Review: Medieval merriment at Leamington Hastings church

Joglaresa, the medieval word for wandering minstrels
Joglaresa, the medieval word for wandering minstrels

Charles Essex reviews Caroles of Nunnes and Roses by Joglaresa at All Saints' church, Leamington Hastings

The Warwickshire classical music scene has a wide variety of Christmas music throughout December. But Music at Leamington Hastings chose an evening of medieval music with a rose theme – a symbol of Christ’s blood, the blood of martyrs and particularly celebrating the Virgin Mary.

Joglaresa is the medieval word for wandering minstrels, and playing instruments typical of the period, fidels [sic] with gut strings, percussion, harp and bagpipes, these five multi-talented women transported the audience to a medieval fair or church with exquisite singing and playing. All the performers sang, with Hazel Askew the harpist being especially poised in her solos. Percussionist Louise Duggan showed her versatility playing a variety of six instruments with the frame drums and psaltery giving both an added depth and lightness, respectively, to the music.

Joglaresa treated us to a large oeuvre of 19 pieces with songs in English, Latin, Spanish, Italian and even Welsh and some instrumental pieces. An especially welcome part of the programme was that Belinda Sykes, the director of Joglaresa and bagpiper of the group, used her knowledge as Professor of Medieval Music to give a historical and musical explanation preceding every piece, which added immensely to the audience’s appreciation of each work.

The Welsh speaking Sianed Jones gave a particularly moving rendition of a 6th century Welsh lullaby. The evening finished with a performance of Ding Dong Merrily on High, which we were invited to sing along with and for an encore Gaudete Christus est Natus. Apart from those two the majority of pieces would not be known to most of the audience unless they were aficionados of this period of music or Joglaresa’s work, but the exceptionally high standard of the performance and the setting in the 12th century church meant that one could not fail to be delighted, a sentiment demonstrated by the prolonged applause at the end.