Concerts and Performances

The Enchantress of Seville

Joglaresa perform an exploration of the roots of Iberian song.

Performers Joglaresa with their instruments.

A Border-Crossing Monk

A Border-Crossing Monk: Secular and Spiritual Song from Late Medieval Salzburg, performed by Silvan Wagner.

Silence: A Retelling of the Roman de Silence

Performed by previous UK Young Storyteller of the Year, Rachel Rose Reid.

Updated: Tuesday 24 March

It is with great sadness that we have decided to cancel this year’s International Medieval Congress, 6-9 July 2020, as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes the cancellation of all events and excursions. Read our full statement.

This year’s concert and performance programme features outdoor dramatic performances, theatrical readings, storytelling, and live music from a diverse group of performers and sources. Check each event listing for information on tickets and locations.

You can book and pay for event tickets when you register online. Alternatively, any remaining tickets will be on sale at the Refectory Help Desk from Monday 06 July.

Medieval Music across Frontiers

Performed by Peter Bull
Leeds University Union: Room 6
Sunday 05 July, 19.00-20.30
This event is free of charge

Medieval music spanned national borders. In this solo concert, music from medieval England, France, Spain, Italy, and Germany will be performed on a wide variety of replica medieval instruments including the wheel fiddle (hurdy gurdy), bagpipes, hammered dulcimer, and recorders; there will also be songs accompanied by medieval lute.

Peter Bull gives performances of historical music on a diverse range of period instruments, including those mentioned above, and also sings. His solo recitals include appearances at the Leicester Early Music Festival, the Spanish Institutes in London and Manchester, the Leeds City Art Gallery, and previous IMCs. He has also appeared regularly at the Tower of London and at Hampton Court Palace with the historical interpreters Past Pleasures, as well as at many properties in the care of the National Trust and English Heritage.

A Border-Crossing Monk: Secular and Spiritual Song from Late Medieval Salzburg

Performed by Silvan Wagner
stage@leeds: Stage 2
Monday 06 July, 20.30-22.00
Price: £12.00

The so-called Monk of Salzburg was extremely popular in the 15th century. His compositions have been handed down in more than 100 manuscripts. The love songs he created are charming and some of his religious songs are still performed in his native town of Salzburg as well as all over the German-speaking countries.

His identity, though, remains a mystery. A note in one of his compositions suggests that he was associated with the court of Archbishop Pilgrim II (1365-1396). We therefore presume that it was his double status as monk and courtly singer that enabled him to create such a rich oeuvre of songs in the vernacular: half sacred, half secular. Moreover, for the very first time in the history of German music, he used polyphony. In his religious songs he often took up traditional medieval forms and melodies, whereas in his love songs he came up with surprisingly new themes and phrases. Some of his compositions sound daringly modern as if they are foreshadowing the folk music of modern times. This explains why the Monk was and still is crossing borders: borders between secular and religious space, between monody and polyphony, ars musica and folk music, and also between the Middle Ages and modern times.

Silvan Wagner is well known to the audience of the IMC. He staged and performed epics such as Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Willehalm and Hartmann von Aue’s Iwein. More recently, he performed a lively programme of music composed by the famous Oswald von Wolkenstein. Silvan Wagner grew up in Bavaria and began his studies of music in Cologne. He then continued his studies of German Literature and Protestant Theology at the University of Bayreuth. There he gained a PhD in Medieval German Literature and Language. His artistic activities comprise practical interpretations of classical music as well as medieval minstrel songs. In Bayreuth he created an orchestra of chamber music for plucked instruments. He also directs theatre productions and writes poems and plays. His performances of medieval music combine historical knowledge, learnt commentaries, and musical sensitivity in order to offer both an intellectual and a sensual experience.

The International Medieval Congress and the Oswald von Wolkenstein-Gesellschaft are proud to bring this event to Leeds.

The Knight in Panther Skin

Performed by James Baillie
School of Music: Lecture Theatre 2
Tuesday 07 July, 19.00-20.30
This event is free of charge

The Knight in Panther Skin, or Vepkhist’q’aosani, is often regarded as the greatest Georgian literary work, not only of the Middle Ages, but of all time. A part of Georgia’s culture so integral that a copy was a required part of dowries in more recent centuries, the romantic epic poem contains a rich mix of Georgian language, worldview, and folklore within a self-consciously Persian literary framework, and it is renowned for its commentary on themes of love, despair, and friendship. Written at the end of the 12th century by Shota Rustaveli, a mysterious figure regarded today as Georgia’s national poet, it was written for Tamar, the first ruling queen of the Georgian Bagrationid dynasty and was probably commissioned by her second husband, the Ossetian prince David Soslan.

The story follows Avtandil, a general of the armies of Arabia, who is in love with the king’s daughter and sole heir, Tinatin. When out hunting with the king one day, he comes across a mysterious weeping knight, dressed in the skin of a panther. The central mystery of the piece thus established, Rustaveli’s work follows Avtandil’s quest to discover the mysterious eponymous knight’s identity and the cause of his grief. As it does so, the story moves from Arabia to India and China and beyond into folkloric realms of Georgian imagination with mysterious sorcerers, pirates, and family feuds as just some of the perils that must be negotiated along the way.

In this performance, storyteller and historian of the period James Baillie will take listeners through a modern English retelling of both the core narrative of Rustaveli’s story and the setting of its creation. Weaving between the fantasy of the narrative and what we know of the reality of the 12th-century Bagrationid court, this will shed a unique light on a text that, whilst often treated as timeless, also contains many very contemporary references that situate it in the particular historical moment in which it was created. Blending traditional storytelling craft with up to date understandings of the Caucasian elites for whom Rustaveli was writing, this performance will be an opportunity both to encounter a fascinating heroic epic little known by many western medievalists and to get a window into aspects of how it might have been understood when it was first performed over 800 years ago.

The Enchantress of Seville

Performed by Joglaresa
School of Music: Clothworkers Concert Hall
Tuesday 07 July, 20.30-22.00
Price: £18.00

I am worthy of the best, by Allah,
And proudly I walk, with head aloft.
(Wallada, 11th-century poetess of Cordoba)

Joglaresa explore the roots of Iberian song – motets from the Convent of Las Huelgas, Arab-Andalusian ballads, and Judeo-Spanish romanzas. With medieval and traditional instruments from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, Joglaresa perform songs, kept alive through centuries of tradition – a colourful and timeless kaleidoscope that connects the Occident to the Orient and the 11th to the 21st century.

Described as early music’s ‘bit of rough’, Joglaresa is a rebellious medieval/folk ensemble that pushes, and often transcends, the limits of what is thought of as early music. Joglaresa embodies the boldness and improvisatory chutzpah that gets straight to the heart of medieval music.

Directed by Belinda Sykes (soloist at the Royal Albert and Carnegie Halls) Joglaresa comprises outstanding classical, world, folk, and jazz musicians, crafting a sound that is at once traditional and contemporary. Combining intoxicating elements of medieval, Middle Eastern, and Celtic musics, they create a unique sound that is both extrovert and intimate.

‘Thrilling and haunting’ – The Times

‘Never a dull moment… brilliantly off-kilter’ – BBC Music Magazine

Narrative Borders: Tales from Robert Thornton’s Mansucripts

Performed by The Lords of Misrule
Beech Grove Plaza
Wednesday 08 July, 19.00-20.00
This event is free of charge

The Lords of Misrule return to the IMC for an exciting performance of a tale from the manuscripts of Robert Thornton. Working with Nicola McDonald (Department of English and Related Literature, University of York) and the community of Stonegrave Minster – the parish church of this prolific and influential scribe – The Lords of Misrule explore the accessibility of the Thornton manuscripts and breathe new life into these fascinating stories. Witness the blurring of the borders of medieval and modern, watch the story seep from the pages of the manuscripts and onto the stage at Leeds, and immerse yourself in Thornton’s world for an hour…

The Lords of Misrule came into existence almost forty years ago, when a group of like-minded students at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York decided that there was a gap in the city’s amateur dramatics market that could be filled by their particular expertise.

Since then, the Lords have established a reputation in York and beyond for putting on productions of both medieval and other early dramas and their own adaptations of other medieval texts. Their aim has always been to make medieval literature both accessible and fun for modern audiences, not by ‘dumbing down’ the texts but by bringing out their true spirit. We hope that you enjoy the show!

Silence: A Retelling of the Roman de Silence

Performed by Rachel Rose Reid
stage@leeds: Stage 2
Wednesday 08 July, 20.00-21.30
This event is free of charge

In the whole world, only one manuscript unfolds the Roman de Silence. Written down in the 13th century, it was discovered in Wollaton Manor, Nottinghamshire, in a box marked ‘Old Papers – No Value’ (next to a few letters from King Henry VIII). Silence, a descendent of King Arthur, is born a girl, raised a boy, switching pronouns depending on their own feelings and becoming a runaway, a minstrel, and a champion knight.
When the tale was discovered in 1911, suffrage protests were at their explosive height. Perhaps that is why this story – which suggests that England’s wellbeing depends on gender equality – was kept silent. But the story was made to be told and now is the time to tell it…

A couple of years ago, acclaimed spoken word artist Rachel Rose Reid found an academic textbook of the Roman de Silence in the basement of a secondhand bookstore in New York, and found within it the voice of someone who shared her art of performance storytelling, still ringing fresh across the centuries. This discovery set her off on her own quest to renew this adventure which has so much to say about 21st-century sexual politics, identity, and freedom. Join her journey to help Silence speak again.

Rachel Rose Reid is a winner of the UK Young Storyteller of the Year, and has received much attention for taking storytelling to unexpected venues and collaborations. She has performed to international acclaim at storytelling, theatre, and music festivals around the world, and has written and performed stories for London City Sinfonia, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Billy Bragg.

‘Immense skill and breathless conviction. There’s no faulting Reid’s command of her craft.’ – The Times

For further information, visit www.rachelrosereid.com, www.silencespeaks.strikingly.com, or on Twitter @rachelrosereid.