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!
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
The romantic figure of the troubadour conjures up images of minstrels roaming the countryside with nothing but a lute and a love song. However, medieval accounts of these singer-songwriters paint a much more varied portrait of their lives and lyrics. As self-proclaimed “finders” of words and melodies, they explored commonplace subjects such as desire, spirituality, hope, hypocrisy, despair, and the complexities of relationships, all in their own language of Occitan. In this program, Trobár recounts the lives and re-enacts the art of the troubadours, both in the original Occitan and in English translations by modern poets, capturing the immediacy and vitality of the texts as experienced by their first audiences.
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.