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Trio Mediaeval: A Worcester Ladymass

C. Michael Bailey By

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Cobbled together from the scraps and remnants left from Henry VII's 1536-41 dissolution of Catholic Monasteries, this Worcester Ladymass ("Ladymass"—Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin, in this particular case for the Feast of the Assumption, August 15) was studiously assembled by Nicky Losseff, the music editor for the Norse Trio Mediaeval. Research revealed that neither a Credo (I believe recitation of the Apostles' Creed) or Benedictamus Domino (Let us bless the Lord) were present among the fragments and so, Losseff asked English composer Gavin Bryars to composes these pieces for this project.

The end result is an alchemical approach to melding ancient and modern music made a specialty by Manfred Eicher and his ECM Records. Eicher both seeks out and attracts these projects with a fearless abandon. Insinuating improvisational freedom into ancient texts like folk songs (Trio Mediaeval's Folk Songs (2007) or religious texts (all collaborations between Jan Garbarek and the The Hilliard Ensemble) has been a mainstay of Eicher's and his performers' methods.

So, is this what Mass singing sounded like in the 14th Century? Yes and no. As belabored in the liner notes of this offering, the context of this performance is vastly different today than in situ. The presentation mixes mono- and polyphony, based on availability of texts and not what was commonly practiced. This, however, takes nothing away from what amounts to the prefect presentation of music we would not have been treated to, save for dumb serendipity in the face of period reflex prejudice and intolerance.

The appeal of this music is its rareness and obscurity crossed with the pioneer spirit of an exceptioaln vocal trio and a visionary producer, for whom no text is off limits and no performance is without merit.

Track Listing: Salve sancta parens; Kyrie; Gloria; Munda Maria; Sponsa rectoris omnium; O sponsa Dei electa; O Maria virgo pia; Benedicta / Virgo Del genitrix; Credo; Felix namque; Salve rosa florum; Grata iuvencula; Inviolata integra mater; De supernis sedibus; Dulciflua tua memoria; Sanctus; Agnus Dei; Beata viscera; Alma Dei genitrix; Benedicamus Domino.

Personnel: Anna Maria Friman: voice, melody chimes (8, 17); Linn Andrea Fuglseth: voice, melody chimes (8, 17); Torunn Østrem Ossum: voice, melody chimes (8, 17).

Title: A Worcester Ladymass | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: ECM Records


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