Pilgrims’ Routes from the Four Directions

kalenda_maya_PilegrimsreiserKalenda Maya

Pilegrimsreiser (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 1997)

Many years ago, my sister introduced me to the pilgrim’s path, (El Camino de Santiago) and a book called, The Pilgrimage by Brazilian author Paolo Coehlo. Since that time, I have been not only fascinated by the spiritual quest of a pilgrimage, but also the symbolism of the road as a journey to finding oneself. While there are many pilgrim’s paths throughout Europe and the Middle East, the most popular “roads” are El Camino which winds up in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain as well as, the pilgrims’ routes in Rome and Jerusalem. Recently, I discovered 2 medieval music CDs from Norway that reflect on a fourth main pilgrims’ route and that is to Nidaros, Norway. This route is connected to the Norwegian martyr, Saint Olavus (Olaf). I am only reviewing Kalenda Maya’s musical exploration of the pilgrims’ routes here.

Up until now, I wondered about the songs that would have been sung on these routes during the Middle Ages. Obviously music would have played some role, either when pilgrims stopped in churches along the way or performed on route. The Norwegian Early Music ensemble, Kalenda Maya answers part of that question on their 1997 release, Pilegrimsreiser. The quintet performs sacred songs from medieval codex and manuscripts on period instruments. Again, we can’t possibly know how medieval pilgrims would have performed the songs in the manuscripts, but the interpretation on this recording possesses an uplifting quality and could fuel anyone’s quest.

The vocals of Tone Hulbaekmo and Sidsel Brevig send listeners soaring back to the Middle Ages. Backed by hurdy-gurdy, flute, lyre, harp, lutes, fiddle, kantele and other Early Music instruments the performance on this disc alternates between earthy danceable songs and contemplative ones.

Some of you might be wondering why we should care about medieval pilgrims and their quests? Why is their music so important that we feel the need to preserve it? Certainly none of this matters in the technological age or does it? And why are these routes still popular today, attracting pilgrims from all over the world?

Pilgrim Priest Arne Bakken answers these questions in the liner notes. “At the threshold of a new millennium we turn and look back to the old pilgrim tradition. Is there anything we have forgotten? Ancient roads are marked out anew. People again wander along the common paths, towards common goals as generations before us have done!”

With that knowledge in mind, it is a pleasure to unearth the medieval pilgrims’ songs that hail from 3 of the 4 routes, Nidaros, Norway, Galicia, Spain, (actually 2 routes from Spain are reflected on the disc), and Jerusalem. This recording starts out with a selection of songs from the manuscript Missale Nidrosiense which first appeared in 1519 and features words of Saint Olav liturgy. Melodies are preserved only in fragments at the National Archives (Norway). The musicians have taken 2 sequences, Lux Illuxit and Postquam Calix Babilonis. Songs from The Libre Vermell (The Red Book) from the library of Montserrat cloisters in Catalonia also appear on this recording.

These songs date back to 1398-99 and are written in Latin and Catalan. The following sections feature songs of troubadours, and from the route to Santiago de Compostela. The musical journey ends in Jerusalem and hail from the time of the Third Crusade. The paths of (the so-called “holy”) crusaders and pilgrims seeking salvation would often cross. And we can only wonder if the pilgrims inspired any of the crusaders to give up their savage quests.

This recording is highly recommended for those seeking a spiritual path, already on a spiritual path as well as, Early Music followers and musicians. The ensemble shows a great deal of respect in their interpretation of the manuscripts and their performances. They have produced a fascinating tapestry of what music might have sounded like during the Middle Ages while taking us back in time and simultaneously straight ahead into the unknowable future. The CD is available from http://www.kkv.no.

by Patty-Lynne Herlevi
Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music

Other CDs inspired by the Camino de Santiago: