Even my concerts are Medieval

A very Marian evening
For the first time in what seems like several centuries, Andrew and I went out in the evening on Saturday, leaving the kids at home with a babysitter. We went to Ely Cathedral, where the Mediaeval Baebes were doing a concert.

The Mediaeval Baebes are sort of the Spice Girls of early medieval music. I thought there was a slight ‘re-enactment fayre’ fakery about them until they began to sing, at which point I forgave them for unashamedly pandering to the ‘I could have been your white knight and carried you away’ dreams of the predominantly older men in the audience 🙂

But boy can they sing! The music is ancient, but given new and vibrant adaptation, and one of the band would explain the story of each piece before they sang it – so each piece was like a glimpse into the strange world of the past as well as being gorgeous to hear. Being medieval, there was much warning of the transience of beauty, the immanence of death, the tragedy of existence etc, but also in continual counterpoint a celebration of beauty and fun and things that made life worth living.

One of the members of the band – I’m not a sufficient fan to know which one – had recently had a baby and had brought it along, where it was wonderfully silent except to gurgle endearingly at the end of a lullaby 🙂

But the concert was held in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral, and the band played on a dais at the altar end of the room, looked down on by a statue of Mary:

They seemed as hyped by the significance of this as I was – as an awful lot of their repertoire consists of songs to Mary or about Mary and Jesus. Towards the end of the evening they sang a lullaby which was clearly Biblical fanfic, in which a woman says goodbye to her infant son, knowing that Herod has sent out the order to have all male children killed. In that setting, with that music, it almost brought me to tears.

Thankfully they also sang some cheerful and amusing stuff – I particularly liked the medieval bawdy song about the man who had drunk too much to get it up; which they accompanied with appropriate arm gestures 😀

It was very interesting to be in a context and listening to music which was so very much a part of a female tradition. I found it something of an eye-opener. I’ve never had much time for Mary in the past, but perhaps now I will 🙂

Photography was forbidden during the concert but here are the band signing stuff afterwards:

And my realplayer is terribly disorganized so I couldn’t find that lullaby, but here is a sample of the sort of music they played. They played it LOUD and lo! it was good 🙂

Temptasyon by the Mediaeval Baebes

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