Pilgrimage to Montserrat [2CD]

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The Renaissance Players, directed by Winsome Evans, was founded 48 years ago in Sydney. It has a nucleus of nine to ten musicians (singers and instrumentalists), which is varied according to the needs of particular performances. In addition, the group contains a poetry reader, and one or two miming clowns. The Renaissance Players has established itself as the most accomplished and widely known early music group in Australia. Their sense of musical style, colourful costuming, technical ability and vital presentation are their landmark qualities.

The main focus of Pilgrimage to Montserrat is on the ten pilgrim songs, the so-called cants del romeus, contained in the Llibre Vermell (the Red Book), a codex from the library of the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin at Montserrat in Catalonia. The codex today contains only 137 sheets of what is believed to have once been 172 sheets. Amongst the missing contents there may have been an even more numerous collection of pilgrim songs than the ten which have survived.

The Renaissance Players’ reconstruction of, and additions to, this much-recorded collection of medieval pilgrim songs – many of which are dance songs – will demonstrate several new ways of performing and organising this material, rather than simply emulate the approaches undertaken by other, modern early music ensembles.

The aim is to show how richly varied, yet stylistically viable, reconstructions of “lost” performance traditions can be.