Monday, May 9, 2011

Kairos Goes Anglo-Saxon

For some years the choral group Kairos has been "in residence" at the Monastery. Their ongoing project is performing the Bach cantatas, and since they perform here four or more times a year, we are privileged to hear them. Two of our monks sing in the group -- Scott and Andrew.

They are wonderful -- showing up most Saturday mornings for rehearsal in the north end of the Library, where I work. I get to listen to them. So it was a surprise earlier this year when Scott mentioned to me that they were preparing a new piece based on the Anglo-Saxon Riddles from the Exeter Book, and would I be interested in helping. Of course I was. So Scott gave me copies of the music -- lovely to look at but I couldn't tell a thing from the score, except that is certainly wasn't Haydn. But what they wanted was help with pronunciation. So I typed out the texts and did a quick literal, interlinear translation to help them with the sense, and showed up. They were eager to learn. Then Scott suggested I record the texts, which I did and he circulated them.

I heard the music for the first time last night, at St. Andrew's, New Paltz. What a thrill! The composer, John B Hedges, who is a tenor in Kairos, was there singing, and did a lovely introduction, in which he graciously introduced me and the Old English prof at SUNY New Paltz, Dan Kempton.

John set five of the riddles (there are 90 some): shield, bread dough, water, bagpipe and iceberg. Each piece is quite different. I was especially taken with "bread dough", which like several of the riddles can be interpreted in a risqué sense. He presents it as a group of young kitchen maids gossiping in the back corner. So funny!

Thanks to all at Kairos!

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