Maria Morning Star / The Renaissance Players
Cantigas de Santa Maria II
Walsingham WAL 8008-2


1. Virgen madre groriosa  [10:13]   CSM 340
Mina Kanaridis, soprano | Tobias Coler, counter-tenor
Winsome Evans, bells

2. Virgen Santa Maria guarda-nos  [6:49]   CSM 47
Chorus | Geoff Sirmai, reader
Winsome Evans, sinfonye, psaltery | Katie Ward, vielle | Benedict Hames, rebec | Andrew Tredinnick, ud | Barbara Stackpool, finger cymbals | Andrew Lambkin, daireh

3. O nome da Virgen santa  [1:59]   CSM 254
Winsome Evans, whistle | Benedict Hames, whistle | Katie Ward, vielle | Andrew Lambkin, darabukka

4. Muito devemos, varões  [7:39]   CSM 2
Mina Kanaridis, soprano | Jenny Duck-Chong, mezzo-soprano
Winsome Evans, organetto | Katie Ward, vielle | Benedict Hames, rebec | Andrew Tredinnick, gittern | Barbara Stackpool, finger cymbals | Andrew Lambkin, daireh

5. Non pod' ome pela Virgen  [7:14]   CSM 127
Winsome Evans, harp, psaltery | Andrew Tredinnick, gittern | Llew Kiek, citole

6. O que pola Virgen leixa  [7:48]   CSM 124
Mina Kanaridis, soprano | Jenny Duck-Chong, mezzo-soprano | Tobias Cole, counter-tenor
Winsome Evans, sinfonye | Andrew Tredinnick, chitarra moresca | Barbara Stackpool, castanets | Andrew Lambkin, daireh

7. Maldito seja quien non loara  [8:23]   CSM 290
Jenny Duck-Chong, mezzo-soprano | Mara Kiek, alto
Winsome Evans, harp | Ingrid Walker, gemshorn | Katie Ward, vielle

8. A virgen mui groriosa  [2:38]   CSM 42
Winsome Evans, whistles (2) | Andrew Lambkin, tabors (2)

9. Maravillosos e piadosos  [5:36]   CSM 139
Chorus | Jenny Duck-Chong, mezzo-soprano
Winsome Evans, organetto | Ingrid Walker, whistle | Katie Ward, vielle | Andrew Tredinnick, chitarra moresca | Barbara Stackpool, castanets | Andrew Lambkin, darabukka

10. Aver non poderia  [7:44]   CSM 403
Chorus | Jenny Duck-Chong, mezzo-soprano, tambourine
Winsome Evans, organetto, treble shawms (2) | Ingrid Walker, whistle | Katie Ward, vielle | Benedict Hames, rebec | Andrew Tredinnick, ud | Barbara Stackpool, finger cymbals, castanets | Andrew Lambkin, daireh, darabukka | Mara Kiek, tapan

1. Virgen madre groriosa   (C. 340)

This is one of nine cantigas which appears twice in manuscript b.1.2, first as 340 and later as 412. The last word of each of the seven stanzas of this cantiga de loor is "alva" (dawn) and the first three words for each of the six complete stanzas are "Tu es alva", thus identifying this as a sacred dawn song, a sort of summons to worshipful prayer and devotion. It has several possible conceptual precedents — for example, the Christian Latin, religious dawn-hymns, dozens of which survive from at least as early as the 9th and 10th centuries. Extracts from Ales diei nuntius, a religious hymn by Prudentius (4th century), contain images which relate to cantiga 340:

"...when dawn has sprinkled the sky with her shining breath she may strengthen all those who have carried out their work and give them hope of light... Gold, pleasure, joy, riches, honours, successes, all those evil things that puff us up — when morning comes, they are all nothing."

According to Hans Spanke, the melody of cantiga 340 is much the same as the one used in the secular alba (dawn song) S'anc fuy bela ni prezada by the early 13th century troubadour Cadenet. Hendrik van der Werf makes two further points relating to the structure and the melody. Firstly, the rhyme scheme and the rhyme sounds in cantiga 340 are the same as in Cadenet's alba ; and secondly, the melodic contours of some (but not all) of the internal phrases are similar to those found in the well-known alba Reis glorios by the 12th century troubadour Guiraut de Borneil (who finishes each stanza with a single, recurring, refrain line — "Et ades sera l'alba").

In other Alfonsine cantiga texts Mary is called "the morning star" (strela do dia) or "the star of the sea" (strela do mar), that is, the star which heralds dawn. In cantiga 340 Mary, the morning star, is the dawn (see stanza 5). Given that in Christian theology God is light* ("Ego sum lux mundi") and the Virgin Mary accepted the divine light from the angel with humility ("Ecce ancilla Domini"), the result was the creation of the child (the Christ, God, the light) through the union of God (heaven, divine spirit) and mankind (earth, human flesh). Thus "dawn", that is, Mary the morning star, is the creative bearer of light, the sun, the Christ. "Dawn" (alva) eternally gives mankind a promise of salvation.

In our performance the melodic sections are shared antiphonally between two solo singers (with occasional brief interludes on the bells). The original dorian melody is unusually ornate, so its melismas (and additional, improvised ones) are sung as ornamental flourishes. It was found that although the cleverly structured text and the borrowed melody matched snugly in the opening refrain and the first short stanza, this situation did not prevail throughout. Because the musical phrases and their overall structure often simply do not coincide with those of the text, due to complicated enjambements within and across stanzas, there are many performance options to be considered. For this performance the numbers 5 and 3 were used to group the musical phrases and text into sections.

The masthead illumination to this cantiga in b.1.2 shows two rustics out in the country, one playing a conch shell, also known as pilgrim shell (suggesting a completed pilgrimage to Santiago da Compostela), the other a thin reed (?) pipe. This does not suggest a possible instrumentation for this piece but acts as a reminder that it was shepherds who were chosen by the angel to come to worship at the birth of Christ in the manger, and that the lowliest and the most humble can offer the richest devotion, for, in the words of Paul the Deacon (8th century), "to jubilate is to cry out with a rustic voice."

* Psalms 27: 1 and 36: 9 ; John 8: 12 and 3: 19-21

2. Virgen Santa Maria, guarda-nos   (C. 47)

This quaint folk tale is found in many mediaeval sources, including the collections of Juan Gil de Zamora and Gonzalo de Berceo. To preserve the "shaggy-dog" fantasy we have opted for a quite different mode of performance here. The aeolian melody is only heard in its complete form at the beginning and the end, encircling a somewhat modified version of the original text which is declaimed against psaltery improvisations. In these boxing-in sections (the prelude and postlude), the instruments play the whole of the simple, virelai melody (structured A1 A2 a2 a2 a1 a2 A1 A2), joined in the refrains by the voices singing in organum. As the melody is quite mordant in its avoidance of the tonic until the end of the closed cadence (A2), it has been realised in a "wilishly devilish" way in a pattern of additive rhythms which allow the text to flow in seeming serenity.

3. O nome da Virgen Santa   (C. 254)

This cantiga and the previous one, Virgen Santa Maria guarda nos (C. 47), are two of five cantigas which deal with the Virgin's power to liberate those taunted by the devil and his minions. In O nome, set in France, the assault is made against two monks who run off from their monastery to avoid being beaten. As they spend the day on the river bank telling bawdy and licentious tales they are confronted by a little boatful of foreign demons. Terrified, the monks call on Holy Mary for forgiveness and rescue so they can return home.

The text of this cantiga is not sung, but played instrumentally as the first of three instrumental cantigas on this CD (a pattern established throughout our series). The structure of its ionian mode melody is built up economically with a series of very small musical "bricks" to make a simple virelaiA1 A2 A1 A3 b1 b2 b1 b2 a1 a2 a1 a3 A1 A2 A1 A3, and is rhythmicised in triple time with regular hemiola crosspatteming. The darabukka is played to sound in its down-beats a little like the zambomba, a friction drum still used throughout Spain in Christmas festivities.

4. Muito devemos varões   (C. 2)

This cantiga is one of twenty-eight which deal with gifts given by the Virgin Mary to those who espouse her cause. Set in 7th century Toledo, it refers to actual people from Spain's Visigothic past, namely : Saint Ildefonso, the Archbishop of Toledo famous for his opposition to those who doubted the Virgin Mary's virginity; King Reccesvinth, the 28th king of the Visigoths (who ruled from 653 - 672); Saint Leocadia, the patron saint of Toledo (who died in prison in 304 AD) and "Don Siagrio", also known as Sigiberto or Siseberto, who succeeded Ildefonso as Archbishop. It also focuses on a particular alb, the clerical vestment symbolic of purity. This was a white linen robe (its name refers to its white colour) with close-fitting sleeves which was worn by the officiating priest. Being a "rare and beautiful gift" (stanza 5), Mary's alb was probably decorated with embroidery on the hem, neck and wrist-cuffs, possibly also with the additional four or five rectangular patches of embroidery called apparels, parures or orphreys.

Variants of this miracle are found in many sources from the 8th century on, including Alfonso X's own Primera Cronica General. One would expect that this, the first cantiga de miragre in Alfonso's carefully planned collection, would deal with an important person or event relating to the Virgin Mary. This exptectation is confirmed and achieved by the establishment of a link over the centuries between an outstanding religious "Alfonso" (or variously, "Alifonsso", as the cantiga text names Ildefonso) and the living, secular king Alfonso making his own testament to Mary's glory with his Book of cantigas de Santa Maria. Not only did these great men both defend the Virgin Mary's honour and (according to King Alfonso's text) share the same name, but there was also a further strong factor in the king's reasoning, namely, their mutual connection with Toledo, the capital of the Visigothic kingdom and the primary see of the Spanish church. Toledo had been under Muslim rule for three centuries until its reconquest in 1085. Already famed as a seat of culture and learning during the Muslim Ummayad and Almoravid dynasties, it was still, in the reign of Alfonso X, a great, flourishing city ever enriched by his tolerance of the relatively peaceful cohabitation of substantial groups of Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Apart from the short improvised prelude, the whole of this cantiga is performed in measured rhythms (patterned in additive groups of 6, 4 and 3). The melody is in the ionian mode and structured as a virelai (ABcca+bAB, where c melodies are actually b melodies but with the A incipit). The refrain, sung by two voices, occurs at the beginning and the end, and before the dramatic text of the last stanza. Otherwise the stanzas run on into one another with interludes of various lengths improvised or cued between them.

5. Non pod' ome pela Virgen   (C. 127)

This is the second of the instrumentally rendered cantigas on our CD. It is one of twenty-six concerned with punishment and forgiveness meted out to devotees of Virgin Mary. The text (unsung) tells of a young man from Puy in Southern France who loses a foot and has it restored miraculously. As punishment for hitting his mother he is not allowed into church, even when, as penance, he goes on pilgrimage. When he comes back, however much he pushes he still cannot get into his home church. He is advised that possibly he could get in if his foot were cut off. When his mother sees him after the deed is done, she appeals to the Virgin. The statue of Mary tells her to take her son's foot in her hand and put it back on his leg. This miracle is immediately celebrated in the church by the priests who, after the "amen", order all the bells to ring.

The mixolydian melody (a virelai structured A1 A2 b b a1 a2 A1 A2) is played by four different plucked string instruments. In the interludes between stanzas each instrument takes turns at offering improvisation, sometimes imitating and extending, sometimes presenting new motives and textures. The refrain melody is occasionally doubled in organal fifths, likewise the stanzaic a1 a2.

6. O que pola Virgen leixa   (C. 124)

The gruesome tale recounted "as I heard tell" in this cantiga takes place in Andalusia in land still under Muslim rule near the Strait of Gibraltar ("near both seas"). The precise location is not stated but the events befall a man who frequently travelled to Moorish Jerez and Seville and had his beard trimmed off in Alcala de Guadaira. It is one of twenty-four cantigas in the "captive and condemned" category. Although the Virgin Mary does not actually appear or speak in this text, there are three clear signs of proof that she did hear the Christian man's plea and confession during his death-torture (by stoning, spearing and throat-cutting). Firstly, she keeps him alive through all of this and long enough to be allowed to make priestly confession; secondly, his beard grows again after his death and thirdly, no animals come to ravish his corpse.

The nine stanzas are sung to a mixolydian melody, a virelai (A B c1 c2 a b A B), which is set in a fixed pattern of additive rhythms. Against the main melody, the singers not only add tonic or dominant drones but also add a third contrapuntal part producing a three-part, conductus-like, drone-based texture. The refrain is sung only four times, cued in each time by a pre-learnt instrumental interlude. Apart from the dying Christian's last words, which are sung in free rhythm, the rest of the piece is performed in measured rhythm.

7. Maldito seja quen non loara   (C. 290)

The six stanzas of this cantiga de loor alternately list benedictions (Beeito seja...) and maledictions (Maldito seja...). In order to reinforce this we have chosen voices and instruments contrasting in timbre and production — the dark, cante jondo alto against a lighter, brighter mezzo-soprano, and the richly nasal vielle against the pure, "white"-sounding gemshorn, all linked together by the harp (King David's "joywood").

Three stanzas are sung in measured modal rhythms, two are sung in free unmeasured rhythm, and one (the last) is declaimed against the measured playing of the melody on the harp. There are three substantial instrumental sections — prelude, postlude and interlude which, when measured, are prelearnt and, when unmeasured, are improvised. The mixolydian melody, when measured, is played in modal rhythm, and is structured as a virelai (A1 B a2 a2 a1 b A1 B). The textual dichotomy of the alternating refrains may be mirrored in the tension and release heard in the melodic motifs — for instance, all A / a motifs begin supertonic to mediant, B / b motifs begin subdominant to dominant and A1 cadences from subdominant to mediant.

8. A virgen mui groriosa   (C. 42)

The illumination at the masthead of cantiga de loor 370, Loemos muit' a Virgen, suggested the instrumentation for our third instrumental rendition of a cantiga melody : two whistle-and-tabor players.

The unsung text of cantiga 42 is one of thirty-one cantigas concerned with statues of the Virgin Mary. In this tale set in Germany, a young man about to be married looks about for somewhere safe to place his engagement ring to avoid damaging it in a ball game. The green meadow where the game is being played lies next to a church in the process of renovation. The beautiful statue of the Virgin temporarily placed outside during the repairs catches the man's attention, and while he puts his ring on the statue's finger he makes silly promises of devotion. After the game, when the ring and the statue shrink, he abuses the statue. The Virgin appears in his dreams on his wedding night, chastises him and sends him away. He spends the rest of his life as a hermit dedicated to Her.

The mixolydian melody (a virelai structured A1 A2 b1 b2 a2 A1 A2) is performed with a regular pattern of additive rhythms (25 beats per phrase : long-short, long-long-long-short, long-long-long).

9. Maravillosos e piadosos   (C. 139)

There are a number of unusual aspects to this cantiga which survives in various forms in many mediaeval sources and was even the subject of a 20th century film, Marcelino, pan y vino (1952). In Valverde's categorisation of genres it is one of the thirty-one cantigas concerned with the statue of the Virgin Mary. In this particular version, set in Flanders, not only does the statue of the Virgin speak to the Infant Son she cradles (as part of the statue), but also the baby Christ speaks to the little boy who has offered him his bread.

When the whole text (including all refrains) is set out in verse form it makes a series of crosses on the page. Although this cruciform shape cannot be seen in the surviving manuscripts where the text runs in a continuous rectangular block, it may have been known to (seen in the mind of, or on the wax tablets of) the author. Certainly the decorative game playing involved in composing carmina figurata was known in the Hellenistic and the Roman worlds. Publilius Porphyrius (4th century) and Eugenius Vulgarius (10th century), for example, wrote various poems in the shape of an altar, an organ or a pyramid. One is reminded too of the "pattern" poems of the 17th century metaphysical English poet George Herbert in which the lines of text form the shape of the subject — The Altar, Easter Wings. Conceptually, these are related to but not quite the same as mediaeval Hebrew micrography (or minute script) where the letters themselves outline (rather than fill in) shapes (of animals, humans, and abstract patternings).

The mode of the melody is hypo-dorian. Its virelai structure (A1 A2 b1 b2 b1 b2 a1 a2 A1 A2) is made up, unusually, of a series of sequentially patterned motifs — descending in the A / a sections and ascending in b. All phrases begin with the same three-note ascent (tonic to mediant). Stanzas 2 to 4 inclusive are divided in their presentation, that is, sung in unmeasured rhythm then in measured, additive rhythms. The refrains (which are not performed after every stanza) are sung with drones and organal fifths.

10. Aver non poderia   (C. "403"; Ms To., Cantiga 50)

The numbering ascribed to this cantiga derives from Walter Mettman's classification. It is not found in either of the manuscripts in the library of El Escorial, Madrid (b.1.2 and T.j.1), nor in the Florence source. It survives only in the manuscript from Toledo Cathedral which is now held in the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid (To.), where it is numbered 50. Though this would seem to indicate a cantiga de loor, it is in fact a cantiga de dolor.

Of its eight stanzas only the first is sung here, circling continuously upon itself, shared between a chorus and a soloist. One of the few cantigas constructed without a refrain, its text outlines the seven sorrows Holy Mary suffered because of Her Son. In our spiralling singing of stanza 1 we wish to refer back, in circular fashion, to the first cantiga de loor (number 1) — also without a refrain — which describes the seven joys which Mary had through Her Son. Despite the dreadful dolour evoked by the events in the text of cantiga "403", we have tried to suggest in the postludal presentation of the melody a textless jubilus, as a pledge of life and faith, a reminder of Her seven joys. Out of death and loneliness comes life, and the Assumption, which will reunite Her with Her Son, still lies ahead. In this jubilus section, the slow-moving melody, loud and solemn, is played by shawms (the triples of the cobla band) against vigorous and lively percussion patterns on drums, tambourine and castanets. This too is a reminder of the crowning of the Virgin and the Feast of the Assumption and is still celebrated today in Galicia with a joyous communal dance of men and women after the Mass on the Feast of the Assumption (August 15).

The melody is in the mixolydian mode with tensions built into the phrase incipits and cadences (for example, the motifs start as follows : a — supertonic to subdominant, b — leading note, tonic, supertonic, and c — mediant, dominant, leading note). The overall structure is not that of a virelai, but a simple binary form made up of two sets of related motifs : A B (or, in more detailed format,a b a b c d c b).