I, Trobairitz

The program cover

What’s a trobairitz? Why, a female troubadour! Troubadours and trobairitz were traveling musician-poets in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Occitania, in the south of what is now France (see map below). They sang, they wrote, they carried the news — and they pretty much invented romantic poetry of a distinctly sensual and erotic kind.

This afternoon the West Tisbury Library presented a reprise of last summer’s popular program, The World of Troubadours and Trobairitz: Poems, Songs, and Music. Most of the performers were returnees; all the material was new. A most welcome first-timer was Marisa Galvez, an assistant professor at Stanford University who specializes in the literature of the Middle Ages. She provided an introduction to the period and to the significance of the troubadours and trobairitz.

Occitania, land of the troubadours

There followed readings of poems — by me, among others — and musical interludes by Deborah Forest Hart on recorder and hammer dulcimer, Carol Loud on recorder, and Andy Weiner on hammer dulcimer.

The musicians

The pièce de resistance was a performance by Jessica Goodenough Heuser, a young soprano who specializes in early music and is, as she noted, a sort of trobairitz herself in that she travels to schools and other venues to sing her songs. She’s also the granddaughter of program producer Paul Levine, a retired Stanford professor who is currently working on a novel that draws on both the creative and the genetic legacy of the troubadours and trobairitz. The troubadours make fascinating reading. If you want to learn more, here’s a place to start: http://www.midi-france.info/1904_troubadours.htm.

Impresario Paul Levine

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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