Sunday, October 16, 2011

Asteria soundchecks Château de Germolles

They sang, partly in whispers, and everyone in the Château could hear them.

Asteria Musica is Sylvia Rhyne, soprano, and Eric Redlinger, tenor and lute. They research and perform love songs from medieval France, 500 year old love songs. On Saturday night they lectured and sang at Agnes Scott for the SouthEastern Medieval Association.

The Architecture Tourist early music/chateau committee was there.

This is Château de Germolles: "It is the best preserved residence of the Dukes of Burgundy. Built during the second part of the 14th century... a rare example of such a well preserved residence in France in the 14th and the beginning of the 15th centuries, when most of the princely palaces of that period have almost entirely disappeared...(it) evokes court life in France on the eve of the Renaissance."

So what does a 500 old love song sound like anyway? Eric and Sylvia's research includes singing at Château de Germolles.

Maybe a the songs sound a bit like this, the first song they performed at Agnes Scott. They taped this video in the Château.

I didn't understand a word of it. "It's like they (the French) have a different word for everything" -Steve Martin. But of course we did understand.

Did Philip the Bold and Margaret of Flanders hear these songs in this very room?

Who knows, but now I have the strongest urge to paint T's and J's on our bedroom walls. "J," JoAnn, is - of course - my loved one. Thanks to Maureen Nolan for the suggestion.

Sylvia and Eric start with a manuscript, perhaps the only one in existence. They use every means of scholarship to puzzle it out.

Has this song been heard in 500 years? Maybe not.

They visited the very places where the song might have been performed, where the Dukes of Burgundy could employ the finest composers and performers of the day.

Sylvia and Eric sang in these places themselves.

The hard surfaces and high ceilings bounced sound throughout the chateau. The whole court could would have heard a performance. Imagine the shushing.

They learned that they didn't need to sing in full voice. They could sing with dynamics, even in a whisper. Sound engineers and producers compress the dynamics out of music today so we can hear it on a car radio or on an iPod while we are jogging.

Nothing commands attention or evokes emotion like a whisper. They wouldn't have known if they hadn't sung in the Château.

An extraordinary evening, it's another case of wonderful blog serendipity.

See all the smiles? We'd seen and heard something special.

Thanks to Asteria Musica: Sylvia Rhyne, and Eric Redlinger, and to Donna Sadler, (right) Professor of Art at Agnes Scott College for putting the event together and allowing me to be there. Thanks to Marueen who made the connection 15 months ago in my post, "Quant la doulce jouvencelle - medieval letters and love songs."

One more song? "Le corps s'en va et le cuer vous demeure" ("The body departs and the heart remains with you") .


  1. Terry,

    What a perfect venue for this event! Glad you were on the scene to share it with us.

  2. Very pretty! It reminds me of that cd you had a long time ago (lamentations?).

  3. I still have the CD by the Tallis Scholars but was Renaissance stuff. Here is a particularly good Lamentations excerpt


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