Thursday, 7 January 2016, 1:00PM
St. Sepulchre Without Newgate

Medieval Music: To Chant in a Vale of Tears

Professor Christopher Page FBA, Chris Watson

According to one early-medieval author, ‘there are many who are moved by the sweetness of singing to bewail their sins, and who are readily brought to tears by the sweet sounds of a singer’. A thousand years later, Hector Berlioz tells how a musician was so moved during the performance of an opera that ‘two streams of tears burst violently from his eyes, and he wept so hard that I was compelled to lead him out of the hall’. Tears and music have a long history together, but a show of tears means different things at different times. The purpose of this lecture is to explore the nature of a lachrymose response in the medieval experience of music.

A short introduction to the topic of this lecture is offered in the following short video by Professor Christopher Page:

 

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Christopher Page was Gresham Professor of Music from 2014-2018. He 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.”

Professor Page's lecture series were as follows:

2017/18 For Courtesan, Queen and Gallant: The Guitar in England from Henry VIII to Samuel Pepys

2016/17 The Christian Singer from the Gospels to the Gothic Cathedrals

2015/16 Music, Imagination and Experience in the Medieval World

2014/15 Men, Women and Guitars in Romantic England  

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

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Christopher Watson is a singer with more than 20 years' performance experience at the highest level. He sings with some of the world's leading Early Music ensembles, including The Tallis Scholars, with whom he has made more than 200 appearances, Alamire, Gallicantus and Collegium Vocale Gent. He also performs regularly with Tenebrae and Theatre of Voices, among others.

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Transcript

7 January 2016

Medieval Music: To Chant in a Vale of Tears
Professor Christopher Page FBA
Chris Watson

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