Hildegard of Bingen: Songs and Visions

Songs have just a single vocal line but the melodies often push the boundaries of Gregorian chant, soaring as if towards heave

Visionary, mystic, author, theologian, naturopath, feminist:Hildegard of Bingen was all of these things but, for VocaMe, she was also a composer of inspired music. on Saturday, April 25 at 8 pm, the internationally acclaimed women’s ensemble VocaMe will transport audiences 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.

“I’m eager to hear them return with this programme of Hildegard’s music,” said EMSI’s Artistic Director James Young.

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.

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 program in Victoria to critical acclaim in March, 2012.

VocaMe will perform at the Alix Goolden Hall. For more information and tickets click here.

 

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