going to blog in more detail about the CD later, but a few words here are a must as it was a highlight of our year.

Paul and I had been working on ‘Prince’ for a while. It’s a project particularly close to our hearts as it combined an unusual set of enthusiasms. Paul had been wanting for some time to work on more music from the Chansonnier du Roi, as it is a major source of trouvère music and he had got hold of the facsimile edition. Then, I was commissioned to write and article on the literature of medieval Greece and in the course of my research I found out that the Chansonnier has close links to the medieval Morea – that’s the French principality in southern Greece that had played an important part in my doctorate.   It was amazing to have Trouvère and medieval Greece come together so neatly! More on the background to the CD to follow in due course…

We completed the recording of the CD at the start of the year and had a great few days with Martin Lamb recording vocals. We’d met Martin working with Past Pleasures for their ‘Medieval Christmas’ event at the Tower of London and knew his voice would be perfect for the thirteenth century songs on the CD. It was also great to get our new symphony onto the CD. We’d picked it up from the maker Henri Renard in November of 2011 and I had brought it on enough for it to feature on a couple of pieces on the CD.

It was also great to be able to feature the new ‘Prince’ repertoire in concert during the year. Our good friend Howard Quinn organised a concert in Harrogate in March, and this was followed by  an evening performance at the ‘Wars of Christ’ conference at Christ Church in Oxford in the same month. This evening was enlivened by a power cut! Just before we were due to go on, the lights went out and the magnificent Hall was lit only by emergency lights and many many candles – it looked quite magnificent and was a fitting setting for the thirteenth-century sounds. We also really enjoyed playing at the ‘Minstrels Court’ in Chester in June. This splendid event is organised by Tom Hughes (of the Bagpipe Society and much else), and featured a great assemblage of historical music types. We played a set during the day and another in the evening concert, which went very well. We’re looking forward to returning to the Minstrels Court again this year – on June 15th.

We were able to get over to France again this year to play at the Fêtes Médiévale at Josselin in Brittany. The highlight was the evening parade through the town and along the canal under the walls of the Chateau. Paul did magnificently, keeping up a round of tunes on his wonderful new great pipes, while I bashed the big daouli drum. But we could not stay in France very long – we had to get back to England where English Heritage had booked us for what felt like the whole summer!

We had a great time playing at a round of tournaments and jousts from Battle Abbey to Pendennis Castle to Belsay House… And Richmond Castle – now this is our local castle, no more than thirty minutes drive away… but the event here was sandwiched between two at Pendennis in Cornwall! Ho hum… But the events were great fun. We’ve really developed our fanfare sound, and with Paul tootling at the top on the shawm and Dan (on the rauschpfeife) and me (on the trumpet) honking and blasting underneath it’s pretty striking.  We played many knights onto the field, heralded their strikes at quintain, cabbages, melons, rings and each other… and in between the clanking and bashing played some nice sets at the tent with appreciative visitors.

Over the course of the year, we visited many schools and a few highlights stick in the mind. One of our Tudor sessions is ‘An Audience with Queen Mary’, where the children basically have to behave themselves impeccably for about an hour. Bliss. The queen’s presence has a remarkable effect and it’s a memorable session for the children. As a bit of wind-down at the end of the session the queen (that’s me) often auditions for a new jester and we have had break-dancing, armpit-farting and frog impressions amongst much else. But in November, a very splendid young 8-year old confessed that she had no jests but could sing a song, and proceeded to sing ‘Deck the Halls’ for the queen, very beautifully, bringing a genuine tear to the royal eye.

In December we were delighted to be playing again at Barley Hall, for a ‘Medieval Christmas’ evening. We have such a history of playing at the Hall, but had not done a concert-style presentation there for some years; it will always remain one of our favourite venues. There was a good crowd who responded very warmly to the show, making a great end to our year.