Oh, we are so full of good news this week! Shortly before the recording sessions, Laurie learned that a book she co-edited with the wonderful Bonnie Blackburn, Eroticism in Early Modern Music, has been chosen as Best Collaborative Project in the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women‘s 2016 awards. Both Laurie’s introduction, ‘Encoding the musical erotic’ and her contributed essay, ‘”Non è si denso velo”: hidden and forbidden practice in Wert’s Ottavo libro de madrigali a cinque voci (Venice: Gardano, 1586)’ were informed by our research into the performance practice of Ferrara’s concerto di dame, and recorded on our 2002 disc, Dangerous Graces. Laurie travelled to Bruges to accept the award during the meeting of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, and then travelled more or less straight from Belgium to Cuddesdon, pausing at home only to swap suitcases and reorganise to accommodate the celebratory chocolate. Of course.
Just one little snippet we can share now… Our friends over at Les Canards Chantants set a challenge this summer as to which ensemble could come up with the naughtiest chord. Theirs was pretty saucy, we must admit, but we think this one from Suor Anonima’s setting of ‘Haec dies’ is unbeatable:
Musica Secreta has just spent a week at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, recording motets from RISM 1543/2, Musica quinque vocum motteta materna lingua vocata – thanks to development funding from Arts Council England, a generous grant from the Ambache Charitable Trust, and our amazing Crowdfunder supporters. Our fabulous Celestial Sirens joined us for a day, so not only were we able to make the most wonderful music with a group of committed and talented women, we were also able to catch up with old friends. And we made new friends with the Cuddesdon Sisters, whose beautiful and inspiring chapel was the venue for our recording, and whose lovely new home was our lodging for the week. We couldn’t have been made more welcome, and we couldn’t have chosen a better acoustic in which to record this special music.
We all felt that we were part of something truly special, and that the recording is only the start of a new attitude to Renaissance music. As we never tire of telling people, nuns’ voices were the sound of the Renaissance city, accessible to every citizen, rich or poor, and a backdrop to both their everyday worship and their landmark ceremonies. Look out for further updates and a release announcement!
In mid-July, Laurie and Deborah ran their first week-long course of female-voice polyphony, with optional morning yoga on the terrace, at Deborah’s house in Triora – part of Deborah’s summer workshop series Triora Musica. The building, Casa Convento, is an ex-convent (very appropriate); participants (and tutors) stayed in well-appointed cells with views out over the Ligurian mountains. It was a lovely week, with heat, sun, thunderstorms, and breezes – and lots of pizza and prosecco after a hard day’s work. We kept cool in the afternoons by rehearsing in the town’s churches, including the tiny fourteenth-century church of San Bernardino, which nestles in the terraces below Casa Convento.
We are delighted to announce that the Ambache Charitable Trust has awarded us £3000 towards our recording of RISM 1543/2, Musica quinque vocum motteta materna lingua vocata. The Trust is dedicated to supporting the dissemination of works by female composers. The grant means that our recording expenses are now almost fully funded. A great big thank you to the Trustees!
We are so proud of everything that has happened this weekend. The concert at the Brighton Early Music Festival was intense and uplifting, and we have been overwhelmed by the immediate generosity of our friends, raising over £1000 in the first forty-eight hours of our crowdfunding campaign. Keep an eye on the updates on the campaign website, http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/lucrezia-borgias-daughter – we will be post news there as well. We’ve joined Facebook and Twitter, too!
Musica Secreta has joined the crowdfunding generation with an appeal for our new CD of the materna lingua motets. We have until December 19 to raise £4000 – or hopefully a lot more – towards the project. Very exciting, and very scary at the same time.
So, get your pledging hats on, and join our circle of supporters! And thank you!
So, today, in order to help me deal with the excitement of tomorrow, I’m keeping busy finalising our crowdfunding page for a new CD of the materna lingua motets, and making a video to publicise the campaign. And counting habits. More soon!
In some sixteenth-century convents – especially after the Council of Trent – the punishment for playing and singing polyphony was the ‘removal of the veil’. This entailed a loss of privileges, and a loss of voice in convent affairs, sometimes for as long as two years. You’d have thought that we had all been very badly behaved, since we seem to have lost our voice for quite some time.
But really, we’ve just had a project under wraps – oh, and Laurie had to finish the draft of her book.
But over the summer of 2015, things have been moving quickly. We were awarded some funds from Arts Council England for some intensive rehearsal, concentrating on the mysterious and extraordinary motets in the 1543 Motteta…materna lingua vocata. And now we are ready to bring them into public performance.
Next Saturday we will be having an unveiling of a different sort, as we introduce our new programme, Lucrezia Borgia’s Daughter, at the Brighton Early Music Festival. It will be an evening of music by the established masters of the Ferrarese ducal chapel, and by the anonymous composer of the materna lingua motets, who we believe is none other than Suor Leonora d’Este (1515-1575), the only daughter of Lucrezia Borgia and Duke Alfonso I d’Este. The concert also marks the five hundredth anniversary of her birth.
Are we excited? I think we are….
Yesterday the winners of the Engage Competition (run by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement) were announced at an awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum. Laurie won the Individually-led Project category with Celestial Sirens! We are so very proud of, and grateful to, every one of the Sirens, past and present. The award is a wonderful recognition of the investment that the choir has made in working together with us. There is still a great deal of work to do, and music to be sung, and we are all eager to get started on new recording projects this summer.
The judges said, “Deeply embedded in on-going cycles of research, the project brought the research alive for all the participants – whether other researchers, festival goers, performers, authors, readers, or music lovers.”