A Time Will Tell

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Program: #13-05, Air Date: 01/28/13

Donald Grieg of the Orlando Consort (and many other groups) has penned a witty take on modern early music scholarship, performance, and the time we all so earnestly try to recreate--we'll hear the author and the music from the book.

NOTE: All of the music on this program is referred to (by piece or by composer) in the new book Time Will Tell by Orlando Consort member and frequent guest Donald Greig. Don's new novel is available on Amazon and bookstores in hardback. Digital editions are available at Amazon and other outlets. For more information: www.facebook.com/timewilltellnovel

 

From Jeremy Summerly (director of the Oxford Camerata): In my opinion, there are too few novels that centre on the work of early music ensembles. Similarly--in my opinion--there are too few novels that reconstruct the biographies of renaissance composers. Moreover, there are (and this really cannot be just me) too few novels that begin with opening words as hilariously irreverent as "Josquin was a prick. Everyone thought so."

 

Donald Greig, author of Time Will Tell, has sung with the Tallis Scholars for many years and is a founder of the Orlando Consort. Greig knows about early music vocal ensembles; he also has an academic background, so he knows how to research and how to write. It doesn't necessarily follow, however, that he should be able to write fiction, even with the subject matter of his own career. As it happens--and perhaps his background in film studies helps here--Greig can write fiction; in spades, as it turns out.

 

Time Will Tell is set in 1997. The story charts the tortuous visit of an endearingly gauche American musicologist to and academic conference, which marks the 500th anniversary of the death of composer Johannes Ockeghem. The American has discovered a manuscript of a hitherto unknown 34-voice canonic motet, which he believes to be by Busnois, Compère, Josquin, or possibly Ockeghem himself. The musicologist sets off for France to deliver a paper at the anniversary conference in Tours and to persuade a specialist early music group (called Beyond Compère--I wish I'd thought of that) to perform the piece.

 

The contemporary plot is interspersed with flashbacks to the life and times of Johannes Ockeghem purportedly written by his contemporary Geoffroy Chiron: Ockeghem is the good guy, Josquin the insincere egocentric. Comparisons to the self-preferential humor of David lodge, the clever farce of Michael Frayn, and the scholarly inter-chronicity of A.S. Byatt are both inevitable and germane, but Greig has his own persuasive voice and romantic style. The characters are well drawn, the observation astute, and the intellectual content convincing and approachable. More importantly, Time Will Tell is funny (actually, really very funny at times), and gripping.

 

Most of the novel can be appreciated without any detailed knowledge of historical musicology or vocal performance practice, although anyone with an interest in either or both will be in seventh heaven. I suspect that little will be lost on the reader who lacks first-hand experience of ensemble performance or to whom concepts of alteration, imperfection, and other vagaries of the early-renaissance mensural system are a closed book. Time will tell.

 

I. Josquin Desprez (Orlando Consort). Brilliant CD 93939.

--JOSQUIN (c.1445/50-1521): La Déploration de la Mort de Johannes Ockeghem: Nymphes des bois.

 

II. Loyset Compère (Orlando Consort). Metronome CD 1002-01.

--LOYSET COMPERE (c.1445-1518): Omnium bonorum plena ("Full of all good things, serene Virgin and Mother")

 

III. The Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin (The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips, dir.). Gimell CD 206.

--JOSQUIN: Missa L'homme armé sexti toni: Agnus Dei.

 

IV. Loyset Compère (Orlando Consort). Metronome CD 1002-01.

--COMPERE: Ave Maria.

 

V. Ockeghem: Missa Prolationum (The Clerks' Group/Edward Wickham, dir.). ASV CD GAU 143.

--JOSQUIN: Illibata Dei virgo nutrix ("Inviolate virgin, nurse of God").

 

VI. Ockeghem: Missa de plus en plus & Chansons (Orlando Consort). Archiv CD 453 419-2.

--JOHANNES OCKEGHEM (c.1410-1497): Prenez sur moi ("Learn from me a lesson about love").

 

VII. Food, Wine and Song (Orlando Consort). Harmonia Mundi CD HMU 907314.

--Anon.: La plus grant chière ("The greatest banquet ever was held in the city of Cambrai").

--GUILLAUME DUFAY (1397-1474): Adieu ces bon vins de Lannoys ("Farewell those good wines of Laon")

 

VIII. The Tallis Scholars: Renaissance Giants (The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips, dir.). Gimell CD 207

--THOMAS TALLIS (c.1505-1585): Spem in alium ("I have never placed my hope in any other but you, O Lord").

Composer Info

Josquin Desprez (c.1445/50-1521), Loyset Compère (c.1445-1518), JOHANNES OCKEGHEM (c.1410-1497), GUILLAUME DUFAY (1397-1474), THOMAS TALLIS (c.1505-1585)

CD Info

Brilliant CD 93939, Metronome CD 1002-01, Gimell CD 206, Metronome CD 1002-01, ASV CD GAU 143, Archiv CD 453 419-2, Harmonia Mundi CD HMU 907314, Gimell CD 207