Performing lost songs

Detail from the Cambridge Songs manuscript leaf recovered by Cambridge University Library (credit: Cambridge University Library)

Boethius’s On the Consolation of Philosophy was one of the most widely read texts of the Middle Ages. Sam Barrett has brought back to life a lost body of 11th-century songs based on Boethius’s text, leading to them being performed for the first time in more than 1,000 years.

Barrett’s research has brought medieval music to new public audiences through performances, workshops, talks, a CD recording, radio broadcasts, videos and a project website. His collaboration with internationally renowned medieval music ensemble Sequentia has led to significant changes in professional as well as amateur creative practice, and his approach is being adopted by other performers to recover more lost repertories.

Additionally, the research and the resources it has generated have enriched secondary and higher education teaching, not only in musicology but also medieval studies more broadly, in Ireland, Chile, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK, benefitting educators and their students.

Carmina qui quondam (excerpt) – Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy I:1

“Astonishing, spine-tingling stuff.”

– BBC Radio 3