The King and His Saints : Carolingian Prayers and Songs of Praise


In order to ensure his power the Carolingian ruler Charlemagne (ca. 747-814) ordered to standardize and unify administrative practices as well as cultural elements in all of his large empire. The canon of liturgical songs was also subjected to this project. But ensuring that the same feast days were observed and the same liturgical chants sung on the same day, in the same manner, and over such a large territory proved to be a difficult, if not impossible task: Musical notation was not yet established and musical knowledge and skill was passed on in oral traditions, probably each with its own aesthetics and habits...

However, Charlemagne's attempts of cultural unification (and perhaps also the resistances to it) lead to several interesting developments in the music of the 8th to 10th centuries: New musical notations and musical forms (such as tropes and sequences) are developed while traditional forms like liturgical chant, hymns and litanies are kept and at times adapted. Some pieces in the vernacular languages (Old French, Old German) are written down and sometimes translated into Latin. A theory treatise and some early notated manuscripts transmit some of the earliest known European improvisational practices of diaphony. 

Moirai's new concert program "The King and his Saints" includes a hypnotic litany, invoking all saints to protect the king and ensure his victory, a song in praise of Charlemange's court, and many sequences – mostly from the monastery of St. Gall (Switzerland), which was an important cultural center at the time. The legends of many saints are told in those songs, mainly in Latin, but also in Old French and Old German. The program unites pieces reconstructed from neumes with musical re-creations based on contextual materials. Early two-voice improvisatory practices as well as instrumental origins of sequences will be explored, presenting the cultural richness that is the "Carolingian Renaissance". 

Concert duration: 50-80min, depending on choice of pieces. More information (German) (Download).

Manuela Coelho Lopes : Voice

Stef Conner : Voice

Mara Winter : Flutes, voice

Hanna Marti : Voice, harps

Last update: May 2019. Site created by Hanna Marti and Mara Winter