Entitled Heavenly Delights and Earthly Pleasures, this was an interesting combination of offerings by the small group Mediva for the Birmingham Early Music Festival: The Food of Love.
Initially the inclusion of English translations of some of the Latin texts were a relief, but on reflection not a great help as the programme was changed at the last minute due to the illness of one of the participants. The audience was left in limbo attempting to match sight, sounds and written word with scant guidance from those on stage.
At first hearing, the specially commissioned music from Hugh Collins Rice was not as identifiable as one would have hoped, as much of original medieval music is similarly repetitious. One assumes the copious reiterations of skeletal fivenote hand bell patterns were of his composition: a charming, soporific and gentle accompaniment to singer Clare Norburn. A small harp vaguely shadowing the sparse, mesmerising gittern note- patterns eventually became irritatingly disconnected and tedious.
Patience Tomlinson interspersed the music with readings from twelfth century Hildegard von Bingen's Physica, a humorous discourse on the medicinal properties of plants and herbs.
Earthly Pleasures, based on ancient anonymous music and secular Latin poetry from the Carmina Burana were of a more basic nature.
Astringent shawms and obligatory timbrels began the festivities with appropriate rhythm, the tempo soon upgrading to lively dance and more identifiable contents: burgeoning springtime, love, lust, Bacchus, and a final uproarious fling in the taverna.