Originally posted on Kit Smart’s Blog on April 22 2016
For 1,000 years the music to Boethius’s Songs of Consolation had been lost.
The songs would at one point have been commonly heard in courts of the day were passed on through aural traditions. Once it would have been instinctual for many to know how they should have sounded but sadly as musical styles moved on, Boethius was left in the past and the accompanying tunes lost.
That is until recently when Pembroke Fellow Sam Barrett completed over a decade’s worth of research. With the aid of Benjamin Bagby and his band Sequentia, Dr Barrett has succeeded in reconstructing the music for Boethius’s words and crafted a series of events for the public so that once more the songs can be enjoyed.
During the Open Rehearsal that was held in the Old Library, Dr Barrett talked the audience through the process of reviving the tunes while only having the practical musical notations, or neumes, as a guide. Neumes are not substitutes for musical notes as they merely indicated where a singer’s voice should rise or fall which meant that there was not a lot to go on.
Dr Barrett then had to work back and consider the musical trends of the time. He noted that some of the songs had verses that were written in hexameter, much like a psalm and used that as the basis for those reconstructions. The musicians then stepped in to add the accompaniment using their authentic harps and flutes.
Sequentia treated the audience to five of the songs that will appear at the performance on Saturday in Pembroke College Chapel at 8pm. Tickets for that performance are available here.
For more information about the project you can visit the project website here.