Medieval Music in the Dales

 A long weekend of medieval music with performance, market, workshops and more –  at Bolton Castle in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales

September 2nd, 3rd and 4th 2016

We are planning an ambitious new event for 2016. Medieval Music in the Dales will offer a weekend of all  things to do with medieval music. Currently, the UK does not have an event solely dedicated to medieval music – which tends to get mixed  up with the Renaissance, or even later periods, when in fact it has so much that sets it apart.

Medieval Music in the Dales (MMITD)  will have a strict timescale for performance of 500-­‐1500. It will feature instrument makers who specialise in, or include in their range, instruments from this period. There will also be elements of living history, which will similarly stick to this timescale.

castle

And it will have the perfect setting… The fourteenth-­century home of the  medieval Scrope family, Bolton Castle commands Wensleydale in a simply stunning setting. Though  battered in the Civil War, a large part of the Castle remains fully intact, allowing for plenty of room for performance, displays, and eating and drinking. Participants in MMITD will be welcome to stay at the Castle or camp on site. Facilities are basic but it is a  wonderful place to stay!

Here’s what we are hoping to include in the weekend:

  • A display of luthiers, with instruments of all kinds, from the Friday afternoon through to the Sunday afternoon
  • Informal music-making from Friday afternoon and throughout the weekend
  • A ticketed medieval banquet in the Great Chamber of the Castle on the Friday evening
  • A concert on Saturday evening – and maybe further concerts at other times.
  • Workshops on the Saturday, and maybe the Sunday also
  • A medieval market featuring quality suppliers of medieval living history equipment from the Friday afternoon and throughout the weekend

More about the location…

floor plans

Bolton Castle offers excellent and fitting accommodation for our music-making. The castle is arranged around a central courtyard that is open to the air. This courtyard has potential as a venue for the living history market stalls – as does the garden. The interior spaces that we will be using are all on the first and second floors as marked…

Visitors enter the castle on the first floor. From here they can either go into the shop and access the rest of the castle – or else into the tea room, which is one possible performance space for informal music. Going through the gift shop, visitors can access the Old Kitchen – a really excellent medieval space which is easily transformed into a medieval tavern – a further performance space where drinks could be available. Bolton Castle can even provide barrels of real ale!

solar2

Going upstairs from the gift shop, visitors pass by the Chapel. This is now open to the elements but, weather permitting, is another lovely performance space. Staying indoors, one comes on the second floor to the Solar (right). This is a splendid large space, with the small Nursery adjoining up a short flight of stairs. The Solar will be the venue for the luthiers’ display.

great chamber with side

Along a short corridor lies the Great Chamber (left) – a truly majestic space which will be the venue for timed  slots of music, and for the MMITD trade stall selling CDs of the bands and musicians performing at the event as well as offering publicity material for performers and luthiers. This is also the venue for the ticketed medieval banquet on the Friday night. It will also make a great location for dance workshops.

bolton_castle_map_large with side

Bolton Castle sits at the western end of a small villlage. As the picture map shows, it has substantial gardens offering – along with the courtyard –  plenty of space for the living history market – and indeed outdoor performance.

The church can also be seen to the north of the castle – this is a possible venue for the concerts. There is also a village meeting room, which could house small workshops. This lies off the map on the eastern side at the far end of the village – it’s just a short walk.

The car park is actually quite large – it’s not to scale here – and there is plenty of room for camping in this area on both hardstanding and grassed areas.

Getting it all happening!

We have already explored the idea of ‘Medieval Music in the Dales’ with some of the key performers and instrument makers from the UK and abroad and it’s gone down really well with everyone so far. We are confident that we can attract some of the best performers and makers to the event. More details of the line-up will follow – it’s early days yet but it is looking good!

If you are interested in taking part or simply in coming along to MMITD then at this stage please join our mailing list or Facebook page to keep in touch with developments.  Please do get in touch if you would like to take part in MMITD as a performer, luthier or trader!

Here’s the contact details for MMITD:

For all general enquiries or to join the mailing list please email: medievalmusicinthedales@gmail.com

Or like the Medieval Music in the Dales Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/medievalmusicinthedales. NB – to get all updates on the page it’s advised to ‘like’ the page and then activate ‘Get Notifications’ from the dropdown menu under the ‘Liked’ button.

You can of course also contact Trouvère
by email: trouvere_york@hotmail.com
by phone: 07720118406
and our website is: http://www.medievalminstrels.com

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Magna Melodia

magna melodia

Magna Melodia is our concert programme for 2015, in honour of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. The initial agreement of the Great Charter lies smack in the middle of the period of music that we are most interested in, and so this noteworthy anniversary has provided an admirable spur to us to gather a good range of material into a great programme. Magna Melodia is available for concert bookings in 2015 (with several already signed up!), and also as a programme of linked presentations at medieval festivals or other medieval events. And we are going to put it all together into a CD as well – which will also be available as a digital download.

Magna Melodia presents music from the world of the early Plantagenet kings – Henry II, his sons Richard and John, and his grandson Henry III. As you can see, the timespan is thus c1150 – c.1250. Geographically, the programme goes from England (of course!) to Sicily via the trouveres of northern France and the troubadours of the south. We have been able to include a great deal of our existing repertoire but have also moved into new pastures and new repertoire. Magna Melodia is at this time still to some extent a work in progress – we are trying out different options and thinking what will match up best to make the most satisfying programme – but here’s an idea of what we have in mind.

‘Volez vous que je vous chant’ is a beautiful anonymous trouvère reverdie – it recounts a dream.  We’ve chosen this as our introductory piece as it is redolent of so much that was key to the musical scene in the early thirteenth century. The song conjures up the world of the aristocratic music-makers of both northern and southern France

“Do you want me to sing you a song of love? This was not written by a common man – a knight composed this song, sitting in the shade of an olive tree in the arms of his beloved…”

The song goes on to paint a portrait of an idealised woman, not exactly human:

the nightingale was my father, who sings on the branch and in the high hedges; the siren was my mother, who sings in the salty sea and on the high riversides

This made me think of the legend of Melusine – the fairy woman, daughter of the devil, who was believed to be the distant ancestor of the Plantagenet kings. From the devil they came, it was said, and to the devil they would return…

Richard, John and Henry III had this devil’s inheritance on one side, but on the other – through their mother Eleanor – they had the heritage of Aquitaine, the very heartland of the troubadour tradition. Troubadour music was woven into the lives of the sons of Henry II and as patrons and friends of many composers they are often referenced in specific songs. Henry the Young King, the initial son and heir of Henry II, was the subject of a renowned planh, or lament, by Bertran de Born. Unfortunately, the music for this planh has not survived but we intend to present a partial narration of this lament against the instrumental background of  another de Born melody. Alongside this we will present Gaucelm Faidit’s planh on the death of Richard the Lionheart. King John fared less well at the hands of the troubadours, being noticeably criticised by de Born’s son, another Bertran:

“… his heart is soft and cowardly and no man should ever trust him.”

Troubadour music is also represented by a pair of songs by Bernart de Ventadorn, closely associated with Eleanor of Aquitaine: at present we are intending to pair ‘Can vei la lauzeta’ and ‘La dousa votz’. We may also include one or more tunes by Marcabru.

Staying in Aquitaine, we have been investigating the rich repertoire of religious polyphony from the region. We are working on ‘Lux refulget’, an example of the new style of florid organum where the melody is at times maintained in slow held notes in the tenor and decorated by fluid and lively melismas in the upper voice. We are using Paris ms. lat. 3719, one of the manuscripts closely associated with the abbey of St Martial in the Limoges.

We are really pleased to be including some Sicilian material. The Norman kingdom of Sicily was associated with the Angevins through the marriage of Henry and Eleanor’s daughter Joanna to King William II. Joanna spent her earliest years at the abbey of Fontevraud with her brother John, her near contemporary. King William died unexpectedly and young, and Joanna was taken prisoner by the new king Tancred, who had seized the throne in default of any clear male heir. She was rescued from this ignominious state by the arrival of her elder brother Richard, now king of England, and went on to accompany him on his crusade to the Holy Land.

The fabulously rich kingdom of Sicily was a vibrant mixture of traditions – Norman, Byzantine, Saracen, and three books of music from the Norman Sicilian church are extant in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid; they contain much liturgical music and also more informal songs of praise and celebration. We include several of these in Magna Melodia. For all the cultural diversity of Sicily, this church music can be shown to derive clearly from the practices of the church back in Normandy and northern France. Indeed, some pieces, like Orientis Partibus, are also known from later northern French sources.

This Sicilian link thus returns us back to northern France. The trouvère tradition is not so strongly linked to the Angevins as is that of the troubadours, but King Richard himself wrote in French as a trouvère and we will certainly include his plaintive ‘Ja nus hons pris’, alongside the roughly contemporaneous anonymous crusade song ‘Parti de mal’, which survives appended to a work dedicated to Henry II. This song, which was perhaps written by someone working in the royal Chancery, appears to reference the king and his sons:

“my good lords whom I have loved so much that I almost forgot God!”

Other trouvère material to be featured may include instrumental versions of anonymous pastourelles. Staying in northern France we intend also to include a selection of melodies from the Ludus Danielis, the play of Daniel originating at Beauvais in – it is thought – the late twelfth century.

Which leaves us finally, and necessarily, in England. We aim to include here too both music of the church and secular music. For the former, we have been working on the polyphonic Verbum patris humanatur, a lively new year celebratory song. It’s important to realise that for secular music the Anglo-Norman and Angevin aristocracy of England would have been enjoying the repertoire of the troubadours and trouvères, just like their continental cousins but, that said, there is also some music extant in English. We will certainly feature ‘Miri it is’, and are also working on ‘Man mei long him lives wene’ and ‘Foweles in the frith’, although this last may take us too far out of our time frame.

So, as you can see, the programme is still somewhat up for grabs, but we think that it is shaping up well and we are very much looking forward to presenting this broad sweep of music from the time of England’s Angevin kings. This really was the age of magnificent melody, whether in the monophonic song or in the excitingly blended lines of polyphony. We aim to bring these melodies to life with a range of contemporary instrumentation and show what a wonderful musical world this was.

If you are interested in booking Trouvère for Magna Melodia do get in touch! We’ll be putting up some tasters of Magna Melodia over the next few months. And if you have any comments or suggestions for inclusions in the programme, we’d love to hear them.

photo-8     At Cordes http://www.medievalminstrels.com

http://www.facebook.com/Trouvere.Medieval.Minstrels

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

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.