Tapestry: Program, Notes, Translations, and Biographies

Houston Early Music




Laurie Monahan, mezzo-soprano and harp

Cristi Catt, soprano

Daniela Toši?, alto

Shira Kammen, harp, and vielle


A window for her eyes      Serbian epic poem, The Building of Skadar

(exerpt set to a Serbian traditional melody, freely adapted by Daniela Toši? )

Lyulyala, lyulyala (ancient Montenegran lullaby)   Marcos Krieger, arr.

Non sei como me salv’a                                                     Dom Dinis (1261-1325)

Natchez                                                                              Shira Kammen

Raihna Santa Isabel                                                            Traditional romanceiro, Alentejo Portugal

              • (set to  Cantiga de Santa Maria #7 and a traditional ballad from Tras os Montes, freely adapted by Cristi Catt).

Quia ergo Femina (instrumental arr. Shira Kammen) Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)

Karitas habundat, Antiphon for Divine Love

Slova: Anna Akhmatova and Orthodox liturgy  Ivan Moody (b. 1964)

Hebrew Cantillation (Hishbati Etchem)                          Song of Songs 2:7, 3:6-8

Rex Salomon                                                                  Worcester Antiphonaire (13th c.)

Erev shel shoshanim                                                      Traditional Israeli song


A chanter      Comtessa Beatrice de Dia, 12th c.

Nonne sui, nonne/Amour vaint tout fors cuer de felon      Bamberg Manuscript, 13th c.

Nouvelle amour                                                                   Trouvere/Troubadour melodies

              • (arr. by S. Kammen)

Trois Sereus                                                                          La Clayette Manuscript, 13th c.

Careless Love                                                                       Appalachian Folk song (arr. by C. Catt)

John Riley                                                                  Traditional American tune

If you love me                                                               Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978)

Swallowtail/Red-Haired Boy                             Tunes from Scottish, Irish and American traditions

I’m going away to Marbletown                                      Appalachian Folk song

Óró ‘Sé Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile                                                 Irish folk song

Julia Delaney (reel named for the wife of uilleann piper Barney Delaney)

Óró ‘Sé Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile


Drawn from our individual and shared passions, this program crisscrosses borders and centuries to tell tales of remarkable women who inspired nations and generations. These women captured the imaginations of artists, composers, and writers throughout the ages.

Mother and Child

I remember The Building of Skadar from my school days when it was forever etched into my memory. It haunted me then and it haunted me even more when I became a mother. This medieval epic poem takes place in present day Montenegro, near the Albanian border, at the dawn of the Ottoman invasion. Three brothers – a king, a duke and a fictitious youngest brother – are charged with building a fortress at an important crossroad. For three years, the fortress was built by day and destroyed at night by the Vila, a female mountain spirit. Finally, the Vila summons the king and demands a human sacrifice. The bride of the youngest brother is the unfortunate victim. She pleads for her life for the sake of her baby. Nevertheless, she is built into the tower. A miracle occurs and through a window around her breasts she is able to feed her son for one year. I selected three verses from the poem and set them to a somewhat altered traditional Serbian melody. To introduce this tale, we sing a Montenegran lullaby by Marcos Krieger.  A citizen of Germany, Dr. Krieger was raised in the Brazilian Amazon region, where his parents are missionaries to the Xerente tribe. He is an active conductor, vocal coach, singer, and keyboard artist. – Daniela Toši?

“The Knight, the King, his Wife and her Leper”

Isabel of Portugal (1271-1336)

Born in Saragossa Spain, Isabel left her home to assume the throne of Portugal as a young teenager. The queen quickly won the love of her subjects and was referred to as “The Peacemaker” due to her skillful mediation between various warring factions. She also possessed a remarkable understanding of architecture and engineering. The convent of Santa Clara in Coimbra as well as other hospitals and churches in Portugal were built under her direct supervision. After the death of her husband, she became a nun, dedicating her life to good works. Her popularity increased over time as numerous tales of her “miracles” spread throughout Portugal via song and storytelling. Cannonized in 1625, she was also a central figure of the Crypto-Jewish cult in Portugal, as many drew parallels between her and Queen Ester.

Our realization of fragments of a cantiga de amor by Isabel’s husband, Dom Dinis, reveals their marriage as far from perfect. Hints of this are also reflected in Portugal’s popular tradition with tales of Isabel outwitting her husband. For our version of the tale, I adapted melodies from Cantiga de Santa Maria #7 and an ancient ballad from Tras os Montes and set them to a traditional romanceiro text. –Cristi Catt

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)

Composer, abbess and mystic Hildegard von Bingen was an extraordinary woman, a powerhouse whose life and work transcended all the social, cultural and gender barriers of her time. She wrote prolifically on subjects spanning her prophetic visions and Church doctrine to politics and herbal medicine, and corresponded with popes, archbishops and quite notably with her patron, the emperor Frederick Barbarossa. She wrote the texts and soaring melodies to 77 unique compositions as well as one liturgical drama. Karitas (Love) is a central figure in Hildegard’s visionary world and her antiphon, Karitas habundat reveals Divine Love as a supremely feminine force rising beyond the stars. –Toši?

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

Condemned for her poetry’s “preoccupation” with love and God, Akhmatova was harshly denounced as a “harlot-nun” and “alien to the Soviet people.” In 1923, she entered a period of poetic silence and literary ostracism, living in exile without fleeing her country. Following the German invasion in 1941, Akhmatova gave an inspiring radio address to the women of Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. She was lovingly called “Anna Chrysostom of all the Russians” by her contemporary, Marina Tsvetayeva. Only later in her life did she receive recognition for her work. –Toši?

“Then I’m the Queen of Sheba”

One of the ancient world’s greatest romances was between Solomon, King of the Jews and Makeda, Queen of Sheba, a sacred land abundant in Frankincense and Myrrh. This powerful Queen heard of the great wisdom of King Solomon and set on a journey up the Red, or Erythrean Sea, bearing gifts of spices, gold, precious stones and beautiful wood, to test the King with questions. Her arrival with her large retinue across the desert was an impressive site (3:6 Who is that rising from the desert…). Solomon presented her with many gifts and “everything she desired.” He was quite taken by her beauty, power, and virtue, and he desired her greatly. She bore him a son, said to be the first Emperor of Ethiopia. We finish the set with Erev Shel Shoshanim, a beautiful song that is widely used by belly dancers for veil work. The song is popular throughout the Middle East. – Toši?

La Comtessa de Dia (second half of the 12th century)

VIDA: The countess of Dia was the wife of En Guillem de Poitiers, a lady beautiful and good. And she  fell in love with En Raimbaut d’Orange, and wrote many good chansons in his honor.

The clues from this brief medieval biography are difficult to trace as certain facts about the Comtessa’s life, however, she remains the most famous of the some twenty named women poet-composers, trobaritz, from the Southern French musical tradition, and her song A Chantar is the one song from these composers to survive with text and music intact. The language for the performance is Old Provencal and is the fruit of a challenging opportunity to work with language scholar Dr. Margaret Switten as she headed up the remarkable “Medieval Lyric” project at Mt. Holyoke College. Her scholarship and insight into the details of the language held an important key to unlocking the sentiments of the song’s expression.  We have paired A Chantar with Bamberg motets expressing the humorous protestations of young nuns doing battle with the cloistered life, the song of an unhappy wife and Three Sisters by the Sea, a lighthearted look at love. – Laurie Monahan

Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978)

Malvina Reynolds is remembered as an influential social activist and song writer. Denied her high school diploma because of her parents’ opposition to World War I, she went on to receive a Ph.D. in 1936. A Jewish socialist woman in the midst of the Depression, she was unable to find a teaching position so she became a social worker and columnist for the People’s World. In her 40’s she discovered her true calling: music. Her song What have they done with the rain? helped end nuclear testing under the Kennedy administration and her songs have been recorded by Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte and countless others. If You Love Me is one of my favorite songs. I sang it with a good friend as we traveled cross country singing for our supper and later with my daughter. I am happy to have the chance to include it here. Larry Polansky, former chairman of Dartmouth’s music department, captured its essence: an almost mystical love song… with a slight twist that is at times a deceptively simple suggestion about how to really communicate with a loved one. I wanted to pair this song with another favorite, the Appalachian folk song, Careless Love, which I’ve known as long as I can remember. According to ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, it is the earliest American blues tune. – Catt

Grace O’Malley aka Gráinne Mhaol (1530-1603)

Grace O’Malley was a famed chieftain, trader, and (depending on your point of view) a pirate or a noble woman. History remembers Grace for her correspondence and meeting with Queen Elizabeth I. Over time, Grace entered the realm of legend and is often seen as a symbol of Mother Ireland. She is celebrated in the folk song Óró ‘Sé Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile. You may recognize the tune which is also a famous English/American folk song. – Catt


A window for her eyes (Building of Skadar, excerpt)
And when this slender bride saw
that her plea is all in vain
she turns to Rade the mason:
“My brother in God, Master Rade,
leave a window for my breasts,
and draw them out, my two white breasts,
so when my darling little Jovo comes,
when he comes, he can nurse!”

Again the wretched girl calls out to Rade:
“My brother in God, Master Rade,
leave a window for my eyes,
so that I can look toward the white hall
when they bring my Jovo to me,
and when they take him away.”

And so they’ve built her into the tower.
They bring her dear infant son in his cradle,
and she nurses him for a whole week.
After a week she falls silent,
but her milk still flows for her baby:
she nurses him for a whole year.

Ljuljala, ljuljala
Lully, lully, a mother rocked her son to sleep:

Ninana, my son

let the dream trick you into sleep, my baby,

let it trick you before it tricks your father,

here comes a sleepy granny.

Non sei como me salv’a

How can I defend myself to my lady

if God should bring me before her eyes again.

By God, I cannot defend myself

so that she won’t judge me a traitor.

For a long time has passed

with no word from her, and I have not gone to see her.

I know in my heart

what my beautiful lady will do

when I stand before her.

She’ll judge me a traitor with good reason

For a long time has passed

with no word from her and I have not gone to see her.

If her judgment goes against me.

Ay! I am desperate!

What will become of me?

A Rainha Santa Isabel

Chorus: Queen Saint Isabel,

wife of King Dinis,

alms were given to no one

unless they were given

by her sainted hands.

Narrator: One day it happened

that her lap was full

when the king found her

and he asked her:

King: My lady, what are you

carrying in your lap?

Queen: Carnations and roses

for your enjoyment.

King: Carnations in January!

That would be an amazing discovery!

Chorus: Humbly, the Saint

showed him her lap:

revealing a chapel of roses,

another of carnations.

Narrator: One day it happened

that a poor leper arrived

at the palace

with five open wounds.

Queen: Tell me my brother,

if your wounds can be cured?

Leper: My wounds cannot be healed

nor can they be remedied;

I ask, lady,

not to be brought before

your sainted hands.

Narrator: When she heard this, the saint

took him to her room

and from a silver bowl

washed his body

When she was finished,

She took his clean body

to where the King slept

and there he lay down.

A knight happened to see this

and was scandalized:

Knight: Did you know your majesty.

Did you know that your lady,

the queen, my lady

has placed a poor leper

in your bed.

Narrator: When the king heard this,

he was out of patience.

King: Enough my lady.

Your mercy goes too far!

She placed a leper in our bed!

Chorus: When she heard this,

the Saint, lowered her eyes

and then raised her eyes heavenward.

The King drew back the curtain

and saw the Lord there.

King: Now, I say to you my lady.

What is mine, you can give away.

You can give my treasures to the pilgrims

as you wish.

Chorus: In Saragossa, she was born.

In Estremoz, she died.

In the convent of Santa Clara she is buried.

Karitas Habundant

Charity rises

from the depths

past the stars

Embracing all

she gives the supreme king the kiss of peace

Words by Anna Akmatova (1889-1966)

Oh, there are unique words,
those who say them – spend far too much.
Only Heaven’s blue is inexhaustible,
and the mercy of God.

Hebrew Cantillation (Hishbati Etchem)

2:7 Daughters of Jerusalem, swear to me

by the gazelles, by the dear in the field,

that you will never awaken love

until its ripe.

3:6 Who is that rising from the desert

like a pillar of smoke,

more fragrant with myrrh and frankincense

than all the spices of the merchant!

3:7 Oh the splendors of King Solomon!

The bravest of Israel surround his bed,

threescore warriors,

3:8 each of them skilled in the battle,

each with his sword on his thigh

against the terror of night.

2:7 Daughters of Jerusalem, swear to me…

Rex Salomon

3:9 King Solomon made a bed for himself

from the woods of Lebanon;

3:10 its columns he made of silver,

the pillow of gold,

its stairs of purple,

the middle he has built of love

for the daughters of Jerusalem.

6:7 Sixty are the queens and eighty the concubines

and the young girls are beyond number;

6:8 unique is my dove, my perfect one,

her mother’s only one,

the elect of her who bore her.

5:2 Open for me, my sister, my love,

my dove, my spotless one,

for my head is full of dew

and my hair of the drops of the night.

1:1 Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth,

for your breasts are better than wine,

1:2 fragrant with the best ointments,

4:10 and the smell of your ointments

is above all spices.

7:11 Come, my beloved, let us go out into the field,

let us linger in the country houses,

7:12 Let us go early to the vineyards,

and let us see if the vines have flowered,

if the flowers have borne their fruit,

if the pomegranates have flowered;

there I will give you my breasts.

Erev shel shoshanim

Evening of roses

let’s go out to the grove

myrrh, spices, and incense

are a carpet to walk on.

The night comes slowly

a breeze of roses blows

let me whisper a song to you quietly

a song of love.

At dawn, a dove is cooing

your hair is filled with dew

your lips to the morning are like a rose

I’ll pick it for myself.

The night comes slowly…

A Chantar

I am obliged to sing of that which I would not,

so bitter am I over the one whose love I am,

for I love him more than anything;

With him mercy and courtliness are of no avail

not my beauty, not my merit nor my good sense,

for I am deceived and betrayed

exactly as I should be, if I were ungracious.

I comfort myself because never was I at fault,

friend, towards you on account of any behavior,

rather I love you more than Seguin loved Valensa

and it pleases me greatly that I vanquish you in love,

my friend, because you are the most valiant;

You are haughty to me in words and appearance,

and yet you are so affable towards all others.

I am astonished at how you became haughty,

friend, towards me, and I have reason to grieve;

It is not right that another love takes you from me

on account of anything said or granted to you.

I recall to you how it was at the beginning

of our love! May God never wish

that my guilt be the cause of separation.

My worth and my nobility

my beauty and my faithful heart should help me;

That is why I send there where is your dwelling

this song, that it may be my messenger.

I want to know, my fine and noble friend,

why you are so cruel and harsh with me;

I don’t know if it is haughtiness or ill will.

But I especially want the messenger to tell you

that many people are harmed by excess pride.

Translation by Dr. Margaret Switten

Nonne sui, nonne #71
Motetus: I am a nun. Set me free!

I can’t stay here any more.

I can’t bear to sound your matins,

which make me suffer pain and ill.

Shivering from the cold, I must stay up late,

and awake early, which torments me greatly.

Nothing about this life pleases me.

The Hours I must memorize
cause me so much frustration,

and when I ought to be sleeping, they ring matins.
Quant voi la flourette #49
Triplum: My heart flutters with happiness!

I have found the love I desire!

It will not last long.
Quant voi la flourete/Je sui joliete/Aptatur #49
Triplum: When I see the flowers

blooming in the meadow and hear

the lark’s morning song,

I am happy and sing this little song:

Love has wounded me.

In the name of God! My heart flutters with happiness.

I have found the love I desire.

Gently, kindly, secretly,

it has stolen my heart and made me fall in love so sweetly.

In vain does this burning desire hold me,

wasting away my youth in painful torment.

It will not last for long.
Motetus: I am pretty, gentle and pleasing;

I am a young maid,

not yet fifteen years old. My breasts
are budding and I should be learning about love,

but I am imprisoned.

May the one who put me here be cursed by God!

Evil, base and sinful is he who put me in a convent.

He was very wrong, indeed!

In the convent is much sorrow, for God!

I am too young.

I feel gentle pains of love beneath my habit.

A curse upon the man who put me here!
Nonne sui, none #71
Motetus: I am a nun. Set me free!

I can’t stay here any more.

Trop est mes maris jalos

My husband is jealous,

proud, ruthless and cruel

but he will soon be a cuckhold

once I find a way to meet my lover

a man of grace and charm.

I don’t care one bit for husbands

they are useless.

I tell you – do your best to avoid a husband!

When I go to the window

he’s always spying on me

I wish he were gone, I tell you

He gets in my way when I

try to meet with my lover

He knows I love another.

He can go crazy for all I care.

I tell you – do your best to avoid a husband!

I will boldly face him:

You cruel and foolish villain

I must meet my love without delay

and I’m not talking about you!

Go ahead and be jealous

I’m leaving you for another man

I tell you – do your best to avoid a husband!

Trois Sereus

Three sisters, by the seas-shore, sing in a clear tone.

The youngest, a brunette thinks on her dark haired lover:

I am dark so shall I have a dark lover.

Three sisters, by the sea-shore, sing in a clear tone.

The middle one calls Robin, her lover:

You took me in the leafy wood, take me back there.”

Three sisters, by the sea-shore, sing in a clear tone.

The eldest says: “One should love a young lady well,

and he who has her love should keep it.

Careless love

Love, oh love oh careless love

can’t you see what careless love can do

Once I wore my apron low

you followed me through rain and snow

Now I wear my apron high

you see my door and now you pass me by

Love, oh love oh careless love

can’t you see what careless love can do

I’m going away to Marbletown

Every night when the sun goes down
I hang down my head and mournful cry

True love don’t weep, true love don’t mourn,
True love don’t weep, nor mourn for me
I’m going away to Marbletown

I wish to the Lord that train would come
to take me back to where I come from..

True love don’t weep……

If you love me

If you love me, if you love, love, love me
plant a rose for me
and if you think you’ll love me for a long, long time
plant an apple tree

The sun will shine, the wind will blow
the rain will fall and the tree will grow
and whether you comes or whether you goes
I’ll have an apple and I’ll have a rose

Lovely to bite and nice to my nose
and every juicy nibble will be
a sweet reminder of the time you loved me
and planted a rose for me
and an apple tree.

Orò sé do bheatha

Welcome home Graine Mhaol!

Now at the coming of summer.


Tapestry, a Boston based ensemble of women’s voices, made its debut in 1995 with the performance of Steve Reich’s Tehillim at Jordan Hall in Boston which The Boston Globe deemed “a knockout”. The trademark of the ensemble is combining medieval repertory and contemporary compositions in bold, conceptual programming. Critics hail their rich distinctive voices, their “technically spot-on singing” and their emotionally charged performances. The LA Times writes of their performance of Hildegard’s O Vos Angeli: “… as radiant and exciting as any singing I’ve heard all season” and The Cleveland Plain Dealer describes Tapestry as “an ensemble that plants haunting vibrations, old and new, in our ears.

Today, their concert appearances include the Utrecht Early Music and the Maastricht Musica Sacra Festivals, Regensburg’s Tage Alter Musik, the Flanders Festivals of Gent and Brussels, Le Donne in Musica, Rome; Jordan Hall, Boston; Hildegard von Bingen Symposium at the, University of Oregon, Eugene; Kalamazoo Medieval Conference, MI; Frick Collection and Rockefeller University, NY; Harvard U., Da Camera of Houston; Early Music Concert Series, Boulder; Denver’s Newman Performing Arts Center; Da Camera Society LA; Stanford U., Museum Concert, Cleveland, festivals in Ottawa and Montreal, and many others.  In the fall of 2008, the ensemble toured Latvia and also performed at the Moscow Conservatory.  Among recent appearances were concerts at e.g. the Library of Congress and New York City’s Frick Collection  with their new program “American Dreams”, at the Bucerius Foundation in Hamburg with works from the 13th to the 15th centuries that will be broadcast by the Norddeutscher Radio,  visits to Mexico, Bogota and Brazil.  Among the upcoming engagements will be the unveiling of a mini-opera, written for Tapestry, which is based on Tibetan folklore and which will coincide with an exhibition of Tibetan art at the Freer and Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC and which will have its world premiere at the new Ottawa festival Music and Beyond.

Tapestry has made 4 recordings with Telarc International: Angeli, Music of AngelsHildegard von Bingen: Celestial LightSong of Songs – Come into my Garden; and The Fourth RiverSapphire Night, their first recording with German label, MDG, won the 2005 Echo Prize. Tapestry released Faces of a Woman on the MDG label in 2007.