Wed 12th Feb, The Queen's College Chapel, Oxford
The Sword and the Lily
Music for the End of Time
The Sword and the Lily presents music which explores the images in and around an exceptionally beautiful work of art from the fifteenth century. Rogier van der Weyden’s Beaune Altarpiece (c. 1445) furnished the altar in the chapel of the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune. Founded in 1443, this hospital for the sick and dying was created by Nicholas Rolin, Chancellor of the powerful Duchy of Burgundy, after a period of devastating plague and famine in the area. The painting, commissioned by Rolin, depicts the last judgement at the end of time, which must have been an incredibly powerful image for those within the hospital.
Our programme includes Franco-Flemish polyphony and chant from the fifteenth century, and paints a musical story from Christ’s descent and the dreadful blasts of the angelic trumpets, through the fiery pits of hell, and finally tracing the ascent to the pearly gates of the celestial palace. The focal point of the concert is the glorious Missa Dum sacrum mysterium/L’homme armé by Johannes Regis (c. 1425 – c. 1496). This Mass sets texts and music from the liturgy of St Michael, who appears centrally in the Beaune Altarpiece weighing up the souls of the dead. The piece also uses the famous L’homme armé tune, which resonates strongly with the image of Christ as ‘the armed man’ in Van der Weyden’s painting.
Wed 11th March, New College Chapel, Oxford
Tudor Music for the Passion of Christ
More details to follow. Tickets not yet available.
Wed 27th Nov, St. Mary Magdalen's Church, Oxford
A New Star Shall Arise
Music for Christmas in Medieval England
This programme will transport you back to the wintery cathedrals and now-ruined abbeys of medieval England for an evening of musical splendour from the Middle Ages. We will perform rare and often surprising musical treasures written for the Christmas season from the 13th-15th centuries, including the anonymous Missa Veterem Hominem of the mid-15th century, which luckily survives in a manuscript copied not in England, but on the continent. The surviving sources of polyphony in England from the late-Middle Ages are far rarer than those on the continent – this is in part due to the fact that, for many centuries, notated polyphony was largely cultivated and copied within the great English monastic communities, whose libraries were largely destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries from 1536.
The soaring melodies of Sarum plainchant, the energetic drama of 13th- and 14th-century motets and conductus, and the great beauty of 15th-century settings will all be brought back to life in this very special Christmas programme.
Thu 7th Nov, Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford
The Moon of All Music
Polyphony of Remembrance from the 15th Century
This concert traces the remarkable tradition of composing music for the dead in the 15th century. The programme is centred around Antoine Brumel’s (c.1460-1512) powerful Requiem Mass, which is the earliest surviving setting to include the text of the sequence, ‘Dies irae’, to glorious effect. We explore music written by composers in memory of their peers, revealing the hidden sense of community and loss shared by prominent musicians in the twilight of the Middle Ages. This beautiful and inspiring pageant of poetry and music is not to be missed.
Norwich Cathedral: 21-23 Jul
The Moon of All Music
Polyphonic Laments from the 15th Century
As part of the celebrations for the 900th anniversary of the death of Norwich Cathedral’s founder, Herbert de Losinga, who was born and educated in France, we are performing a concert of music for remembrance by composers of the Franco-Flemish tradition of the 15th century.
The concert will take place in the cathedral on Sunday 21st July at 5pm. Tickets are free, and there will be a retiring collection.
The Divine Office
We will be observing the full Benedictine Liturgy of the Hours on Sunday 21st and Monday 22nd, as it was sung by the Benedictine monks of the Cathedral Priory for hundreds of years. Come along to be transported back in time.This is a truly special opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of the medieval Cathedral.
Sunday 23 July
12 noon Sext
Monday 22 July
The Herbert Mass
On Herbert’s Day itself, Tuesday 23 July, a solemn Eucharist will be celebrated according to the Sarum Rite of the medieval English Church at 7pm.
A programme of dazzling French songs from the late 14th century and Machaut's famous Messe de Nostre Dame
20th June, St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford
Join us in St Mary Magdalen’s Church for a programme of dazzling French songs from the late 14th century, as well as the famous Messe de Nostre Dame by the great poet-musician, Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300 – 1377).
The songs transmitted in the Chantilly Codex are known for their infamous rhythmic challenges, the often-abstracted approach to tonality, and their stunning beauty. Be transported back to fourteenth-century courtly culture with lyrics expressing unrequited love, mythology, battle-cries, and the smokiness of Parisian society!
The Machaut Mass is the earliest surviving polyphonic mass cycle by a single known composer – its six extraordinary movements capture the height of sacred polyphonic technique in the mid-fourteenth century. The use of four-voice texture allowed for new and elaborate colours hitherto unknown to mass composition, and its sheer scale and invention is testament to the personal value this music most likely held for the composer towards the end of his life.
The Quest for English Polyphony through the 15th Century
29th May in Oxford & 1st June in London
5th March 2019 - Quit Timet Deum: Lassus - Cantiones Sacrae Sex Vocum and Gesualdo – Tenebrae Responsoria for Holy Week
Qui Timet Deum follows a programme of music for six voices by the renaissance composers Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594) and Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613).
The Cantiones Sacrae Sex Vocum by Lassus is the composer’s final book of motets, published in the year of his death. The collection features some of his most accomplished and beautiful compositions, setting music to a range of texts and themes.
Gesualdo’s collection of responsories for Holy Week deals with texts that follow the evocative story of Jesus’s crucifixion. His music captures the intense emotional conflicts associated with Christ’s death through the use of jarring dissonances and warped tonal progressions – the hallmarks of his later style.
9th February 2019 - Ockeghem’s Missa Caput: The music of Jean de Ockeghem and Leonel Power
Jean de Ockeghem (d.1497) is considered the most famous and influential composer of the second-generation Franco-Flemish school. Almost certainly written in the 1440s, early in Ockeghem’s career, the Missa Caput contains some of his most beautiful and unusual counterpoint. It is a wonderful example of the sort of experimentation which ushered in the era of musical renaissance in the fifteenth century.
Leonel Power (d.1445) represents an earlier generation – born in England in the late fourteenth-century, Power and his probably younger compatriot John Dunstaple were both highly influential in culivating a new musical aesthetic. Power’s style combines characteristically-English rich sonorities with French rhythmic intricacy and invention. The composer and theorist Johannes Tinctoris (c.1435-1511) comments in his Proportionale Musices (1472-3) on the ‘new art’, and credits the English (and particularly Dunstaple) as its fons et origo (fount and origin). The programme features some of Power’s polyphonic motets and antiphons.
3rd November 2018 - Dufay’s Missa Ave Regina Caelorum
Dufay’s last surviving mass, Missa Ave Regina Caelorum, represents the breathtaking culmination of his musical career, boasting both established late-medieval gothic technique and the beauty and clarity of the new Renaissance art. The Mass movements will be interspersed by some of Dufay’s motets, contrasting the unique colours beholden to the various stages of his life.