Pneuma Ensemble focuses on 12th and 13th century repertoire as it might have been performed by a small group of jongleurs. Their approach is tight-knit and collaborative; their interpretations range from meditative and poetic, to lively and witty. Their work is appreciated by medieval scholars and by the general public.
Pneuma have become known for their performances of medieval verse narrative. These works are still influential, with elements that evoke for many the entire middle ages: kings and knights, curses and quests, dragons and werewolves, rings and faithful lovers. Despite their medieval popularity and modern influence, these works are almost never performed. By bringing these works to life, Pneuma Ensemble offers modern audiences an imagined historic world.
Various languages and periods, 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 / Anglo-Norman, c. 1170, 30 min
Probably Marie de France's best-loved tale, featuring a heroic werewolf and music from 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
Old French beginning, Middle English, c. 1150 / c. 1250, 90 min
One narrator, 18 characters; true lovers are separated and reunited in a sweet and comic plot with striking parallels to Mozart's 'Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail'.
'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 wildly digressive fabliau of a sly fox and a proud rooster, as narrated by an enthusiastic young priest who would just love to show you his astrolabe.
Sometimes presented with two other fox-and-rooster fables: Alcuin's 'Dicta Vocatur Avis' (Latin) and Marie de France's 'Coc e Gupiz' (Anglo-Norman); total 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 offers some guidance on how not to behave. The darkly slapstick comedy 'Babio' features a misbehaving priest and plenty of grammar jokes. 'Samson Dux Fortissime' is a sung lament narrated by the biblical hero Samson, whose woman problems have an even sorrier outcome than Babio's.