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.
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
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
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.