The Carmina Burana

In 1803, a manuscript was discovered in a Benedictine abbey of Benediktbeuern, 50 km south of Munich, a discovery that was do be crucial to our understanding of Latin secular writing in medieval Europe. Because it was found in Beuren, Johann Andreas Schmeller, who published a complete edition of the poems in 1847, called the manuscript Carmina Burana. Continue reading

18 New Translations

As I mentioned earlier, I have been asked to create singable translations for all the pieces at St. Cecilia Press, and I am happy to be able to say that I have finished! (Or, at least, I’m caught up until Monique adds more pieces.)

My recent translations include 16 pieces to accompany Monique’s editions, plus two I’ve done just on my own initiative. 🙂 They are as follows: Continue reading

Piae cantiones ecclesiasticae et scholasticae veterum episcoporum… and Neale & Helmore

Last night we received our first big snowfall of the year, and that means it’s time to talk about Piae cantiones!

Why should you become familiar with Piae cantiones? Only because it’s a incredibly rich source of medieval Christmas music, some of which you already know. And because it’s easy for modern musicians to read and understand. And because of its importance to the history of religious and school music in Scandinavia. And because what other medieval Finnish music do you know? Continue reading

Winter Holiday Songs

The reason I’ve been silent for the last month or so is that I’ve been finishing this:

A Collection of Winter Holiday Songs for Medieval & Renaissance Enthusiasts

It’s a big songbook of SCA-Period Christmas carols (and songs for other winter holidays). I’ve been working on it for 2-3 years, and I’m excited to have finally finished it.

The joy of singing holiday songs often comes from revisiting favorites, indulging in memories and joining in the ritual of singing familiar songs with others. I think that’s why many people don’t want to sing SCA-period carols: They want to sing their favorites, and they believe that none of their favorites are old enough to “count”. I hope this songbook will help show that there are plenty of pre-1600 holiday songs that are still popular today.

For example, did you know that the following songs are wholly or partially SCA-period?

  • O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
  • O Tannenbaum
  • What Child Is This?
  • The First Nowell
  • Ding Dong Merrily on High
  • God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen
  • Good Christian Men, Rejoice
  • Christ Was Born on Christmas Day
  • The Boar’s Head in Hand Bear I
  • Good King Wenceslas
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas

I’ve tried to include as many modern favorites as possible, but there are also lots of new songs, too! For more details about how I decided what to include, please read the Forward.

I hope people will find this helpful. As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to contact me.

Here’s the link one more time.


A few things that I’ll fix the next time I update the pdf:

  • p. 28: A 2-voice version of “Veni, Veni Emanuel” was discovered by Mary Berry in the 1960s. I’ll include it in the next update. (Also, the second word in verse 2 shouldn’t be capitalized. Whoops!)
  • p. 37, 224, & 247: “Sloan” should be spelled “Sloane”.
  • p. 37: The missing sign for the D. S. al Fine belongs at measure 1, just after the pickup.
  • p. 97: Stella ducte lumine means “drawn by the star’s light”.
  • p. 103: I intended to capitalize the song’s title as “Dieux Soit en Cheste Maison”.
  • p. 197: “Sellenger’s Round” is found in My Ladye Nevells Booke of Virginal Music (1591) by William Byrd (c. 1540 – 1623).
  • p. 230: “Sellenger’s Round” appears in the 1687 edition of The English Dancing Master, not the 1651 edition. Also, the tune appears solidly within SCA Period in My Ladye Nevells Booke of Virginal Music (1591) by William Byrd (c. 1540 – 1623).

Note: For several songs, the popular form of the melody (which I have included) is somewhat modified from the original melody as published in period. One good example is page 120, where the modification and its source are noted in the Index but not in the main body of the book.

To add in the next edition: “Dives and Lazarus”

La vida de Culin

Recently, a friend asked if I would help with a project.

My  friend is hosting a ball next year that has a super-cool theme: All of the dances on the dancelist will be dances performed to tunes that also have lyrics. (In other words, they’re dances, but they’re also songs.) And they’ll all be performed by a choir. There was a similar dance this summer that went very well, so he’s planning next summer’s reprise.

He asked me to write a singable translation for a 15th-century Italian dance called “Vita di Cholino”, which is danced to the song “La vida de Culin”. I happily agreed. However, it wasn’t as straight-forward an assignment as I’d assumed…

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Altas undas que venez suz la mar

For fun, I’ve written a singable translation of a little piece that has been attributed to my favorite troubadour, Raimbaut de Vaqueiras. It is almost certainly not by him, since it is not at all his style, but it is cute nonetheless.

Sadly, I cannot find any information about the original tune for this piece. It might not exist anymore. I was able to find a couple of recordings of people singing these lyrics to different tunes, however. Perhaps these tunes are composed by the performers?

Having given up on finding an extant 12th-century tune for these lyrics, I’ve decided to simply place them here, sans music. Here are the original lyrics, if you’d like to compare – as I said, they are very cute.

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Pos sabers no.m val ni sens

Another piece from our friend, Guiraut Riquier. I’m so enthusiastic about this guy’s passion for form – and the sincerity of his words – that I want to keep exploring his work!  🙂

In this one, Guiraut experiments with a circular form in which the final line of each stanza is the first line of the next stanza (and the final line of last stanza is, of course, the first line of the poem). In addition, odd-numbered (1, 3, 5) and even-numbered (2, 4, 6) stanzas have an inverted structure: the rhyme pattern of the first half of the odd stanzas is the same as the rhyme pattern of the second half of the even stanzas, and vice versa. Yet the two halves of each stanza are connected because they share a rhyme throughout (lines 2, 4, 7, and 9).

Guiraut employs the same form in the melody. In general, lines that rhyme share melodic information. And he also echoes the two-half structure: In the manuscript, he uses a special sign to indicate that Verses 1, 3, and 5 should be sung as written, but Verses 2, 4, and 6 should be sung differently. For the even-numbered verses, the singer begins on line 6 of the tune and, after reaching the end, returns to the top of the page to eventually end on line 5. I’ve never seen instructions like that for a troubadour piece before, so I am super-excited!

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