Hildegard of Bingen: Songs and Visions
Sigrid Hausen, mezzo-soprano; Sarah M. Newman, soprano;
Petra Noskaiová, mezzo-soprano; Gerlinde Sämann, soprano
Michael Popp, music direction and instruments (vielle, santur, harp, monochord, oud, dilruba, iklig, bells)
Visionary, mystic, author, theologian, naturopath, feminist: Hildegard of Bingen was all of these things but, for us, she was also a composer of inspired music. The internationally acclaimed women’s ensemble VocaMe will transport us back to the 12th century and let us glimpse Hildegard’s luminous visions and religious ecstasies. There lie the revealed harmonies of the cosmos, the reflected sounds of eternity.
Enrolled before the age of 15 as a novice, Hildegard spent the rest of her long life (1098-1179) as a Benedictine nun and prioress in what is now Germany. From her earliest days she had been subject to visions revealed to all five of her senses, experiences that she first kept shut up and which later, in the second half of her life, she used to inform three major works of biblical commentary. She also wrote the text and music for a group of liturgical songs. Her nuns could use them to enhance their celebration of divine office, to make it more beautiful. Sixty-nine of her pieces have survived to the present time, one of the largest oeuvres of any medieval composer.
Acclaimed a saint and religious authority during the Renaissance, Hildegard has become a feminist icon. At a time when women were not expected to have learning or opinions and even the lives of queens are hard to tease from the historical record, Hildegard stands almost alone for what we know of her daily activities, her correspondence, books, medical knowledge, and her place in the social order. Her writings give us insight into the pervasive character of medieval religious thought. Her music shows us its glory.
Her songs have just a single vocal line but the melodies often push the boundaries of Gregorian chant, soaring as if towards heaven. Her melodies are complex, each word being carried across several notes. Her texts, which the evening’s programme notes will carry in translation, have been carefully matched to their melodies.
The ensemble VocaMe is made up of four renowned female vocalists from the field of early music, directed and accompanied by Michael Popp. They created a sensation with their initial project, the world’s first recording of the hymns of Kassia, a female composer of the ninth century. EMSI hosted this programme in Victoria to critical acclaim in March, 2012.
VocaMe has performed at prestigious music festivals in Europe and North America. “I’m eager to hear them return with this programme of Hildegard’s music”, said EMSI’s Artistic Director James Young.
VocaMe’s mezzo-soprano Sigrid Hausen will host a voice and choral workshop for early music singers at all levels in Ganges, on April 27th.
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