Chanting the XIIIth Century 

A Lady Worcester Mass (excerpts)

Under this title the Norwegian Trio Mediaeval sant a composition of hymns from the 13th century, parts of which were found. In the 16the century, the 'nice' Henry VIII had everything that was even faintly papal destroyed, including the many wonderful Worcester Books of music. Fortunately, not all were burned, used as cover pages or to consolidate new music books. Thanks to these discoveries, heirlooms from three major polyphonic anthologies could be reconstructed. The whole was called 'Lady Mass', a votive mass dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who enjoyed a massive cult in mainalnd Britain.

Despite the fact that women tended to sing in unison, the existence of complex polyphonic songs for women is known for certain, a.o. in Las Huelgas, Spain. These and other factros led to the Lady Mas, the Mass for Our Lady, put together as it is now. The English composer Gavin Bryars was called upon and in 2008, he completed the missing parts.

The Trio Mediaeval consists of the sopranos Anna Maria Friman, Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Torun Østrem Ossum. Since its inception in 1997 the trio became world famous and it duly honored its fame with the concert it performed on Wednesday 25. May in the historically interesting Chapel Church (Kapellekerk) of Brussels. The church had retained a portion of its Romanesque structure so that, whit this building, you right away have an architectural atmosphere whitch matches the music from the 13th century.

I happened to arrive in very good time and had the opportunity of admiring the church in all its magnificent beauty. The remains of the medieval frescoes put me in the right atmosphere. You could almost smell the burning candles, imagining yourself as a medieval dweller from the old magnificent city of Brussels, whitch had not fallen to the present destruction rage. And ther I was, listeniing to the three ladies singing.The impressions the church produced on me, I fixed on my retina and then I closed my eyes, listening.

Pure harmony

The music worked as a time machine taking me to Worchester in the twelve hundreds. The polyphonic harmonies - genial compositions as mysterious as everything in that era - filled the room, ascended, resounded in all corners with intertwining echoes that are part of the composition, bringing me into another dimension. The wonders of these sounds fused with the stille robus but already clear embellishment of early Gothic. The lyrics and the music tied to the ritual gave me a religious feeling that seemed eternal. Something one hardly understands today. 

Each singer singing, them singing in chorus, the unit structure, professionalism, the lingering and extinction of the senses in order for perfect harmony to come to the fore in, to the smallest nuances it produces, the balance the ladies find between the sound and the space they inhabit with their music... It is a truly exceptional musical experience. 

Gavin Bryars wrote the missing pieces in en contemporary language, but with strong grafting onto the ancient music.The ladies accompanied themselves with something like chimes, each holding two organ pipe-like tubes having a kind of soft valve they resonated. Very subtle and beautiful. Bryars' work can possibly be deemed a little less successful in that he wanted to go too far. One can hear it. The singers are on the verge of having to force their voices on and off. You can also hear that the composer had not quite understood that the play of echoes is part of polyphony. Nevertheless, he wrote very enjoyable pieces to complete these hymns to the Virgin Mary. 

There were few people at the Chapel Church, a sign of lack of knowledge among the public. Well, there is barely any training in this regard, or any responsible form of media attention, and for the artists, it is almost like fighting a losing battle. Fortunately, there were a 100 or os listeners and I was there to review this performance and to draw a well-deserved attention to this music and to the Trio Mediaeval. 

You can relive this experience, not in the way I was lucky to hear it but not less qualitatively similar on CD? Visit  and immerse yourself in medieval beauty. 

Gouden Label (Golden Label Award)

Al the best,


Ludwig Van Mechelen

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