The Llibre Vermell. Pilgrim Songs & Dances
New London Consort
, Philip Pickett
L'Oiseau Lyre "Florilegium" 433 186-2

Llibre Vermell of Monteserrat
Pilgrim songs and dances associated with the Shrine to tje Virgin at Montserrat

1. O Virgo Splendens  (song)  [7:18]   LV  1
Catherine Bott · Tessa Bonner, sopranos
Catherine King, mezzo-soprano
Michael George · Stephen Charlesworth, baritones
Simon Grant, bass

2. Stella Splendens  (virelai-danse)  [7:37]   LV  2
Catherine Bott · Tessa Bonner, sopranos
Catherine King, mezzo-soprano
Michael George · Stephen Charlesworth, baritones
Simon Grant, bass
2 lutes, 2 harps, 2 high fiddles, 2 low fiddles, 2 shawms, tabors

3. Laudemus Virginem  (song)  [5:17]   LV  3
Catherine Bott · Tessa Bonner, sopranos
Catherine King, mezzo-soprano
Michael George · Stephen Charlesworth, baritones
Simon Grant, bass

4. Mariam Matrem Virginem  (virelai)  [4:45]   LV  8
Catherine Bott, soprano
2 lutes, 2 harps, 2 high fiddles, 2 low fiddles, bells

5. Polorum Regina  (virelai-danse)  [2:35]   LV  7

6. Cuncti Simus Concanentes  (virelai)  [9:36]   LV  6
Michael George, baritone
guittern, 3 harps, 2 high fiddles, 2 low fiddles, 2 recorders, nakers, tabors

7. Splendens Ceptigera  (song)  [5:10]   LV  4
Catherine Bott · Tessa Bonner, sopranos
Catherine King, mezzo-soprano
Michael George · Stephen Charlesworth, baritones
Simon Grant, bass

8. Los Set Goyts  (ballad-danse)  [10:51]   LV  5
Catherine Bott · Sara Stowe, sopranos
guittern, 3 harps, 2 high fiddles, 2 low fiddles, dulcimer, bells

9. Imperayritz de la Ciutat Joyosa  (motet)  [10:40]   LV  9
Andrew King, tenor
2 lutes, 2 harps, 2 high fiddles, 2 low fiddles

10. Ad Mortem Festinamus  (virelai)  [5:59]   LV  10
guittern, 3 harps, 2 rebecs, 2 low fiddles, symphony, 2 recorders, xylophone, tabors

Catherine Bott · Tessa Bonner · Olive Simpson
Alison Wray · Sara Stowe · Catherine King
Kristine Szulik · Andrew King · Michael George
Stephen Charlesworth · Robert Evans
Mark Rowlinson · Simon Grant

- Tom Finucane
Lutes - Tom Finucane, Paula Chateauneuf
Gothic harps - Frances Kelly, Delyth Wynne, Hannelore Devaere
High fiddles - Paulo Beznosiuk, Giles Lewin
Low fiddles - Mark Levy, Susanna Pell
Rebecs - Pavlo Beznosiuk, Giles Lewin
Symphony - Philip Pickett
Recorders - William Lyons, Pamela Thorby
Shawms - Philip Pickett, Keith McGowan
Dulcimer - David Corkhill
Xylophone, Bells, Nakers, Tabors - Stephen Henderson

Philip Pickett

Catherine Bottsoprano
Andrew Kingtenor
Michael Georgebaritone
Simon Grantbass


This recording was monitored on B & W Loudspeakers
Recording location: Temple Church, London, November 1990
Cover: Illustration from the Llibre Vermell - Abadía, Biblioteca, Montserrat/Arxiu Más, Barcelona
Art Direction: DAVID SMART

© Ⓟ 1992 The Decca Record Company Limited, London

Tom Finucane — g: Barber, London 1982 (after Hans Oth)
— d: Barber, London 1982 (after Hans Oth)

Tom Finucane — Duncalf, Manchester 1978 (after late 14thC iconography)
Paula Chateauneuf — Barber, London 1982 (after early 15thC iconography)
Elyass, Damascus 1986 (Oud)

Gothic harps
Frances Kelly — Haycock, London, 1984 (after early 15thC iconography)
Delyth Wynne — Hobrough, Beauly 1990 (after early 15thC iconography)
Hannelore Devaere — Hobrough, Beauly 1989 (after early 15thC iconography)

High fiddles
Pavlo Beznosiuk — g: Shann, Brighton 1978 (after early 15thC iconography)
d: Gotschy, Berlin 1982  (after early 15thC iconography)
Giles Lewin — Laidlaw, Edinburgh 1979 (after early 15thC iconography)

Low fiddles
Mark Levy — Davies, London 1977 (after 15thC iconography)
Susanna Pell — Bridgewood, London 1989 (after 15thC iconography)
Pavlo Beznosiuk — Bisgood, London 1977 (after various folk originals)
Giles Lewin — Bisgood, London 1976 (after various folk originals)

Philip Pickett — Ellis, Hereford 1977

William Lyons — Moeck, Celle, 1984
Pamela Thorby — von Huene, Boston 1984

Philip Pickett — Moeck, Celle 1976 (various originals)
Keith McGowan - Hanchet, Essen 1985 (Spanish original, Brussels)

Stephen Henderson — Leedy/Tuned Percussion, USA/London

David Corkhill — Chinese, 1974

Stephen Henderson — Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London 1982

Stephen Henderson — Williamson, Spalding 1975

Stephen Henderson — Williamson, Spalding 1975
David Corkhill — Williamson, Spalding 1975


Europe houses many shrines built in medieval times at the burial  sites of saints or apostles, or at places associated with miracles performed by the Virgin Mary. In Spain, two such shrines were especially famous in the Middle Ages —Santiago de Compostela in the north-west, where pilgrims came from all over Europe to worship at the grave of St James (cf The New London Consort's recording Pilgrimage to Santiago, L'Oiseau-lyre 433 148-2); and the monastery of Montserrat, near Barcelona, where a more localised cult grew up around the chapel dedicated to the Virgin.

The beautiful wooden carving of the Virgin  worshipped in Montserrat today dates from around 1200, but hermits had lived on the mountain for centuries before that and a chapel was established there from the 9th century. A monastery was founded on the mountain in the 1020s by the famous Abbot Oliva of Ripon; a Benedictine monastery equal in stature to St Martial of Limoges and St Gallen in Switzerland. Ripoll, never isolated from other great European centres of learning despite its geographical situation, became the most important centre of Catalonia's religious culture, with its own special areas and traditions of learning. The monks even developed a unique system of musical notation.

The monastery at Montserrat, a branch of Ripoll and thus from the beginning a small centre of learning, quickly grew in fame and size until it became one of the great cultural centres of Catalonia, finally achieving independence from Ripoll in 1409 and going on to outlive its founding house while continuing Ripoll's finest intellectual traditions.

The monks of Montserrat were noted for their intellectual and musical excellence; some attended universities such as Paris and Bologna, some studied at the various Benedictine schools, some in Barcelona or Montpellier; and there were a number of well-educated clerical noblemen attached to the monastery. Although these were not actual members of the monastic fraternity — each representing a noble Catalonian family in the daily masses — their close contact with the monks led to a constant and fruitful exchange of learning and new ideas

By the end of the Middle Ages the monks had assembled a distinguished library. Unfortunately this was largely destroyed in 1811 during the Napoleonic wars. The most precious surviving medieval manuscript in the Scriptorium at Montserrat is undoubtedly the famous Ms. No.1, known as the Llibre Vermeil or Red Book of Montserrat, from the colour of the late 19th century velvet which covets the binding of the codex. The manuscript, completed in 1399, originally contained about 172 double pages, or folios, of which 35 have been lost.

Included in the Llibre Vermell are ten musical works — possibly more originally — by a number of unknown composers. They display considerable variety of musical and literary style, and their purpose is explained in a note prefacing the first song: 'Because the pilgrims to Montserrat sometimes have the desire to sing and dance, both while holding night vigil in the church of the Blessed Virgin, and also during the day on the church square, where only decent and devout songs may be sung, so a number of suitable songs have been written to satisfy their need. These should be made use of with respect and moderation, without disturbing those who wish to continue their prayers and religious meditations.' The pilgrims are further exhorted to avoid frivolous songs and lascivious dances both during their journey to the shrine and on the way home!

The musical compositions of the Llibre Vermell are certainly not the work of only one composer. O Virgo splendens, the first song in the manuscript, is written in a kind of plainsong notation — possibly the piece represents an early, specifically local style — while the rest display direct links with Ars Nova style and notation. This is interesting as these techniques of composition would have been known in Catalonia only by professional musicians. Perhaps the pieces in pure Ars Nova style were written to honour the Virgin of Montserrat by musicians from the Aragonese court. The rest, which show a number of very individual features, may have been written by the monks themselves.

It could be that the well-travelled scholars of Montserrat became acquainted with a variety of foreign song styles and compositional techniques and brought their knowledge home to the monastery, where they developed their own very individual style of composition —somehow managing to belong to the Ars Nova tradition while displaying a unique and noble simplicity, a direct and sometimes earthy naivety closely related to folk song.

Or perhaps there is another, very simple explanation; the last song in the manuscript, Ad mortem festinamus, appears to make a virelai out of a version of another Latin song, Scribere proposui, which survives in a number of other sources. Perhaps most of the music of the Llibre Vermell repertory existed with other words as folk song, virelai, ballade, rondellus, conductus and motet before the monks of Montserrat substituted their own newly-composed and more suitably pious texts. After all, we know that the first Christmas songs sung in church were often dance songs with refrains known as caroles, the texts reminders of old pagan customs associated with the winter solstice. Many of these texts were deemed lascivious and unsuitable, and so had to be replaced by more pious words. Thus the new Christmas refrain songs became known as carols.

There are other, even more relevant, examples of similar contrafacta. In the early 14th century Richard Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory compiled a moralising anthology of new songs called The Red Book (!) of Ossory. In the preface we read 'the Bishop of Ossory has made these songs for the vicars of the cathedral, for the priests and clerks, to be sung on important holidays and at times of recreation so that their throats and mouths, consecrated to God, may not be polluted by songs associated with lewd and worldly revelry. As they are trained singers they should provide themselves with suitable tunes the words require.'

The fact that the 10 songs of the Llibre Vermell were copied into the manuscript at all indicates that they had already proved popular with pilgrims. Three of them, Cuncti simus concanentes, Los set goyts and Ad mortem festinamus were intended as dance songs, for the rubrics state clearly that they should be performed ad trepudium rotundum or a ball redon - as circle dances; three are mesmeric mantra-like canons, associated with the French chace and rondellus; and at least one, Polorum regina, was still alive as a folk song in the 16th century.

Philip Pickett