Early Music Festival Utrecht 2015 part 6: Rumorum

Fabulous Fringe: Rumorum with Chaucer as Witness

At last, at last: early music which was really “early” in that it was music taken from the age of Chaucer. During the early years of the Utrecht Early Music Festival, there were far more such medieval or renaissance concerts to enjoy. It is a shame, that this is no longer the case – but fortunately, there was this absolutely fabulous fringe concert by Rumorum.

The concert opened with Grace Newcombe rightly stating in Middle English: one may lose everything, but one can still play music. This was followed by two anonymous 12th century pieces: “Ar ne kuthe ich sorge non” and “Bryd one brere”.

From late medieval England and Middle English, Rumorum took its audience on a journey through medieval Belgium respectively northern France. In medieval French followed several songs by Guillaume de Machaut: “De bon espoir”, “Puis que la douce rouse”, “Speravi”, “Honte paour” and “Rose lis printemps verdure”. Then another anonymous song, reworked by Philippe de Vitry: “Adesto”.

From France Rumorum travelled on to Italy and Magister Piero with his “Quando l’aire comenca a farse Bruno” and “Chon branchi assai”, to an anonymous early Italian song “Su la rivera”, followed by Francesco Landini’s “Si dolce non sono”. Rumorum concluded their concert with a beautifully rendered “Amis tout dous vis” composed by Perotus de Molyno, who was born in France but spent time in Chaucer’s England.

And what, you may ask, does this travelling have to do with a thoroughly English poet like Chaucer? Well, Chaucer did travel to all the countries which Rumorum visited and was probably influenced by the music and songs they performed in this truly fabulous concert.  It is often forgotten, that medieval people might travel and not only just on pilgrimage to Canterbury. Chaucer spent time in France as a kind of captive hostess and travelled to Italy, while marrying a lady from what is now Hainault in Belgium.

During this concert, Félix Verry played a medieval violin. Jacob Mariani played an early lute. Grace Newcombe played two medieval harps of different sizes, as well as the clavicymbalum. It had been a while since I had heard this instrument being played and it was a real treat. Its sound lies somewhere between a dulcimer, and early versions of a spinet and clavichord. But the clavicymbalum was not the only lovely instrument to be heard, Grace Newcombe also played two different early harps during this concert. Undoubtedly similar harps will be on show during the music instruments market later this week, but so far, I have never spotted clavicymbalums there.

As for the concert: of course it was abfab and for someone who loves Old and Middle English (and early French) it was wonderful to hear the languages sung and used again. The selected songs and tunes were definitely more courtly than tavern, though a few came close to the kind of (modern) folk music, as performed by groups like Clannad, Altan. It is sincerely to be hoped that Rumorum will find time to continue to visit the Utrecht Early Music Festival in future.

Rumorum, 31st August 2015, Tivoli Vredenburg, Herz, Utrecht
Grace Newcombe
Lucinda Cox
Ozan Karagöz
Jacob Mariani
Félix Verry

Youtube Rumorum performs “Amis tout douc”
Youtube Official Early Music Festival website with music and videos

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