(Boston) Cappella Clausura, the Boston based music organization dedicated to highlighting the work of female composers from the 9th century to today, has recorded a collection of commissioned works honoring female troubadours of the 12th-14th century. Based on the writings of ancient songwriters, each piece in “Troubadours 2021” will be given new life by an eclectic group of modern day composers specializing in everything from jazz and hip hop to medieval and classical and Bengali music. The new music was recorded live at Emmanuel Church in Boston. Videos of each of the performances will be available online Wednesday, June 30 on Cappella Clausura’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Audience members will be able to get early access to the program on Thursday, June 24 by purchasing a pay what you can ticket from Cappella Clausura through Eventbrite.
“Troubadours 2021” will feature four composers and one interpreter creating new music to texts written by ancient songwriters. These living composers will bring back the voices of some of the women who have been virtually erased from history until recent rediscoveries by feminist scholars such as Meg Bogin, whose book, “The Women Troubadours”, provided the texts for this performance.
“Cappella Clausura’s unique 16-year-old mission of lifting up the voices of musical women from ancient times to the present has proven time and again that this is essential to gender parity in the notoriously misogynistic field of classical music,” said Amelia LeClair, founder and Director of Cappella Clausura. “Our proposed ‘concert’ takes the voices of 12-14th century female troubadours, just some of the women who have been silent for centuries, and reimagines their music for the audiences of today.”
Composers representing the various genres of music for “Troubadours 2021” include:
Elena Ruehr is a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a renowned composer in demand with many string quartets, and operas to her oeuvre. She has written a piece for soprano, alto, tenor and bass with flute, violin, harp, and percussion.
Tal Shalom-Kobi is a bass player and jazz composer, and an active member of Women in the World Jazz and has written for alto solo, harp, flute, violin and percussion.
Be Steadwell is a songwriter, LGBTQ activist, and filmmaker known for composing live using a loop station and beatbox, and has written a hip hop inspired piece for soprano, alto, tenor and bass.
Maitreyee Chakraborty is a renowned interpreter of the poetry of Tagore, a Bengali poet. She will be interpreting a piece utilizing the Indian harmonium and tabla, written by Amelia LeClair on a text by the Contessa de Dia.
Amelia LeClair, Resident Scholar at Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center, is Director of Cappella Clausura and a composer of choral works and has written for soprano, alto, tenor and bass with flute violin, harp and percussion, as well as Chakraborty’s piece. She also composed two instrumental dance pieces in the style of medieval “estampies”.
“This project will engender and combine music from different genres and cultures, represented here as Black, LGBTQ, hip hop, Eastern Indian classical, Jewish jazz, and White European classical,” said LeClair. “We maintain the concept of music as a truly universal and truly ungendered language, while continuing to dispel the notion that women did not write music until relatively recently.”
Although our modern notion is that troubadours were traveling minstrels, in fact these musician poets lived in the houses of and were cared for by their local lords and ladies. The women most probably were the ladies of the house. We know their texts were sung, and probably accompanied by harp or lute, because many of the texts are found in ancient music manuscripts, however only one includes musical notation.
The texts are in the tradition of what is called “courtly love”, which would have been between lovers who were not spouses. Marriage in that time and place was an arranged social contract between families: courtly husbands as well as wives were more or less expected to take lovers. For the women, the texts vary from how or even whether to find such a lover, to extolling the worthiness of a man, or bemoaning one who is untrue, abusive, or gone to war.
The ancient singer and songwriters are:
The Contessa Beatrice de Dia (Southern France 1100’s), Gertrude, Duchesse de Lorraine (northern France 1200’s), Azalais de Porcairages (Southern France 1100’s), Castelloza (Auvergne 1200’s), Clara d’Anduza (Languedoc 1200’s), and the trio of Alais, Iselda and Carenza (possibly Toulouse in the 1200’s).
About Cappella Clausura:
Founded in 2004 by Choral Director Amelia LeClair to research, study and perform the music of women composers, award-winning Cappella Clausura brings exquisite performances of music by women to today’s audiences, fostering an appreciation of the role of women as composers throughout history, and bringing women composers into the classical canon. Cappella Clausura’s repertoire extends from the earliest known music by women, dating from the 9th century, to modern music. The core of the vocal ensemble is eight-to-sixteen singers who perform a cappella, and with period instruments appropriate to the repertoire. Both singers and players are drawn from Boston’s superb pool of freelancers, all accomplished professionals who perform widely as soloists and ensemble musicians in Greater Boston and beyond.
Cappella Clausura’s name was inspired by the many gifted and musically educated cloistered nuns (“in clausura”) in 17th century Italy, such as Raffaella Aleotti, Chiara Cozzolani, Bianca Maria Meda, Caterina Assandra, Sulpitia Cesis, and more. It continues to serve as a metaphor for the cultural obstacles faced by women composers throughout history, and even to the present day.