World Premier… my very first tune

Organising Longest Night kept me away from my own blog for a while, but it was completely worth it, not least because it gave me an opportunity to share my first ever musical composition with musicians who would do it justice. Here are Ian Kennedy and Sarah Lloyd singing The Cold Time.

This is a Trobairitz song from the late 12th Century, written by Azalaïs de Porcairagues, in what is now Languedoc. It is written in a form of Provençal known now as Occitan. The tune is lost, and I came across it in Meg Bogin’s book The Women Troubadours, while researching my historical novel about Cathars and Trobairitz, The Cold Time, which I may eventually finish.

I actually wrote the melody a very long time ago, but coming up with harmonies has been a slower process. Ian & Sarah were incredibly patient with me!

I learnt Provençal, and tweaked Bogin’s translation for poetic rhythm and sense. The original song is a much longer work, but only this first section stands alone without understanding the social mores of the time and the geography and architecture of the city of Aurenga (Orange) – it was only when I went there and visited the museum that I understood a reference later in the song to the ‘Arch with the Triumphs’. A Roman triumphal arch, which for several centuries was built into the castle, effectively forming the front door. This was certainly the case when Azalaïs knew the then count,  Raimbaut d’Aurenga. These days the arch sits on a roundabout to the north of the city centre, and getting to it is a death defying race across, dodging massed lorries.

Roman triumphal arch, Orange, Provence

Raimbaut d’Aurenga’s Front Door

Notionally the section here is a typical Troubadour song of the seasons, although Spring was a more popular subject than Winter. However, the song is in fact an extended metaphor and a farewell to Raimbaut, Azalaïs’ ‘Nightingale’. She does not say so, but he had died.

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 5th January

No convenient birthday for 5th January so the first of the ‘who knows?’


Thirteenth Century Trobairitz (Female Troubadour – writer of songs) from Romans-Sur-Isère. Writing from around 1200-1235. Probably nobility since she could read and write. The tune does not survive.  During and following the Albigensian Crusade, troubadours were treated with great suspicion due to their  popularity with the Languedocian nobles, as a result of which they were seen as implicated in the Cathar heresy. There isn’t a lot of evidence for them actually being anything to do with the Cathars en masse, although one or two Troubadours were Cathars. One of the ways Troubadours used to deflect this suspicion was to address their songs to the virgin Mary. It is possible that this is what Bieris is doing here, but it’s more fun to imagine that Maria was a real woman – Who’d have conversation with the virgin (e-l gent parlar e l’avinen solatz)? and that line don’t grant your love to a deceitful suitor (que non ametz ententidor truan) doesn’t sound very holy, unfortunately it is the most dodgy bit of the translation.

Na Maria, pretz e fina valors
e-l gioi e-l sen e la fina beutatz
e l’acuglir e-l pretz e las onors
e-l gent parlar e l’avinen solatz
e-l dous cara, la gaia cuendanza
e-l douz esgart e l’amoros semblan
que son en vos, don non avetz egansa
me fan traire vas vos ses cor truan.

Per que vos prec, si-us platz, que fin’amors
e gausiment e douz umilitatz
me puosca far ab vos tan de socors
que mi donetz, bella domna, si-us platz,
so don plus ai d’aver gioi esperansa
car en vos ai mon cor e mon talan
e per vos ai tot so qu’ai d’alegransa
e per vos vauc mantas vez sospiran

E car beutatz e valors vos onransa
sobra totas, qu’una no-us es denan
vos prec, si-us platz, per so que-us es onransa
que non ametz ententidor truan

Bella Domna, cui pretz e gioi enanza
e gent parlar, a vos mas coblas man
car en vos es saessa et alegransa
e tot lo ben qu’om en dona deman

The translation, from the original Old Provencal (known now as Occitan, though not at the time) is mostly by Meg Bogen, but I did actually get out multiple dictionaries and alternative texts to cross check. This was a long time ago so I can’t say for sure whose translation this is anymore.

Lady Maria, in you merit and true worth
the joy and wisdom and great beauty,
graciousness, reputation and honour
noble speech and charming conversation
your sweet face and merry demeanor
the sweet look and loving expression
which are yours, and which have no equal
draw me toward you with a pure heart.

Thus I pray you, if it please you that true love
and joyfulness and sweet humility
should bring me such relief with you,
that you grant me, fair lady, if you please
that which gives me most hope of joy;
for in you lie my desire and my heart
and from you stems all my happiness,
and for your sake I sigh all the time.

And because merit and beauty raise you
above all others so that none excels you
I pray you, please, by this which does you honour
don’t grant your love to a deceitful suitor. (do not love without true understanding)

Lovely woman, whom honour and joy,
and noble speech uplift, to you I send my verses
for in you are wisdom and happiness,
and all good things one could ask of a woman.

Beiris definitely gets invited to tea, or more likely, for a glass of a good Côte du Rhône, fresh young Brebis cheese and roasted chestnuts.