Les Mystères: attendez l’Époux

By Suzy Robinson

I wanted to write something based on a mediaeval mystery play and happened across an 11th Century version of the play of the Bridegroom – the tale of the wise and the foolish virgins. It was called Sponsus and is the oldest of this type of play written in both the vernacular and in Latin. What is even more extraordinary is that it is, in fact, a trilingual text in Latin, langue d’oc, and some words in the langue d’oïl. The passage which I have set is in langue d’oc, but for ease of singing I used a modern-French translation.

I am very taken by the patchwork nature of mystery plays which is part promenade, part liturgy, part staged, part audience participation. I hope that having set a straightforwardly strophic text and usinginstruments more often heard in Early Music, jigsaws well with the more modern angular and sometimes dissonant nature of the melodic lines of this piece. I love the play of languages, and the mixing up through words and music of past, present, and future, revealing that time is perhaps a circuitous exploration rather than a strictly linear trajectory. “And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”

Photo credit: Suzy Robinson
A setting for soprano, baroque violin, and viola da gamba of an 11thC provencal lyric. Composed by Suzy Robinson.
Performed by Suzy Robinson, May Robertson,
and Lucine Musaelian on 9 December 2022.

Video is an original creation by Suzy Robinson ©️2023

Oiet, virgines, aiso que vos dirum;
Oiet, virgines, aiso que vos dirum;
Aiseet presen que vos comandarum.
Atendet un espos, Jhesu salvaire a nom,
Gaire no i dormet!

Aisel espos que vos hor’atendet,
Venit en terra per los vostres pechet;
De la Virgine en Betleem fo net,
E flum Jorda lavet et luteet.
Gaire no i dormet!

Aisel espos que vos hor’atendet
Eu fo batut, gablet e laidenjet,
Sus e la crot batu e claufiget:
Deu monumen deso entrepauset.
Gaire no i dormet!

Aisel espos que vos hor’atendet
E resors es, la scriptura a dii.
Gabriels soi, eu trames aici.
Atendet lo, que ja venra praici.
Gaire no i dormet!

From a manuscript (Bibl. nat. fonds latin, 1139) written for the Abbey of Saint-Martial de Limoges, in the 11th century.

Vierges, oyez ce que nous vous dirons. Ayez présent ce que vous enjoindrons.
Attendez un époux, Jésus Sauveur a nom
Guère ne dormez.

Et cet époux, qu’à présent attendez,
Vint en la terre pour les vôtres péchés;
Et de la Vierge en Bethléem fût né,
Dans le Jourdain lavé et baptisé,
Guère ne dormez!

Et cet époux qu’à présent attendez,
Il fût battu, moqué et outragé
Et sur la croix, battu de clous percé;
Dans le tombeau son corps fût déposé Guère ne dormez!

Et cet époux qu’à présent attendez,
Ressuscita! l’Ecriture l’a dit.
Gabriel suis, moi qui vous parle ici.
Attendez-le; il viendra par ici. Guère ne dormez !

Modern French by translation by Louis Petit de Julleville, 1881

Virgins, listen to what we say:
Be ready for Him who makes his way;
For the Bridegroom, Jesus, a vigil keep
And make sure that you scarcely sleep!

And the Bridegroom for whom you wake,
Came down to earth your sins to take.
In Bethlehem to childbed a maid was brought;
In Jordan’s river His baptism He sought.
So make sure that you scarcely sleep!

And this Bridegroom for whom you wait
Was beaten, mocked, in abject state,
Pierced with nails on a cross displayed,
And in a tomb His body laid.
So make sure that you scarcely sleep!

And the Bridegroom whom you attend
As Scripture says, He rose again!
Gabriel I am, I address you here,
Be ready, I say, for He is near,
And make sure that you scarcely sleep!

English translation by Suzy Robinson, December 2022

Score is now available to buy as a digital download from
https://tinyurl.com/DigitalDownloadsuzyrobinson

www.sheetmusicdirect.com

SheetMusicPlus.com

With many thanks to May Robertson https://mayrobertson.com/ and Lucine Musaelian https://m.youtube.com/user/musicbylucine

Philomel at the Swiss Church: listen

From Philomel’s recent concert at the Swiss Church, Covent Garden

Piangete occhi, Domenico Mazzocchi

Emily Peace, soprano                                                       Suzy Robinson, soprano

James Bramley, theorbo                                                  Michael Keen, harpsichord

Ahi possanza d’amor, Maddalena Casulana

Suzy Robinson, soprano, Michael Keen, recorder, James Bramley, theorbo

Folle cor, Domenico Mazzocchi

Suzy Robinson, Janet Oates, Emily Peace, sopranos

Michael Keen, harpsichord

James Bramley, theorbo

Io d’odorate, Maddalena Casulana

Sopranos Janet Oates, Emily Peace, Suzy Robinson, Felicity Hayward, Charlotte Bröker and Olivia Moss

Michael Keen, harpsichord, James Bramley, theorbo

Philomel.co.uk

Listen

Après un rêve (Op. 7, No. 1), Gabriel Fauré

Sure on this shining night, Samuel Barber

britten

O Waly Waly, Benjamin Britten

ave-maria-square-Custom-Custom

Ave Maria (extract), Bach-Gounod 

GeradePieta-300x225

Domine Deus, Antonio Vivaldi (live recording from Santa Maria in Aquiro, Rome)

Pie Jesu, from Requiem by Gabriel Fauré