Thursday, 18 February 2016, 1:00PM
St. Sepulchre Without Newgate

Medieval Music: The Mystery of Women

Professor Christopher Page, Emily van Evera

During the last thirty years, the name of Hildegard of Bingen (d. 1179) composer, abbess and naturalist, has been gradually rescued from obscurity, notably by recordings of her works. The lecture will provide an opportunity to hear some of Hildegard’s most impressive compositions but also to explore more widely the phenomenon of the medieval female composer. For while Hildegard was unique, she was not alone; the richness of the musical remains she has left eclipse every competitor, and yet there were many other female mystics who created rhapsodic spiritual song whose works have not survived. Many of them are little known, but here they will step into the light.

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Christopher Page is Professor of Medieval Music and Literature, a Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge. He is an internationally renowned performer and writer, as well as being an experienced presenter through BBC Radio. He holds the Dent Medal of the Royal Musical Association awarded for outstanding services to musicology.

In 1981 he founded the professional vocal ensemble Gothic Voices now with twenty-five CDs in the catalogue, three of which won the coveted Gramophone Early Music Record of the Year award. The ensemble has performed in Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Sicily, Sweden, America, Israel, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Finland. London dates included twice-yearly sell-out concerts at London’s Wigmore Hall. The ensemble gave its first Promenade Concert in 1989. The group’s work has been chronicled most recently in Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, The Modern Invention of Medieval Music (CUP, 2007) and Richard Taruskin, Text and Act (OUP, 2006).

Professor Page’s major 350,000 word study, The Christian West and its Singers: The First Thousand Years, was published by Yale University Press in 2010. Prior to this his six other books include Songs and Instruments of the Middle Ages, Discarding Images: Reflections on Musical Life in Medieval France and The Summa Musicae: A Thirteenth-century Manual for Singers. He has edited three books of music, including Abbess Hildegard of Bingen: Sequences and Hymns.

Between 1989 and 1997, Professor Page was presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Programme, Spirit of the Age, and a presenter of the Radio 4 arts’ magazine Kaleidoscope.

Professor Page has been chairman of the National Early Music Association and of the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society (founded 1889) of whose new journal, now published by Cambridge University Press, he was a founding editor. He serves on the editorial boards of the journals Early Music (OUP) and Plainsong and Medieval Music (CUP). He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 2008.

In 2012, Professor Page was a founder member of the Consortium for Guitar Research at Sidney Sussex College, an affiliate of the Royal Musical Association.

Professor Page is currently completing a monograph on the Tudor guitar, representing the more academic side of his interest in playing guitars of the sixteenth-nineteenth centuries in a historically informed manner.

Professor Page has been appointed Gresham Professor of Music from September 2014. In this role he hopes to achieve “the ambition of all Gresham Professors; showing that a little-studied aspect of the field can have much more breadth of interest, and interdisciplinary appeal, than one might initially suppose.”

His first year as Gresham Professor of Music was a series of six lectures on Men, Women and Guitars in Romantic England:

The guitar is arguably the most widely cultivated instrument in the world. At a time when fifty or more pianos are broken up for scrap in Britain every week – sad relics of Victorian parlour entertainment – sales of guitars have never been higher. Nonetheless, it has been almost universally forgotten that there was an intense guitar craze in England between about 1800 and 1835, spanning the lifetimes of Keats, Byron, Shelley and Coleridge, and a craze whose history has never been traced. Histories of English music and society in the nineteenth century continue to be written as if it never happened, and yet the instrument was cultivated from the royal family in the person of Princess Charlotte (d. 1817) down to the poorest laundress. This is much more than the story of an instrument and its music : the rise of romanticism, the creation of an urban poor hungry for self improvement, the proliferation of newspapers, serialised fiction and printed sheet music, the social position of women and other aspects of English society and culture in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars all have a place within it.

Professor Page continues his series of Music lectures in 2015/16 lecture series entitled Music, Imagination and Experience in the Medieval World

All of Professor Page's past Gresham lectures can be accessed here.

Current Gresham Professor of Music

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Emily Van Evera has earned an international reputation for her versatile and expressive interpretation of earlier vocal repertoires. She also sings newly-composed songs, traditional folk music, and whatever takes her fancy.

Emily is a soloist on over fifty recordings including ground-breaking and award-winning discs of works by Monteverdi, Bach, Handel and Vivaldi with the Taverner Consort (EMI/Virgin), of 16th & 17th-c. English, Italian and Spanish song with The Musicians of Swanne Alley, Circa 1500 and Tragicomedia (Virgin, Chandos, CRD, Harmonia mundi, Teldec), music by Hildegard of Bingen and Machaut (Hyperion) and more recently, My Lady Rich (Avie), an Elizabethan portrait welcomed as 'riveting... heart-stealing' (BBC Music Magazine), 'a vivid and touching portrait' (New York Times) and 'a magnificent recording' (Goldberg).

She sang the role of Dido for the BBC-commissioned commemorative recording of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (Taverner Players, BBC/Sony), and in 2010 released songs by Benjamin Britten and Vladimír Godár on So sweet a melody (Somm) and a live concert recording with Solamente naturali (Bratislava) of church music for soprano and orchestra by Ján Levoslav Bella.

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Transcript

18 February 2016

Medieval Music: The Mystery of Women
Professor Christopher Page
Emily van Evera

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