Songs of Courage
Commonly called the Medieval Period or the Middle Ages, music of this era tended to be centered on the church (i.e., the Roman Catholic Church) in the form of plainsong, motets, chants and so forth, but there were also the secular songs of the troubadours and common folk. The concert (described as something of “a mirror of our time”) canvases music selections for voice or voice and instrumental accompaniment that would have been used primarily to comfort generations in Europe left behind by young crusaders in the battle for the Holy Land. As guest artist Anne Azema says, it’s “a program of medieval secular and para-liturgical music that reflects the hopes, fears, frustrations, pains and comforts of the crusaders’ contemporaries.”
Azema, a French soprano regarded as one of early music’s foremost practitioners, lends both her voice and her talents on the hurdy-gurdy (kind of a hand-cranked, mechanical violin) to this effort. She’s joined by American string virtuoso Shira Kammen, who has spent most of her life exploring the world of early music. Kammen joins in with both harp and vielle (a bowed, stringed predecessor to the violin, but with a leaf-shaped pegbox and five strings instead of four).
In addition to the music of Thibault de Champagne, Guiot de Dijon, Alfonso el Sabio and Gaucelm Faidit, contemporaneous readings from the works of Richard the Lionheart, Saladin and others will be presented. A medieval “Feast of Fools,” with recipes and entertainment from the Middle Ages, follows the Milwaukee performance.
At All Saints’ Cathedral in Milwaukee on Feb. 2 and at Luther Memorial Church in Madison on Feb. 3.