New Renaissance Christmas Music
Imagine this: singing angels and bright stars above, shepherds lost in wonder below, and the sounds filling the night sky are… glorious settings of fifteenth-century Burgundian chansons.
Angels sing with lute, harp, and organ; shepherds adorn their melodies with the pastoral sounds of fiddle and flute, bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy. Bells ring out with joy.
Re-imagined and reconstructed by David Fallows and Elizabeth Rumsey in 2022, «Noël normand – Rouen 1474» takes the print of a unique Renaissance musical drama as the starting point for a new way to tell the Christmas story. Rare, detailed directions about instrumentation are followed with precision, leading to the surprising conclusion that some of the 4-voice pieces actually require 18 musicians!
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Why this CD will be special
In the words of David Fallows:
«On twelve occasions in this book [the only source for the Rouen play, printed about twenty years after the performance in 1474] there are directions for singing, with spaces left for the music to be added. No music was entered in any of the three surviving copies of the book; but the placing of the text on the page makes it absolutely clear that these were all polyphonic songs – mostly in three or four voices but once in two and once in five. The placing of the texts also makes clear that these particular pages of the book were planned like the surviving French chansonniers of the years around 1470, with all voices readable from the same opening and the remaining text at the bottom of the page. Most of the pieces are in the famous «fixed forms» of secular song cultivated in France throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Since the poems here are all sacred (as befits the theme of the play), we must assume that the original music was for secular songs and that the texts here are what were called «noëls» in French. So we have chosen the music of French songs from around the early 1470s and pasted the printed sacred texts on to them. Most of the music chosen here survives in ten or more sources today, which is to say that these were among the most widely loved songs of their time, namely the ones most likely to have been chosen for the original production in 1474.
The composers we have used here were well known in the 1470s. Johannes Ockeghem had been head of the French royal chapel since 1452. Hayne van Ghizeghem had been at the Burgundian ducal court since 1457 and was at the French royal court still in the early 1490s. Loÿset Compere may be the youngest composer here: he is first documented at the Milan ducal court in 1474, though his career was plainly well advanced at that point. Johannes Martini was at the ducal court of Ferrara from 1473. Colinet de Lannoy’s life is known only from a single document at the court of Milan in 1477. Only the Englishman John Bedyngham is almost without biographical documentation, though his works were very widely copied in continental sources from the early 1450s and he died in the years 1458–59 (a detail that you are reading for the first time: all existing printed references to him wrongly have his death a year later). Finally, the anonymous piece was a wild-card: the text sung by the gentiles in Bethlehem is entirely incomprehensible, so we took the music of an almost incomprehensible piece from the same years, »Cados cados adonay cherubim;» and by some wonder the text fits the music like a glove.»
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What do we need CHF 29,000 for?!
This might sound like a lot of money for a CD recording. Aside from the fact that this recording involves an unusually large team of performers, the truth is, most professional musicians often find themselves unpaid or receiving extremely low fees for recording sessions. At ReRenaissance, one of our ideals from the very beginning has been a commitment to fair pay for musicians. This is particularly challenging where CD recording costs are involved, and this is why we need your help.
With up to 18 fantastic musicians on the team, we want to be able to ensure that the many hours of hard work in rehearsals and planning necessary for the creation of this special CD will be fairly compensated. That is why we are reaching for a goal of CHF 29,000; the production costs of the CD would be covered by less than this figure, but reasonable fees for the musicians would not. THANK YOU for your support in helping to make fair fees for recording musicians the norm, rather than the exception!
What your donation will enable us to achieve:
- Hiring up to 18 Renaissance music performers for recording and rehearsals
- 5 days of recording and editing with Karel Walter
- Church rental for recording
- Label/production costs (Albus)
- Organisation and sheet music preparation
- Artistic Direction: Elizabeth Rumsey, Grace Newcombe, and Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. David Fallows
Planned musicians in the project: Grace Newcombe – Voice, Harp | Tessa Roos – Voice, Bells | Matthieu Romanens – Voice | Raitis Grigalis – Voice | Claire Pagniol – Organetto, Harp, Recorder | Baptiste Romain – Fiddle, Rebec, Bagpipes, Voice | Tabea Schwartz – Fiddle, Recorder, Pipe and Tabor | Tobie Miller – Hurdy-gurdy, Recorder, Voice | Rui Stähelin – Plectrum Lute, Voice | Marc Lewon – Plectrum Lute, Voice ….and many more!