A research project into the minimalism of the C7th English music.
Please click on the YouTube link to listen to Gregorian music; a monodic sung prayer originating in the 8th century and sung by the Sisters exactly as it has been uninterruptedly for centuries, whilst you read about my ideas..
I am developing a project to curate a concert which combines very early music (early medieval 500-1300AD) with a light installation, in the church of St. Mary and St. Eanswythe, Folkestone, Kent, UK, to honour the local Saint, Eanswythe (c.614 – c.640), whose remains are kept in the church.
The event could be around the 12th September which is St. Eanswythe’s Feast Day.
Eanswythe was an Anglo-Saxon princess born circa 631-41, a granddaughter of king Æthelberht of Kent (who was converted to Christianity by Augustine of Canterbury), and daughter of King Eadbald of Kent, who reigned from 616 to 640. She founded, and was Abbess of, the first nunnery in Kent, of St Peter and St Paul, founded in Folkestone in c.660. St Eanswythe died circa 653-663.
Eanswythe refused to marry and “renouncing secular pomp from her infancy, she studied to serve God, trod down each worldly precious thing and, having embraced holy teaching with all her power, she sighted with a never-ending desire for the life of the heavenly kingdom and sought to submit to the rule of the holy life.” Nova Legenda Angli, 2 vols. translated by James Lloyd taken from The Finding St. Eanswythe exhibition at The Sassoon Gallery, Folkestone, March 2019.
Eanswythe was believed to have performed miracles: communicating to geese and persuading them to leave the area so as not to cause more destruction to crops, helping a blind woman to see etc.
The miracle she is most well known for is the myth that she miraculously made a watercourse run from a spring outside of Folkestone to the Bayle water, located near the church, a distance of approx 3-4 miles.
It has been discovered that this incredible feat of engineering was “possibly the earliest example of water engineering in England: St. Eanswythe’s watercourse must be at least 500 years earlier than the wonder constructed by Prior Wibert of Christ Church, Canterbury”. Quote taken from a newspaper cutting from 1928, featured in the Finding St. Eanswythe exhibition.
So the water course was possibly constructed at the end of the 11th Century, carbon dating of bones found in an archaeological dig near the construction are the main pointer to this date which of course rules out that is was Eanswythe’s “miracle”.
Finding St. Eanswythe has been a three year project looking into discovering the historic, mythical and archeological findings of this young woman.
My earlier proposal of developing a water channel | reflection pool in the church was created to tie in with the Folkestone Triennial 2021 theme of “The Plot”; I wanted to continue to promote the myth of Eanswythe’s miracle, by associating her memory with the watercourse.
But now as the Folkestone Triennial has ended and the theme of “The Plot” is over, the water may not be the appropriate element to introduce.
So I am focusing on researching the kind of soundscape Eanswythe might’ve encountered.
Trying to source music and musicians that evoke the period would be ideal.
I am also looking to commission a contemporary composer to create a work in response to this period or work with a sound artist(s) to develop a new response(s) to the concept of the minimalism of C7th English music.
Sequentia a Medieval Ensemble based in Paris have worked with the Early Music specialist Dr Sam Barrett in Cambridge, specifically trying to decipher what the early medieval music might’ve sounded like, as it wasn’t until the C13th that music was first annotated.
Below is a link to an episode of The Early Music Show with Lucie Skeaping, aired on Sunday 25th Nov 2018 at 2pm BBC Radio 3, which discusses the issue of authentic discernment of the sounds of the Anglo Saxon period in music with Dr Sam Barrett and Benjamin Bagby.
Canterbury Cathedral Girls Choir is lead by David Newsholme and we were in productive conversation about his girls choir singing early female composers such as the music by Hildegarde of Bingen
Watch this space…
Please contact me if you’d like to be involved.