Gabriel's Message / The Renaissance Players
Cantigas de Santa Maria V
Tall Poppies TP232


1. Macar poucos cantares  [4:36]   CSM 401   [Petiçon]
Winsome Evans, gemshorns (2) | Andrew Lambkin, panderos (2)

2. Bẽeyto foi o dia  [23:40]   CSM 411
Chorus | Mina Kanaridis, soprano | Belinda Montgomery, soprano, diwan saz | Mara Kiek, alto, pandero
Winsome Evans, harps (2), psalteries (2), bells (2) | Llew Kiek, baglama, gittern
Andrew Lambkin, pandero | Barbara Stackpool, bells

3. Poi-las figuras fazen dos santos renenbranca  [4:54]   CSM 136
Mina Kanaridis, soprano
Winsome Evans, pandero | Andrew Lambkin, pandero

4. Porque trobar e cousa en que jaz  [4:50]   Prologo B
Des oge mais quer' eu trobar  [4:50]   CSM  1
Winsome Evans, alto shawms (2), zūrnās (2), pandereta
Andrew Lambkin, tapan, pandereta | Barbara Stackpool, castanets

5. Pois que Deus quis da Virgen Fillo  [13:15]   CSM 38
Chorus | Mina Kanaridis, solo soprano | Belinda Montgomery, chorus soprano, diwan saz | Melissa Irwin, chorus soprano
Winsome Evans, alto shawms (2), zūrnā | Nick Wales, vielle | Llew Kiek, baglama
Andrew Lambkin, darabukka | Barbara Stackpool, castanets

A Madre do que a bestia   CSM 147]

"And behold an angel of the Lord appeared, saying unto her: Anna, Anna, the Lord hath hearkened unto thy prayer, and thou shalt conceive and bear, and thy seed shall be spoken of in the whole world."

Book of James
(or Protevangelium), 4:1

"And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. And she said unto the midwife: What have I brought forth? And she said: A female. And Anna said: My soul is magnified this day, and she laid herself down. And when the days were fulfilled, Anna purified herself and gave suck to the child and called her name Mary."

Ibid., 5:2

In this CD collection of five cantigas de Santa Maria there are cross-connections between cantiga items one and four (Macar poucos cantares and Porque trobar e causa en que jaz) and items three and five (Poi-ias figuras fazen dos santos renenbranca and Pois que Deus quis da Virgen Fillo). The connections between each of these two pairs will be examined in the notes below. The one cantiga not paired in this CD is the longest of all the cantigas de Santa Maria, Bẽeyto foi o dia, due to its significant lyrics. They recount, in detail, the miraculous circumstances of the birth of the Virgin Mary — the first of the great miracles concerning Mary as the gift from God announced by Gabriel, God's angel messenger.

That there are only five, and not ten cantigas in this collection, is a departure from the groupings of ten cantigas on each previous CD of our series which have emulated the decadal organisation of Alfonso X's cantiga collections. The pentadic grouping of this CD celebrates the "five" element, first and foremostly, in the number of letters in the Castilian version of the Virgin's name — MARIA — but also in the fact that this is the fifth CD of our cantigas de Santa Maria series.

1. Macar poucos cantares   (C. 401)

This cantiga's melody is performed without its text by a pair of unsophisticated, rustic cow horn pipes (gemshorns) and a pair of frame drums (panderos), as a gentle, quasi-plaintive overture to this selection of cantigas de Santa Maria which focus on the arduous circumstances of Mary's birth, Alfonso's dedicatory tribute to her, and several tales of miracles Mary wrought when her statues were defiled by evildoers.

Unusual in the manuscript's formal layout of cantigas where every tenth item is a cantiga de loor followed by nine cantigas de miragre, Macar poucos cantares is a petition (not a miracle tale) from King Alfonso X to Holy Mary. He beseeches her, in ten stanzas, to give him the strength and wisdom to be a good ruler, to withstand the deceits and slanders of his enemies (which include the plots against him by his privileged, but insatiably acquisitive and wary nobles), and to destroy and drive out the "infidel Moors who hold the Holy Land and large portions of Spain" just as Judas Maccabeus, leader of the Jews, destroyed his enemies.

Alfonso's other requests in this petition include: that she pray to her Son to let him live to serve her and give him power against God's enemies; to keep him from untimely death so he can:

" ... know pleasure from his friends ... govern with justice and employ his wealth wisely so that those who inherit it ... will be grateful to him for it ... [that she] defend him from false and treacherous men and protect him from bad advisors and men who serve unwillingly and are never satisfied".

He further refers to his hopes for God's protection (via Mary's intercession) from:
" ... inept men who accuse others ... who mistreat others and laugh about it ... from those without shame, ... from the base trickster and the slanderer who is worse than a dog, and from those who care not a crumb for loyalty."

This text links back to the explanatory text Alfonso wrote for Prologo B, entitled Porque trobar e causa, but with more strongly worded references to the evil and disloyal nature of those from whom he wishes to disassociate himself.

His final plea is that Mary intercede on his behalf with her Son that he be forgiven for his falls from grace in the past and   that, as "a fine reward", he be granted a place in Paradise where he might always see her.

Like Macar poucos cantares, Porque trobar e causa (the penultimate track) is performed without text as an instrumental item. This is the first pair of interconnected items on this CD — linked in the similar purpose and content of their unsung lyrics and their similar mode of performance as instrumental melody without lyrics. In the medieval method of message-conveyance whereby a visual image could nudge the memory to recollect and ponder its various associations and meanings, it would be likewise possible for memoria to recall the content and intent (or even the actual words) of a song's lyrics by the the sound of the melody or hearing its title (as similar purpose and content of their unsung can be experienced even today in similar circumstances).

2. Bẽeyto foi o dia   (C. 411)

This is one of the longest texts in collection of cantigas de Santa Maria due, to the significant connections it   bears in recounting in detail the circumstances relating to the birth of Mary and the emotional turmoil endured by her parents Anna and Joachim prior to her conception and birth in what they thought was their barren old age.

Some of the details regarding her parents' circumstances and the announcement of Mary's impending birth by God's angel-messenger act to remind us of other miraculous births, of both the past and the future, to Jewish married couples too old and barren or immaculate to bear children, to whom the news of the seemingly impossible impending birth was announced by "the angel of the Lord".

Of the previous miraculous births angelically announced, one of the most significant in this context was the birth of Isaac to his then 91-year old mother Sarah and his 100-year old father Abraham, both of whom "were old and well stricken with age"; and "it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women", as she "was barren; she had no child" (as recounted in Genesis 18:11, 11:30 and 21:5). One hundred years earlier, the birth of Abraham to the wife of Terah had also been announced by God's angel.

Furthermore, the miracle of Mary's birth also acts to remind us of the details of another unlikely birth in her family and then, even more miraculously, soon after, of her own immaculate conception. The Gospel according to St. Luke tells how, in circumstances similar to Sarah and Abraham's, Gabriel had appeared to the priest Zacharias, busy burning incense at the Temple in Judea, to announce that his wife, Elisabeth (cousin to Mary) would bear a son to be called John — even though she was barren and they were "stricken in years". Six months later, in Nazareth, a city in Galilee, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, married to Joseph but still a virgin, to announce that she, miraculously, would conceive and give birth to a son — Jesus, the Son of God.

In religious literature, the circumstances of the birth of Mary by divine and mysterious intervention established her mother Anna's sanctity and her admission to the highest echelons of the Christian hierarchy where she became an object of exceptional devotion. It was not until around the 9th century that, through influential Byzantine sources, details of these birth-circumstances penetrated the Western Christian Church.

The version of Mary's birth recounted in Alfonso's cantiga probably comes from the Levantine Protevangelium of James — also referred to as the Book (or Gospel) of James — which is the oldest of the so-called "Infancy" texts. This source, referred to as early as the 2th century by Origen, has apparently survived in more or less its original form in Syriac, as well as in Greek and other oriental versions. Infancy Gospels such as this provided details about Mary's life and family, as well as details of the birth and early life of Jesus, which satisfied people's curiosity about events in the lives of the Holy family, details of which are absent in the New Testament. These Infancy Gospels, being a jumbled collection of theological, mystical and apochryphal texts, were denounced by the Roman Christian Church. However, despite the pre-6th century Gelasian Decree listing, Of Books to be received and not to be received, some of the Infancy Gospels did survive — by chance, as well as in various theological narratives, Gospel fragments and Gnostic tracts.

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, or Liber de Infantia, a Latin collection from c. 8th or 9th century which drew its material from the Protevangelium and the Gospel of Thomas, exerted an important and inspirational influence on poets and artists from the 12th to the 15th century. Although no manuscript of it earlier than the 11th century has survived, it was used by the 10th century Saxon poetess and Abbess of Gandersheim, Hrotswitha (c. 935—c. 1001/1003), as a source for her book of eight sacred legends, poems set in leonine hexameters. The source of Hrotswitha's material was the widely disseminated collection of hagiographical exempla — the vitae patrum. The first sacred legend in her book is entitled Maria and deals with the circumstances of Mary's birth and life through to the birth of Jesus and the flight into Egypt.

In the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, the angel commands Anna "to meet Joachim at the Golden Gate of the Temple" following their long separation. After this meeting and the kiss they exchange, Mary is born. This is the first known reference to the Golden Gate of the Temple, apparently a holy place, where the holy, chaste kiss was procreative, breathing into Anna's womb the concept and substance of her daughter, Mary.

The text of Bẽeyto foi o dia recounts in 30 stanzas details of the events leading to the birth of Mary to Anna and Joachim, still a childless couple after 20 years of marriage. God's angelic message-bearer plays a significant role in this history, as in the previously mentioned accounts of blessed offspring granted by God to other childless women. It is of interest to note various other references in this cantiga's text to persons who act as "reminders" for the historical lineage and significances in the birth and life of Jesus and Mary — for example, such references as the harsh treatment meted out to Joachim by the Temple's High Priests, Reuben and Simeon; living roughly in the wilderness "for six months" (perhaps referencing "the 40 days and nights" of Moses and, later, Jesus); praying to God and offering burnt sacrifice — like Abraham; and the reference to Isaiah's prophecy of the "rod out of the stem of Jesse" (Isaiah, 11:1).

In the cantiga (as in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew's version of the birth of Mary), Anna and Joachim are told by the "blessed angel" that they are to meet "by the golden portal" — the Gospel's "Golden Gate of the Temple". However, the cantiga does not mention the procreative kiss at the Golden Gate. With a new twist, after the couple's "embraces and many greetings", Anna prepares a feast in a richly decorated room, "where that night" (in this quasi-wedding night setting) "the Virgin was conceived".

For the narrative element of the performance of this important cantiga, one voice, recounting the bulk of the text, sings the main melody in measured and unmeasured rhythms or dramatically declaims the text over freely improvised instrumental accompaniment. The refrains are set as regularly unaltered events, with their own recurring instrumental prelude and postlude, and are sung by a vocal chorus.

In some of the sung stanzas, different solo or "duetting" voices share the text to represent the Anna or Joachim characters. A special but natural acoustic effect was devised for the strident, alarming voice of God's angel-messenger, by doubling in octaves two quite different voices and registers to produce a quasi-male/female timbre. (The idea for this was borrowed from Gerard Corbiau's film Farinelli, 1994, where the thrilling castrato voice was apparently "manufactured" by using two voices simultaneously).

The instrumental ensemble consists of varieties of plucked string instruments (harps, psalteries, diwan saz, baglama and gittern), drums (panderos) and handbells. The postludal after-dance was conceived as a gentle, but joyous celebration in honour of Holy Mary's birth day (September 8) and the Feast Day of Anna and Joachim (July 26). It was also intended to revive a memory of a much previous exultant Jewish occasion when God parted the waters of the Red Sea to allow Moses to lead the people of Israel out of captivity in Egypt, and Miriam, the prophetess, sister of Aaron, "took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dances", singing praises to the Lord (Exodus 15:20). Thus with "timbrels" (panderos), Mary's "Ave" bells, psalteries and harps, the exultant women dance!

Finally, it should be noted that Bẽeyto foi o dia (C.411) has the same, but longer, melody as that allocated to Muito foi noss'amigo (C.210). This cantiga de loor is a song in praise of Gabriel, "our true friend", bringer of God's messages whose "Ave Maria" greeting was referred to in another cross-connected cantiga, Entre Av'e Eva (C.60). (Both C.210 and C.60 are performed on the Cantigas de Santa Maria IV CD.)

3. Poi-las figuras fazen dos santos renenbranca   (C. 136)

This cantiga connects with the fifth cantiga in this CD collection — Pois que Deus quis da Virgen Fillo (C. 38) — in that they both concern stories about evil doers who caused damage to holy statues of the Virgin Mary.

This tale is set in Foggia in Apulia in the time of Conrad IV, King of Germany from 1250 to 1254, and the son of Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250). A German woman sat playing dice with her male and female companions inside the church in front of the marble statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. In a rage at losing, she threw a stone at the baby. To protect him, his mother raised her arm which was thereby chipped at the elbow. Hearing of this King Conrad had the woman dragged through the streets. He then ordered that the statue be repainted but the damaged arm was not to be repaired or restored so that people could see (and hear about) what the Virgin Mary had suffered to protect her baby child.

Following our intention to devise a rich variety of hypothetically historically-valid performance situations, the only instruments used to accompany the solo voice in this cantiga are two panderos (single-skin frame drums). This trio of performers presents the text and its æolian melody organised into constantly recurring patterns of 24 beats set in hemiola metres. Stanzas 1,2, and 6 are sung in unmeasured rhythm; stanza 5 (which runs straight on via enjambement from stanza 4), recounting the high point of the drama — the vicious wound inflicted on the statue of baby Jesus' mother Mary by the wicked gambler woman — is declaimed without any accompaniment.

4. Porque trobar e cousa en que jaz   (Prologo B)

This is the melody assigned to the text of Prologo B (segments of which are declaimed, in English translation, on CD1 of our series: Songs for a Wise King). In seven, six-line stanzas, composed in the maestria poetic metre (like a Provençal chanson de amor), Alfonso declares in detail the reasons why he decided to become the Virgin Mary's trobador and thus focus his poetic skills on a more noble cause than he had previously done in the cantigas profanas of his princely youth:

"I would like to sing praise to the Virgin, mother of our Lord, Holy Mary ... from now on I wish to be her trobador ... I wish now to cease composing for any other woman."

That this was a focus he wished more poet-musicians to emulate, he stated quite clearly in other cantigas — for instance, in the seven, three-lined stanzas of the cantiga de loor, Dized'ai trobadores (C. 260):

"Tell me, trobadores,
why do you not praise

the Lady of Ladies?

If you understand trobadoring
why do you not praise
Her through whom you have God?"

Contemporaries (or near contemporaries) of Alfonso who also declared themselves as ioglar or troubadour to God, or to the Virgin Mary, include Francis of Assisi (c. 1182-1226), Jacopone da Todi (c. 1236-1306) and Gonzalo de Berceo (c. 1196-1264?).

In our performance, Alfonso's melody is performed as a jubilant, laudatory danza by a loud ensemble of double reeds (shawms and zūrnās) and a variety of percussion instruments. The main melody is preceded by and interspersed with improvised as well as organised interludes. At times the ends of the phrases of the main melody tag off into organal-like parallel polyphony.

It is hoped that this cantiga's unsung text (Alfonso's self-introduction and declared dedication) may haunt our listeners' memory, although there is no intention to mirror in this performance arrangement the "quietness" of the lyrics, but rather to reflect the rapture of King Alfonso's dedicatory decision.

This is the second of a pair of instrumental arrangements of cantiga melodies on this CD. As stated earlier, it is in several aspects a cross-connected pair with Macar poucos cantares (C. 401), the first item.

5. Pois que Deus quis da Virgen Fillo   (C. 38)

This is the second of a pair of cantigas on this CD which recounts how wilful, disrespectful damage was inflicted on the statue of the child Jesus and his mother Mary. This is much longer and more detailed than the other "statue-damage" cantiga, Poi-las figuras fazen (C. 136).

The time and setting of Pois que Deus quis da Virgen fillo occurs during the war in Poitou between the king of France, Phillip Auguste II, and Richard I, Count of Poitiers. When Richard ordered the monks of Castro Radolfo (a district in the old province of Poitou — here translated as Chateauroux) to disband, the monastery was overrun by crowds of wicked rascals and gamblers. When one of the gamblers saw a woman kneeling to pray before the stone statue of the Virgin and Child, he berated her for praying to "painted idols". The stone which he threw hit the Child and broke one of his arms. As it fell off the Virgin caught it and lifted it up, dropping the flower in her fingers. From the Child's wound blood flowed, the Virgin's garments slipped down to reveal her naked breasts and her stone face expressed sorrowful distress. As she fixed her fierce gaze on those who watched this, a crowd of demons appeared and killed the stone-thrower, possessed two of his companions who came to remove his body so that they began to gnaw the flesh of their dead comrade, and then drowned in the river.

A second miraculous event occurred at the church soon after. The count (was this Richard I?) came to the church to pray that the stone stuck in his jaws be loosened. His humble entreaties to the statues were answered. In gratitude, he placed the stone he violently coughed up on the altar in front of the statues to remind people of its miraculous removal.

In the performance arrangement of this dramatic and miraculous series of events, it was decided to set the lyrics in unmeasured rhythm as well as in quintuple metre. This latter metre, so often still used in Iberian traditional music, was chosen primarily to refer, in the way the music flowed, to the five letters of "Maria" and, additionally, to connect it — on this fifth CD in our cantiga series, and as the fifth (and last) cantiga — to the CD's pentadic underpinnings.

The instruments chosen were rustic, noisy shawms and zūrnā, vielle, diwan baglama and percussion (darabukka and castanets). The instrumental interludes recur in an organised pattern around clusters of stanzas. Portions of stanzas 5, 6, 8 and 9 are sung with much decoration in free, unmeasured rhythms to enhance the high drama of the text. The chorus refrain is sung only twice in order to, likewise, allow the long, dramatic narrative to unfold without recurring interruption (even though there is no enjambement across the stanzas).

After the song text finishes, there comes a noisily rambunctious after-dance — an imaginary Dansa des Ribaldos, Jogadores de dados e Malaventurados (Dance of the Rascals, Dice-throwers and Wretches) based on the original cantiga melody with a series of question-answer segments led by the shawm leader — the "answerers" include the chorus of singing "malefactors" (Rascals, et al.).

During the recording one of the Rascals' vielle strings suddenly snapped and broke. You can hear this sound and the players' involuntary and totally unanimous gasp of shock. We kept playing and decided later not to re-record or edit out these miraculously unplanned events which so aptly mirrored the shock and terror of the alarming events and emotions of this cantiga.

© 2013 Winsome Evans

This CD is dedicated to Mr Gough Whitlam, a national living treasure of Australia, whose Cultural Exchange Programme Overseas gave a boost to the Renaissance Players in their early career. In gratitude for his wit and resilience in "maintaining the rage".

Once again we acknowledge our huge debt to the inspirational research of many scholars such as Walter Mettman, José Filgueira Valverde, Joseph Snow, John Keller, Peter Dronke, Mary Carruthers and Kathleen Kulp Hill (who so graciously gave permission for use of her ranslations). None of this would have been possible in the initial stages without Dr John Stevenson who supplied us with our first Englished texts.

Recorded at St. Peters, Sydney

© & ℗ 2014 Tall Poppies Records