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Swithun: Dialogos

14 November 2015 @ 8:00 pm

Doors open at 6:45 pm. Please note: there is no pre-concert talk for this event.

Dialogos (France)

Swithun! Music from Winchester c.1000

Dialogos explores early polyphony from Winchester (10th–11th centuries) in a semi-staged performance with English subtitles. Through the voice of Wulfstan the Cantor, we follow the path of a penitent man haunted by his visionary dreams, trying to escape from three raging Furies, wild as wolves, and finally finding salvation from Swithun, saint of all miracles.

“As an aural and visual experience it was one of the most moving events of this year’s Festival.” THE HERALD (SCOTLAND)

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SWITHUN ! One saint, three Furies and a thousand miracles from Winchester around 1000
Regem regum dominum Two-part invitatory, Winchester Troper
Aelfeah adest, Ordbirhtus adest, Wulfsinus et Aelfric Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno 
Pax huic domui Processional antiphon, Paris, BNF, ms. 943, 10th c. 
Magna miracula Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno 
Et licet extremus hominum Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno 
Os ky hereos. Statuit ei dominus Troped introit, Winchester Troper 
Alma fuit vicina dies Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno
Gloriosus vir sanctus Swithunus Two-part responsory, Winchester Troper
Cumque dies eadem benedicta Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno 
In pace in idipsum Antiphon, Worcester Cathedral, Music Library, ms 160, 1″th c. 
Þa swefna beoð wynsume Aelfric of Winchester, Life of saint Swithun
Qui post evigilans Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno 
Auxilium, domine Alphabetic hymn in acrostic «De Sancto Swithuno»,
Wulfstan of Winchester: text, Rouen, BM 1385, 10th c., melodic reconstruction: K. Livljanic
Sed cum nulla virum feritas Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno 
Ecce vir prudens Swithunus Two-part responsory, Winchester Troper 
Infirmo siquidem, cum nullum prendere somnum Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno
Laudemus dominum Two-part responsory, Winchester Troper
Talibus aegrotum Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno
Sint lumbi vestri Two-part responsory, Winchester Troper 
Pervigilat ternis ibi noctibus atque diebus Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno
Hwæt ða se halga Swyðun Aelfric of Winchester, Life of saint Swithun
Via lux veritas Sequence, Winchester Troper 
Quid plura ? Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno
Length: 65 minutes with no intermission
Musicological consultant: Susan Rankin
Principal sources
Winchester Troper: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, 473, 11th century; Oxford, Bodlean Library, Bodley 775, 11th century. Transcriptions: Susan Rankin.
Wulfstan of Winchester, Narratio metrica de sancto Swithuno. Edited by M. Lapidge. Manuscript: London, British Library, Royal 15. C. VII, 10-11th century. Music: Katarina Livljanić.
Aelfric of Winchester, The life of saint Swithun. Edited by M. Lapidge. Manuscript: London, British Library, Cotton MS Julius E VII, 11th century. Music: Katarina Livljanić.
One of ensemble Dialogos’s favorite repertoires – early Medieval polyphony from Winchester (10th-11th c.) – is at the origin of this programme. This project is a continuation of our work on early polyphonic repertoires, in collaboration with Susan Rankin from Cambridge University, the principal international specialist of the earliest Medieval polyphonic repertoires. In the style of the programme Abbo Abbas, created in 2004 ( performed more than fifty times at numerous international festivals, inspired by the personality of Abbon de Fleury, one of the most prominent men of the 10th century), we explore the polyphonic repertoires from the famous Winchester Troper, one of the richest and earliest records of notated polyphony in Western Medieval music.
Through the voice of Wulfstan the Cantor, we follow the path of a penitent man haunted by his visionary and terrifying dreams. Trying to escape from three raging Furies, wild like wolves, he finally finds salvation from Swithun, saint of all miracles.
Swithun – the “Superman” saint
The cult of Saint Swithun started when the bishop of Winchester, Aethelwold, transferred the relics of the saint to the Old Minster and there celebrated a sumptuous ceremony on July 15th, 971. Thus started an important tradition which transformed this local saint into a sort of Anglo-Saxon Medieval Superman, celebrated in the virtuosic Narratio metrica de S. Swithuno by Wulfstan, famous cantor at Winchester cathedral at the end of the 10th century. Several versions of his life were written, the advertising of his relics promoted by his numerous miracles, and generous gifts were given by healed people.
Wulfstan and Aelfric
Wulfstan, the cantor in Winchester at the end of the 10th century, decided to write a versified life of Saint Swithun: his magnificent Narratio metrica de S. Swithuno is the longest Anglo-Latin poem written before the Norman Conquest, and is dedicated to refined poetry lovers. His mastery of the Virgilian hexameter bears witness to one of the most virtuosic poets of his time. The text is written without musical notation.
For this programme, I selected several passages from the Narratio to create a continuous story. The Miracle of Three Furies particularly caught my attention. The three Furies appear as three terrifying women, naked and vulgar. They attack a poor man who loses the use of his legs after seeing them. The man arrives at the gate of Winchester where he meets a man dressed in white. This mysterious man advises him to go to the miraculous grave in the Old Minster. He spends three nights there, between waking and sleeping. In a mystical vision (or while sleeping) the man in white appears to him again and reveals his identity: he is Saint Swithun himself. The poor man falls asleep again. A big earthquake shakes the grave and the whole church. A superhuman creature takes the man in its hands and takes off one of his shoes (which nobody will be able to find later). The man remains like a confused Cinderella, without his shoe, but healed from his paralysis caused by the encounter with the three Furies.
In order to put the story in its context, a few short passages are taken from another text and used in our programme. This is another biography of Saint Swithun, in the Anglo-Saxon language, written by Aelfric, a man from the circle of the bishop Aethelwold of Winchester around 1000. Aelfric’s text was not created for monks or scholars. His version of Saint Swithun’s life, clear and concise, is dedicated to laymen’s education.
The Winchester Troper
In the dense atmosphere in which these great minds moved, liturgical chant took on similar density and sumptuousness. Winchester cantors cultivated a specific musical practice described by Thierry, a monk of Fleury in France around the year 1000. Speaking of the night-office responsories, he says they were sung “by four brothers in albs and cope at the top of the steps; two of them, like pupils, are restricted to the chant melody, while the other two, like masters, stand behind them and perform the accompaniment– they are called ‘organists’.”
The Winchester Troper preserves a large number of pieces for two voices, bearing witness to this tradition. It was copied in the first decades of the 11th century, and contains a series of pieces in Saint Swithun’s honour, some based on a historia, the saint’s life. This repertoire was used as a core of our programme: it creates a continuous story between the excerpts from Saint Swithun’s miracle of three Furies and polyphonic pieces.
Notated using a complex system of neumes, which allows not one but several interpretations, these polyphonic pieces might have been condemned to silence and neglect, since it is impossible to give a unique interpretation of them in modern transcription. Therefore, any attempt to find out what they sounded like can only proceed from a hypothetical reconstitution, even with the aid of the Medieval theoretical treatises (Musica enchiriadis and Guido of Arezzo’s Micrologus). But it is precisely the ambiguity of the written sources that has prompted us to devote ourselves to this repertoire: in this programme, Dialogos offers a musical creation in which the music of the 10th century from the Winchester Troper (transcribed by Susan Rankin) is placed in dialogue with new musical creations and improvisations in the style of the 10th century singers, using the texts of Saint Swithun’s miracles by Wulfstan and Aelfric. These new creations attempt to reconstruct the polyphonic style which Medieval cantors in Winchester would have heard in their cathedral, while discreetly opening some new windows to a more contemporary musical language.
Katarina Livljanić
Ensemble Dialogos, Ensemble For Medieval Music
Since its foundation in 1997, Dialogos, the vocal ensemble directed and created by Katarina Livljanić, has emerged as one of the most outstanding and original Medieval music ensembles of the new generation. The ensemble’s projects link new musicological research with an innovative approach to Medieval music performance, a theatrical dimension, and an expressive musicality. Dialogos is composed of women’s or men’s vocal ensembles, depending on each specific project.
Since its first projects, Dialogos has been acclaimed by critics (in journals such as The New York Times, Early Music America, Le Monde, Le Figaro, El País, The Guardian) and performed in the most prestig-ious concert halls and festivals worldwide (Lincoln Center, Festival of Saintes, Utrecht, Ambronay, Royal Festival Hall of London, Metropolitan Museum of New York, Cité de la Musique in Paris, Boston Early Music Festival, Edinburgh Festival), as well as radio and television broadcasts. The recordings, published by labels such as Arcana, Sony-BMG, Ambronay Editions, and Empreinte Digitale, have received nu-merous press distinctions in international music magazines, including Diapason d’or, Choc du Monde de la Musique and Goldberg 5 stars. Dialogos is an ensemble-in-residence at the Royaumont Foundation (2011-14). Dialogos receives a subsidy from DRAC Ile-de-France – French Ministry of Culture and Communication. Mécénat Société Générale is the principal patron of the ensemble.
Katarina Livljanić, Director And Vocalist
Katarina Livljanić, singer and musicologist, is an international specialist in Medieval music and plain-chant performance. Born on the Adriatic coast of Croatia, she decided to become a Medieval music per-former at a very early age, training at the Zagreb Music Conservatory before moving to France to study voice and musicology. She founded and directs the vocal ensemble Dialogos, specializing in Medieval chant and liturgical theatre of the Glagolitic tradition. For her work in this field, she was decorated for cultural achievement in 2002 by the president of Croatia.
She obtained a Ph.D. at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris. She is currently Maître de
Conférences in Medieval music at the Sorbonne University in Paris, where she directs a Medieval music performance Masters programme. She is regularly invited as visiting lecturer or artist in residence at Har-vard University (visiting lecturer in 1997, artist in residence in 2003 and Blodgett Artist in Residence in 2011), and to numerous universities in Europe, the United States, and Canada (Schola Cantorum Basili-ensis, Fondazione Cini, Boston University, Yale), as a teacher or resident artist. With Benjamin Bagby (Sequentia), she was awarded a Cornille Visiting Professorship at Wellesley College (USA) in 2007. She publishes articles about Medieval chant performance in specialized reviews worldwide, and is the author of a volume in the collection Paléographie Musicale founded by the monks of Solesmes in 1889. In 2002 she was a guest artistic advisor at the Early Music Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands, and in 2012 she was artist in residence at the Laus Polyphoniae Festival in Antwerp, Belgium.
As a soloist, she performs contemporary repertoire in collaboration with the Croatian pianist Danijel Detoni. She is also an active poet and publishes in Croatian literary reviews.
Christel Boiron, Vocalist
After cello studies at the ENM of St Etienne and a degree in musicology, Christel Boiron entered the Conservatoire of Lyon’s Early Music Department in 1990 as a singer. She studied with Marie Claude Vallin, Eugène Ferré, and Dominique Vellard, and graduated from the Conservatory of General Studies of Lyon with honours in 1995.
Since then, she has worked regularly with the following ensembles: Musica, Gilles Binchois, Discantus, Choirs Lyon-Bernard Tetu, Huelgas Ensemble, Le Concert Spirituel, and Contemporary Resonance. Since 2007, she has studied vocal technique with Ronald Klekamp and vocal pedagogy at the Center of Voice in the Rhône Alps.
Clara Coutouly, Vocalist
After studying contemporary dance, theatre and piano, Clara Coutouly completed her training with sing-ing and studying at the Maîtrise de Notre Dame de Paris and Lyon’s Conservatoire, in the class of Marie-Claude Vallin. She graduated in 2005 with a Diploma of Superior Studies of Ancient Chant Music. The same year, she participated in the Baroque Academy of Ambronay, conducted by William Christie. She then studied at the Musikhochschule Trossingen with Maria Cristina Kiehr.
Clara Coutouly works with the early music ensembles (Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque) Doulce Mémoire (Denis Raisin-Dadre), Dialogos (Katarina Livljanić), Céladon (Paulin Bündgen), the Gregorian ensemble of Notre Dame de Paris (Sylvain Dieudonné), Peregrina (Agnieszka Budzinska), Stella Maris Basilea (Tetyana Polt-Lutsenko), Le Miroir de Musique (Baptiste Romain), and Vox Luminis (Lionel Meunier). She performed with these different ensembles in prestigious festivals in France and abroad (Music before 1800 in New York, Amuz in Anvers, MA-Festival in Bruges, Oude Muziek in Utrecht, Quinçena Musical in San Sebastián, festivals in Split and Dubrovnik, Cité de la Musique of Paris, les Rencontres Polyphoniques in Calvi, de Saintes, d’Île de France, de Saint-Denis, d’Ambronay, and de Royaumont).
Along with her polyphonist activities, Clara Coutouly sings and participates regularly as a soloist with choreographic or staged performances (Baroque operetta with Céladon), as well as in concerts combining ancient and popular music (Croatian traditional singing with Dialogos, Iran or fado with Doulce Mé-moire). Clara Coutouly has recorded for the Calliope, Zig Zag Territories, Ambronay, K617, Ricercar, Aeon Arcana, Céladon, Doulce Mémoire, Dialogos, The Music Mirror, Baroque Crossings, the Gregorian Ensemble Notre Dame de Paris and Vox Luminis labels.
Caroline Gesret, Vocalist
Caroline began her musical education as a child, studying the piano in Rennes, France. While studying economics and cultural management, she joined the singing classes at the Musikhochschule Bochum and then at the Conservatoire in Grenoble and Lyon, where she graduated in 2002.
She completed her training in Germany, participating in master classes with Thomas Hampson (Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder with orchestra at Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Salzau), and with Dame Felici-ty Lott and Graham Johnson (Schubert and Schumann’s songs and French “mélodie” in Lübeck), and in Austria with Thomas Quasthoff (Brahms’s songs in Schwarzenberg). In the Baroque music area, she was coached on Monteverdi’s operas by Christophe Coin, Gabriel Garrido, and Christina Pluhar.
She appeared on stage at the Opéra de Lyon as the messaggiera in Monteverdi’s Orfeo (Latella / Pickett) and took part in several productions at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in the choir (under the direction of Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Kazushi Ono, and Christophe Eschenbach). Her repertoire includes Baroque ora-torio and cantatas, French “mélodie”, and German song (in Recital with Jean-Sébastien Dureau and Vin-cent Planès). She is intensely involved with contemporary music and has been heard in many first produc-tions of French composers with Choeur Britten (conducted by Nicole Corti) and Resonance Contem-poraine (Alain Goudard).
In 2012, she created her own ensembles : jet:zt! – a trio dedicated in particular to the performance of Morton Feldman’s three voices, and 4anima – a female vocal quartet forging links between early and con-temporary music.
She joined Dialogos (Katarina Livljanić) in 2013.



14 November 2015
8:00 pm


Alix Goolden Hall, Victoria Conservatory of Music
907 Pandora Avenue
Victoria, BC V8V 3P4 Canada
250 386-5311


14 November 2015
8:00 pm


Alix Goolden Hall, Victoria Conservatory of Music
907 Pandora Avenue
Victoria, BC V8V 3P4 Canada
250 386-5311
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