Bon jour, bon mois
St Mary at Hill Church, Eastcheap, London EC3R 8EE
Medieval Europe rang in the New Year with raucous abandon, singing, drinking and dancing its way to a haggard and hungover new dawn. The church was unimpressed and resorted to increasingly desperate lengths to stamp out this unruly pagan celebration, declaring January 1st a day of fasting and prayer. It was a clever gimmick but it spectacularly failed to catch on.
By the 14th century a highly formalised ritual had developed around the art of gift giving. The exchange of New Year's gifts (étrenne) formed an important social function in both diplomatic, romantic and family life. It operated at every level of society and was a fundamental element of the chivalric code. Kings and noblemen would commonly commission songs from the greatest composers of the time which were then elaborately presented in richly decorated manuscripts alongside equally impressive works of art, fabulously be-jewelled trinket boxes and the like.
We explore some of these musical gems, including works from Dufay, Wolkenstein, the Chantilly Codex and the Lochamer Liederbuch, performing them on trios of shawms, bagpipes and recorders. Blondel return to St Mary at Hill with their signature combinations of shawms, bagpipes and recorders for a concert of Medieval music for New Year and epiphany.