A putsch in the cathedral around 1000
On February 19th, 964, the canons of Winchester Cathedral were expelled by the bishop, the illustrious Aethelwold, and replaced by monks from Abingdon (Abbandonia). Why ? Because they were "involved in wicked and scandalous behaviour, pride, insolence and riotus living, not celebrating mass, married wives illicitly, divorced them and took others, living in gluttony and drunkenness, trying even to poison the bishop Aethelwold ... " These events are described by our old friend Wulfstan, biographer and contemporary of Aethelwold, refined poet and cantor of Winchester. Wulfstan recounts the events of this strange day, quoting even the chants interpreted by the canons at the time of the monks' arrival.
Photos: David Morganti, Ute Dilger, Cornel Lazia
Intrigued by these powerful spirits and their books, stories and songs, I created a programme around this violent meeting between canons and monks, between insiders and outsiders, finally between us today and the others, those men who lived a thousand years ago.
This time, we unite two voices and two instruments, a choice that might seem less orthodox and whose purpose is a little different. We sing some sumptuous polyphonic pieces from the Winchester troper, whose musical language is timeless, sounding both archaic and contemporary. The instruments perform some virtuoso textless melodies notated in the same manuscript, with curious names such as Berta vetula, Bucca extensa, Tuba, Cythara ... Finally, the excerpts of Wulfstan's story lead us through the events, like a theme.
Like Lawrence Durrell's famous novel The Alexandria Quartet, our "Winchester Quartet" tells one story from four different angles: the monody is enriched by polyphony, the instruments join the voices in more theatrical scenes, and I will dare to say at last ... musicology is seen by music, the past by the present, giving a voice to these mysterious sources. Around the year 1000, the monk Thierry de Fleury describes four monks who meet on the steps of the choir and sing in polyphony. Four musicians meet a thousand years later around this repertoire, to look at it in a new way.