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Working with Trio Mediaeval

I’ve known Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Anna Maria Friman since the  newly-formed Trio Mediaeval first came to the Hilliard summer schools some twenty years ago. They subsequently asked me to produce their first CD and we went on to collaborate on two more albums for ECM. We’ve have kept in touch since, exchanging ideas about programming and so on, and of course Anna and I have worked extensively with Gavin Bryars and Alternative History, and more recently with Serikon. Eons ago there was a brief Trio Mediaeval sextet when the Trio invited the (then) three Hilliard tenors to join them for a new commission from Gavin  Bryars, but apart from a bit of spontaneous droning at a concert in York for which they hauled me out of the audience I’ve not sung with them for almost two decades. Until last week when I joined them and their newest member Jorunn Lovise Husan in the great church at Otterberg in the Rhineland-Palatinate. Over the years I have done many concerts in the  Via Mediaeval – Musik und Räume des Mittelalters series run by Kultursommer Rheinland-Pfalz, and last year, after a concert by the Conductus Ensemble, project director Holger Wittgen floated the idea of a programme by Trio Mediaeval and me for the 20th anniversary season this year; Machaut and the Kings of Cyprus was the result.

It was a very special occasion. Of all the ensembles to have absorbed the Hilliard experience the Trio comes closest to the HE musical aesthetic, combining a finely blended, fine-tuned sound with an enterprising approach to both old and new repertoire. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to feel a little as though I was coming home. From the first notes at our rehearsals in Oslo it was like the sun coming out, and we knew that both the sound and the programme would work. Our programme choice was designed to make the most of the the fact that Linn and Anna have similar soprano ranges and Jorunn Lovisa (like her Trio predecessors) also possesses a tenor rang that overlaps with mine. I hadn’t imagined I’d ever sing the Machaut mass again, but the parts fitted us perfectly with some careful transpositions so it virtually chose itself.  The Cypriot polyphony (early 15th century equivalent of Richard Strauss…) has the ars subtilior line-up of two (sometimes three) virtuosic voices over one or two slower moving parts, and this too proved absolutely ideal for our quartet. For an encore we sang Descendi in hortum meum, an old Hilliard favourite written for the HE by Ivan Moody (whose PhD Gavin Bryars and I examined at the University of York some years ago). It really was a kind of homecoming for me (if only temporarily!), a great joy to fit in to an ensemble whose musical instincts are identical to mine, and I’m looking forward to repeating the experience in the future.  We had a wonderful time in Otterberg, and the audience loved it too, one reviewer likening it to a walk in a magical garden:


Thankyou Holger! And thankyou Linn, Anna and Jorunn!

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