programs

Pneuma Ensemble is one of a very few groups worldwide focused on 12th and 13th century repertoire. Their approach is tight-knit and collaborative; their interpretations range from meditative and graceful, to lively and witty. They perform both for medieval scholars and the general public.

Pneuma have become known for their performances of medieval verse narrative. These 'lais' and 'romances' are familiar as symbols of the entire middle ages: tales of marvels and adventures, faithful or faithless lovers, quests and challenges. These works are seldom performed, even as excerpts or adaptations, and almost never as full-length works in their original languages. These performances give audiences the opportunity to immerse themselves, both in the reconstructed sounds of the period, and in a historic, imaginative world.

Concerts

typically 60-70 min

Pneuma Ensemble performs a wide variety of medieval song in Old Occitan, Old French, Galego-Portuguese, Middle English, Middle High German, Latin, and Italian, as well as the earlier surviving medieval dance music.

Lai de Bisclaveret

Old French Lai, c. 1170, 30 min

Probably Marie de France's best-loved tale, featuring a heroic werewolf and music from the BL Harley 978 ms.

It is thrilling to hear the sounds of Anglo-Norman.... surtitles are really rendered unnecessary…. A magical visit from a seer from another world. ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Stage Door, April 2017

Floris & Blancheflour

Middle English Romance, c. 1250, 90 min

One narrator, 18 characters; true lovers separated in a lightly comic plot similar to Mozart's 'Abduction from the Seraglio'.

'Floris and Blancheflour was *stunning* Entrancing to watch, and the feat of memory was just as impressive. The standing ovation was thoroughly, richly deserved'. - audience member

The Nun's Priest's Tale

Middle English, c. 1390, 45 min

Chaucer's encyclopedic, wildly digressive fabliau of fox and rooster, narrated by an enthusiastic and ambitious young priest who loves to show off his astrolabe.

Sometimes presented in context with two similar, but much briefer fables: Alcuin's 'Dicta Vocatur Avis' (Latin) and Marie de France's 'Coc e Gupiz' (Anglo-Norman); 60 min

Lecture Demonstrations

talks with live music, 60-90 min

Facets of medieval music: past topics have included: famous composers (Hildegard of Bingen, Bernart de Ventadorn, Neidhart von Reuental, Guillaume de Machaut); Instrumentarium: medieval instruments; the troubadours; music in the life and works of Dante; the music of the spheres: music in medieval philosophy

Problematic Men

Latin, c. 1150, 80 min

For the Latinists, Pneuma presents two 'negative exemplar' ('how not to behave') pieces from the 12th century. 'Babio' is an 'elegiac comedy' about a misbehaving priest, his wife, and her lover, featuring both slapstick humour and obscure grammar jokes. 'Samson Dux Fortissime' is a narrative lai/sequence/planctus featuring the biblical hero Samson, fatally unable to resist temptation.