Alkemie Ensemble Releases New Album of 13th century Trouvère Songs

Alkemie to present two performances on April 13 and April 14 at the Brooklyn Public Library

and All Saint’s Episcopal Church

NEW YORK, NY–On April 12, 2024, Bright Shiny Things releases Love to My Liking [BSTC-O201], early music ensemble Alkemie’s collection of 13th-century trouvère songs, dances, and motets, 8 of the 13 tracks are world premiere recordings. Characterized by San Francisco Classical Voice as “a restless band of Medieval experimentalists,” Alkemie focused the album on a little-known but widespread compositional practice, quoting a refrain—a germ of melody or text or both—between works, rather than the modern practice of a refrain contained within one song. Hundreds of such refrains have been identified by scholars crisscrossing the vocal works of medieval France, revealing a fascinating cultural provocation that is lovingly detailed on Love to My Liking. Pre-order the album here.

On Saturday afternoon, April 13, Alkemie will give a special free performance of selections from Love to My Liking at the Brooklyn Public Library as part of its mission of medieval music outreach. On Sunday evening, April 14, Alkemie will present the entire album at a ticketed concert at All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan; ticket information is available here

Download & Materials: Love To My Liking 

The love songs recorded on Love to My Liking were written by men for men to sing, yet here all the singers are female. As the group explains: “We find that placing these texts in female bodies/voices transforms the meaning of chivalric tropes that exalt and depend on the silence and passivity of an unattainable female lover.” They continue: “We have been living with the songs from this program for the last 10 years. Although the majority of them have never previously been recorded, we think of these pieces as top hits of the 13th century–after all, they were among the small percentage of Medieval music that was transcribed for posterity.”

The repertoire selected for Love to My Liking varies from the simple to the complex. Two works match the familiar model of a song with a refrain: “E bone amourette” and “Bele doette as fenestres se siet.” Three of the songs—“Li louseignols que j’ai chanter,” “Por mon cuer a joie atraire,” and “L’autrier chevauchoie delez Paris”—use multiple refrains from other sources, a different one for every verse. Much more complicated are a handful of works that have more than one text going on at the same time, thus the arrangements present individual voices before layering them all on top of one another. Purely instrumental pieces punctuate the songs, including “La tierche estampie,” “La septime estampie real,” and “La seconde estampie royal.” These also use refrains, which Alkemie’s arrangements highlight by having the whole ensemble join in.

A flexible ensemble of multi-instrumentalists and vocalists, Alkemie is comprised of Tracy Cowart on voice, harps, and percussion; Ben Matus on hümmelchen (medieval bagpipe); David McCormick on vielle (medieval fiddle); Elena Mullins Bailey on voice, percussion and lyre; Sian Ricketts on voice, recorders and douçaines (medieval double-reeds); and Niccolo Seligmann on vielle, psaltery, viola a chiavi, scheitholt (a drone zither), gittern and percussion. Love to My Liking also features collaborating vocalists Adrienne Lotto and Ellie Sutherland. 


Elena Mullins Bailey / Anonymous (Oxford Douce 308 MS 29987)

  1. E, bone amourette / La rotta della Manfredina 

Anonymous (Chansonnier Clairambault)

  1. Por mon cuer a joie atraire

Anonymous (Chansonnier du Roi)

  1. La tierche estampie

Pieros Liborgnes de Lille (Chansonnier du Roi)

  1. Li louseignolz que j’ai chanter

Anonymous (Montpellier Codex)

  1. Li maus amourous | Dieus, por quoi | (Portare)

Anonymous (Chansonnier du Roi)

  1. La septime estampie real

Anonymous (Montpellier Codex)

  1. Joliement | Quant voi | Je sui joliete | (Aptatur)

Anonymous (Montpellier Codex)

  1. Dieus, de chanter | Chant d’oisiaus | (In seculum)

Anonymous (Chansonnier du Roi)

  1. La seconde estampie royal

Anonymous (Chansonnier dit de Noailles)

  1. Nus ne set | (Regnat) / Duskes ci ai plus amors honoree | (Regnat)

Anonymous (MS X ff. 65v-66r)

  1. Bele doette as fenestres se siet

Anonymous (Montpellier Codex)

  1. La joliveté | Douce amiete | (V)

Richard de Semilly (Paris BN f. fr. 845)

  1. L’autrier chevauchoie delez Paris


Founded in 2013, Alkemie calls Brooklyn home, but the group’s  music knows no bounds. In addition to its New York City concerts series, Alkemie has graced the stages of esteemed events like the Amherst Early Music Festival, Arizona Early Music Society, Cambridge Society for Early Music, Capitol Early Music Series, Five Boroughs Music Festival, Johns Hopkins Program in Arts, Humanities & Health, Music Before 1800, and San Francisco Early Music Society. This summer Alkemie will make its debut at the Berkeley Early Music Festival in concert with the renowned vocal ensemble Chanticleer.

Equally passionate about recording, Alkemie curated, composed, and recorded music for the video game Pentiment by Obsidian Entertainment, and released multiple new albums in the 2023-24 season, including the much-anticipated medieval-pop album A Fine Companion, a collaborative endeavor with its sister ensemble, Freelance Nun.

Alkemie has been in residence at Fairmont State University and members have designed workshops and educational outreach programs for the Capitol Early Music Series, Ramaz High School (NYC), Fordham University, Case Western Reserve University, the Strathmore Arts Center, Amherst Early Music Festival, Pinewoods, the Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin, and through the Early Music Access Project.

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