Dr. Nicholas Paul, Director, Center for Medieval Studies presents Alkemie

It’s a great joy to be able to see that continuing, to be able to benefit from that partnership by being able to have events like this evening where we premiere new work.

Dr. nicholas paul, director, center for medieval studies

This event, co-presented by Fordham’s Department of Art History and Music, Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies, New York State’s Council on the Arts, and Alkemie Medieval Music Ensemble, featured a premiere screening of Alkemie’s “Singing Truth to Power” on Wednesday, October 5 at Fordham Lincoln Center. They performed medieval protest music, based on songs that appear in various medieval texts, such as the Carmina Burana (best known to modern audiences through Carl Orff’s loose adaptation), and the Roman de Fauvel. In addition to these songs, Alkemie also performed traditional dance tunes from Brittany, Galicia, and Basque country. The songs performed were:

Bulla fulminante (Carmina Burana)

Porchier mieus ester ameroi (Roman de Fauvel)

Velut stella firmament / Hypocritae, pseudopontifices / Et gaudebit

Heu quo progreditur (Roman de Fauvel)

Branlo (traditional Basque)

Tribum que / Quoniam secta / Merito hec patimur

Roman de Fauvel & Robertsbridge Codex

Curritur ad vocem (Carmina Burana)

Cantiga 343 (instrumental)

Cantigas de Santa Maria

Dic Christi Veritas (Carmina Burana)

Venditores labiorum / Eius (Carmina Burana)

O quam necessarium / Venditores labiorum / Domino (Carmina Burana)

Procurans odium (Carmina Burana)

Bransle I – Bransle II – Bransle III (traditional Breton)

L’autrier par la matinee

Mens fidem seminat / In odorem

Aires de Pontevedra (traditional Galician)

With each of the written medieval repertoires represented in this concert, performers must deal with a seeming contradiction: the texts express ideas that are relevant in today’s struggle for social justice, yet these songs were originally created by and for socioeconomic elites. Alkemie chooses to grapple with this tension by repurposing the words and spirit of the source material to reflect a vision of justice we can recognize in our own world.

Niccolo seligmann & tracy cowart, alkemie
Alkemie members (clockwise from bottom left):
Ben Matus, David McCormick, Tracy Cowart, Sian Ricketts, Elena Mullins Bailey, and Niccolo Seligmann

Roundtable Discussion: Reflecting on Activism

After the premiere screening, members of Alkemie – Niccolo Seligmann and Sian Ricketts – as well as a panel of scholars connected the themes of medieval songs to present-day issues and reflected on how music has always been used to inspire people to take action.

The panelists (from left to right): Niccolo Seligmann, Patrick DeBrosse (PhD candidate, History, Fordham) Ellis Light, (PhD candidate, English, Fordham) DR. Boyda Johnstone, (CUNY-BMCC), Natalie Reynoso (PhD candidate, Theology, Fordham), And Sian Ricketts, led by Dr. Andrew Albin, associate professor of English and Medieval Studies, Fordham.

The panelists’ wide range of specialties in the antique and medieval worlds included political culture; feminist dream visions, bodily fluids and forms of community in medieval devotional literature; connections between body, identity and death in early Christian thought and practice; and historical sound studies, which led into a lively discussion on how each panelist’s research mingles with protest and activism.

Panelists underscored themes of community, action, and recovery of the voice of those who are marginalized, as well as our collective responsibility in how medieval music is interpreted in our world today.

The questions that I ask are really where my activism comes in—who gets to be human in the ancient world and who doesn’t? Who gets left out? And my interest is in those who get left out and telling those stories.

Natalie reynoso, phd candidate, fordham university

To find out more about Alkemie, click here.