A Medieval Divertissement
The Philadelphia Antiqua Players and Chorus



Fortress Records BP 61670


1 - Deo Gracias, Anglia (Agincourt Carol)   [0:52]
2 - Trotto   [0:59]
3 - Be Merry, Be Merry   [0:45]
4 - Lullay: I Saw a Sweete, Seemly Sight   [3:07]
5 - Nowell Sing We Now   [0:55]
6 - Saltarello   [1:37]

Samson, Dux Fortissime   [11:58]
(A dramatic cantata of the thirteenth century)
7 - Chorus   [1:22]
8 - Interlude – Samson – Samson and Chorus   [2:28]
9 - Samson Dux Fortissime - Interlude; Samson   [1 :36]
10 - Interlude – Delilah – Samson   [1:31]
11 - Interlude – Chorus – Samson – Chorus – Delilah – Samson and Chorus – Samson   [3:31]
12 - Interlude – Chorus – Samson and Chorus   [1:30]


Renaissance Choral Music

1 - Claudio MONTEVERDI: Pater, Venit Hora   [1:22]
2 - Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA: Hodie Christus Natus Est   [2:07]
3 - Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK: Chantez a Dieu Chanson Nouvelle   [1:36]

Medieval Carols And Dances

4 - Ah Man, Assay   [1:42]
5 - Nova, Nova   [1:28]
6 - Deo Gracias   [0:57]
7 - Nota   [1:10]
8 - Saltarello   [0:54]
9 - Alleluia Psallat   [1:10]

The Choir of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
Bluma Goldberg Jacobs

(A/1, 3-8, 11, 12, B/1-5, 9)


Robert N. Peery, Jr. • tenor (A/4, 5)
Roy T. Lloyd • bass (A/5, B/5), Samson (A/8-12)

The Philadelphia Antiqua Players
Bluma Goldberg Jacobs

Ruth Silin • soprano (Delilah) (A/10, 11)
Kenneth E. Zindle • drum (A/1, 6-8, 11, 12)
Bluma Goldberg Jacobs • soprano recorder (A/2), alto recorder (A/6), viola (A/8-12)
David C. Newhart • tambourine (A/2, 6-12)
John R. Warren • guitar (A/4, 8, 10, 11)
Robert G. Sonnenberg • bells (A/5, 6, 9), woodblock (A/10, 12)
Fred T. Crawford • finger cymbals (A/10, 12)
Robert L. Buckwalter • soprano recorder (B/4, 6, 7, 9)
Kenneth T. Michnay • tenor (B/5), tenor recorder (B/4, 6, 9)
Robert E. Bornemann • alto recorder (B/4, 6-9)
Donald S. Cornelius • bells (B/5, 6, 9), finger cymbals (B/7), triangle (B/8)
Leonard F. Ashford, Jr. • drum (B/7-9)
Douglas A. Haak • tambourine (B/8, 9)

It is only natural that from time to time the Philadelphia Antiqua Players and the Choir of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia should join forces, since they have the same musical director. Of the several occasions when they performed together, none was more happy than when they presented Festa: A Medieval Divertissement . Beginning with carols and dances from the 12th and 13th centuries, and using ancient instruments for accompaniment, the work recalls the feasts and entertainments of Medieval England – holiday season in the days of chivalry.

The highpoint of Festa is the dramatic cantata telling the story of Samson and Delilah, Samson, Dux Fortissime. The work of special interest is the history of medieval drama. Unlike other dramatic works with religious subjects from this period, the Samson has no liturgical ties. Not intended for use in church, it appears to be a wholly secular place, which just happens to have a biblical subject. It has no special religious or theological concern: rather the piece celebrates Samson, the hero and patriot, to whom belongs glory for what he did for his fatherland. Along the way the piece manages also to make some wry remarks about the dangers of falling prey to a designing woman! The fact that this is the only work of this kind known from the Middle Ages only enhances its interest.

The work is preserved in a manuscript of the British Museum (Harleian / Harley 978), the same manuscript which has the famous round, “Sumer is icumen in”. Strictly speaking, Samson is not a play, but a setting of long Latin poem called a planctus, a lament. At the same time it is clear that there is dialog between Samson and Delilah and Samson and the narrator or chorus. Although unmarked in the manuscript itself, the speeches of Samson and Delilah are clearly definable from the context of the poem: those of the chorus are clear only at the beginning and in the last two lines at the end. In this performing edition, the chorus is given a rather substantial role. Where the sense of the text allows, the chorus appears as narrator, telling the story: at other places, however, it addresses Samson, and at times even participates in the action.

Musically the work is also of interest. The whole piece is really a free, rhapsodic development of about ten melodic elements, some quite closely related. The somewhat restricted melodic material gives the work unity, while the free handling of the material gives interest and variety. Throughout there is a clear attempt at musical characterization: the boasting , self-assured Samson and the seductive Delilah appear not only in the text but also in the melodies. Some melodic groupings appear several times in the work, and sometimes with real dramatic impact, as, for example, in the case of laments of Samson, which use the same melodies as Delilah in her song of triumph.

Samson is a monodic work, having only a single voice line, with no harmonies and no instrumentation indicated. In this performing edition instrumental accompaniment has been added as well as additional parts for the chorus. The harmonies follow the style of early organum. Five instrumental interludes have also been inserted. These are based on the musical materials of the work itself and serve to mark the end of section and to set the mood for the next.

The Philadelphia Antiqua Players and the Choir gave fifty performance of the work. One critic described it as an “ingenious realization of medieval dramatic cantata on the Samson and Delilah story – not as elaborate as the Play of Daniel, but hardly less amazing”.