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Opus Anglicanum at New Chaucer Society 2016
Wed, July 13, 2016, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM BST
In association with the New Chaucer Society Biennial Congress, which is being held at Queen Mary 11-15 July 2016, we are delighted to offer this unique opportunity to hear Opus Anglicanum. Opus Anglicanum is a group five male singers who perform unaccompanied musical and narrative sequences, using the full historical European repertoire of part songs, polyphony, street song, music hall, traditional song and arrangements, from the present right back to the seventh-century chant of the Roman church.
The performace will take place in the atmospheric and intimate setting of the Drama Studio in the Arts 2 building, at Queen Mary's Mile End campus, East London.
Their performance for this event will include Venantius Fortunatus: Poems for Radegund, a new composition by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, and three short settings by Howard Skempton of Fortunatus' poems to Radegund - which will have their first performance for this concert.
The charm and impish vitality of the 6th-century Italian poet Fortunatus comes across warmly in his verse. He settled in Poitiers because of his friendship with Radegund, the separated wife of the Merovingian King Clothaire I. Here he composed some of the greatest hymns of the middle ages ‘Vexilla Regis prodeunt’, ‘Pange lingua gloriosi’ and ‘Salva festa dies’. Our programme involves settings of these and readings from his delightful lyrics, especially those addressed to Radegund and to Agnes the Abbess of the monastery which she had founded in Poitiers. It was here that the fragment of the Holy Cross was placed, for the ceremonial reception of which the ‘Vexilla Regis’ was composed.
Our programme tells the fascinating story of Radegund in the context of settings of these poems both in the original chant, and also by Bruckner, Dufay and Byrd. Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s 2015 ‘In the crypt of the wood’ takes the words and musical chant of ‘Vexilla Regis’ as its inspiration; and her work is an important element in the sequence.
Fortunatus was plainly delightful company. His many little friendly poems to Radegund and to Agnes, her younger protege and Abbess of Holy Cross, are full of friendship and love. They are beautifully descriptive also of flowers, the elements, places, and people. Some of these are part of the sequence alongside the passionate liturgical poems mentioned above, which he also composed for Radegund.