Trobár in a city near you!
Sunday, January 15, 2023 4pm - Found in Translation 2.0: Early Music at the Byron Colby Barn, Grayslake, IL
As self-proclaimed “finders” of words and melodies, medieval troubadours explored all sides of the topic of love: desire, hope, joy, despair, frustration, warning, and consummation. In this reboot of our troubadour program, Trobár presents songs of love by troubadours from southern France as well as the Iberian peninsula. By performing in both the original Occitan and Galician-Portuguese, as well as in English translations by modern poets, we hope to capture the immediacy and vitality of the texts as experienced by their first audiences.
Thursday, February 10, 2022 7:30pm - Il Dit / Elle Dit: Purdue University, Fort Wayne, IN
Given as part of our residency at Purdue University, Fort Wayne, this concert explores the theme of dialogue through early 15th c. French music and poetry, including works by Machaut, Binchois, Dufay, and Fontaine. We feature works with two or three high voices which exhibit equality through an unusual exchange of contrapuntal roles, alongside more standard chansons and instrumentals, interspersed with poems by Christine de Pizan. These various strands come together to paint a picture of French courtly love from multiple perspectives, performed by voices, strings, harp, and flute.
Wednesday, May 25, 2022 7:30pm - Love's Dominion: St. James Cathedral Basilica, Brooklyn, NY
Presented as part of St. James Cathedral Basilica’s 200th Anniversary Celebration, Love’s Dominion features 12th c. music from Spain devoted to St. James, patron of both the Cathedral in Brooklyn and the medieval Catedral Basilica de Santiago de Compostela. Trobár places the St. James pieces alongside contemporaneous repertoires, thereby highlighting disparate voices as they grapple with the dynamics of love and power, whether sacred or secular, personal or communal, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. Members of Trobár are joined by guest artists Sian Ricketts (vocals, winds) and Allen Otte (percussion).
touring programs: bring us to you!
SONGBOOK FOR A KING
Trobár presents the story of a lavish thirteenth-century anthology of French music, known today as the “Manuscrit du Roi.” The diversity of its content makes it unique for its time, containing sacred and secular songs, vocal and instrumental pieces, works in three languages, and originally sixty-two miniature artworks. While much of its history remains murky, the manuscript itself gives clues as to why it was created and what it was originally intended to be. The gilded illuminations indicate the wealth and importance of whoever commissioned it and the multiple layers show it changing hands from owner to owner, with some of these owners having music added to empty corners or blank pages. Ultimately landing in the Bibliothèque Nationale, the manuscript also sheds light on former library practices in the preservation and maintenance of books. This concert provides a glimpse into the medieval experience through the music and images of a songbook fit for a king!
Love. Romantic love, familial love, religious love - in any age, its course never does run smooth. Devotion, conflict, separation, entreaty, and restoration pepper the epic struggle between love and power. In wrestling with these forces, humans tend to express themselves through art, especially in poetry and song, and the people of the Iberian peninsula in the 12th and 13th centuries were no strangers to these expressions. Within the spoken and sung words that survive, we can see the common thread of humanity’s struggle with love winding throughout Iberian thought, whether sacred or secular, personal or communal, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. In this program, Trobár manifests disparate voices of medieval Iberia as they grapple with the dynamics of love and power.
IL DIT / ELLE DIT
Featuring music from our upcoming album, recorded August 2021, this not-so-traditional Valentine’s Day program explores themes of dialogue and viewpoint in early 15th-century French love songs. Il Dit / Elle Dit includes works with two or three equal high voices, in the formes fixes as well as canons and through-composed pieces. Frequently, these voices exhibit an equality of role, trading off contrapuntal functions, and sometimes even with dialogic texts sung concurrently. Set alongside chansons with more standard musical layouts and instrumental tracks, performed by a mix of voices, vielle, rebec, harp, and flute, we hope to paint a picture of French courtly love from multiple perspectives.
During the fourteenth century, or the Trecento, Florence was just beginning its rise to prominence politically and financially, with this rise fueling artistic pursuits in poetry, sculpture, architecture, and music. This program sets some of our favorite Trecento polyphonic works against the monophonic lauda, a sacred Italian offshoot of the troubadour tradition, as well as instrumental dance songs collected from the period. These genres all intersected in the city of Florence, home to many of the century’s leading composers as well as numerous laudesi companies. Within a framework of the seasons, drawing on the music’s many references to themes of nature, love, birth, death, and rebirth, this program provides a glimpse into everyday Florentine lives - the mundane, the passionate and the sublime - through music that speaks to the universal human experience. Guest artist Nathan Dougherty, tenor, joins the members of Trobár for this program.
A ROOM OF HER OWN
Married at fifteen, mother of three, widowed at twenty-five – such a description could apply to thousands of medieval women, but Christine de Pizan was no ordinary medieval woman. She supported her family as a professional writer, produced many works of poetry, wrote a manual on war and chivalry, and advised kings and nobles on politics. In her most influential work, Christine publicly engaged in epistolary debate with the intellectuals of her day, defending the value of women. She expanded her defense of women in other works, notably The Book of the City of Ladies. In this concert, we explore the music of the courts in which Christine grew up and worked, set side by side with readings taken from this latter book, painting an aural picture of women and their status in early fifteenth-century France.
FOUND IN TRANSLATION
We often view the troubadour through nostalgia-tinted glasses - as a traveling minstrel with a lute slung across his back, singing love songs and breaking hearts, a sort of old-timey rock star meets crooner. The reality was in some ways much more prosaic, and in others much messier. To begin with, the art of the troubadours and trobairitz (female troubadours) emanated from a highly refined and aristocratic society. Their complex syntheses of words and music, written by the elite for the elite, both codified and reinforced cultural tropes and norms. Together with expressions of love, joy, regret, and loss, their texts also frequently exhibit misogyny, racism, and violence which must be grappled with. In this program, we recount the lives and re-enact the art of the troubadours and trobairitz, both in the original Occitan and in English verse translations by modern poets Ezra Pound, W.D. Snodgrass, and Robert Kehew. By setting these languages side by side, we capture both the beauty and craft of the original text and their immediacy and vitality through translation, simulating the two halves of their first audiences' experience.
MAKE WE JOY
We take a musical journey through the English Yuletide season, stopping in various spaces to celebrate the major holidays of the church’s liturgical calendar, travel through the biblical Christmas story, and traverse English musical style from the 13th through the 16th centuries. From Advent through Twelfth Night, from Gabriel’s Annunciation to the arrival of the Magi, we present a veritable feast of musical selections including chant, carols, drinking songs, and courtly love songs interspersed with a few readings from a 16th-c. collection, known as Richard Hill’s Commonplace Book. This joyous sojourn blends the voices and instruments of Trobár’s members with the percussive skills of guest artist Allen Otte.
The medieval concept of the Florilegium, or “gathering of flowers,” referred to the process of picking and choosing passages from important early writings and gathering them together in a new arrangement or anthology. Likewise, in this program, Trobár plucks excerpts from four medieval stories with music, two allegories, a pastoral comedy, and a political satire, exploring the ways that the music embellishes and amplifies the stories, heightening the drama or offering moments of reflection. With music by Hildegard von Bingen, Adam de la Halle, and others, alongside images from the manuscripts, and presented by a mix of voices and instruments, including guest artist Nathan Dougherty, this program is a bouquet of medieval storytelling.