“The power and impact of these performances are the product of the seriousness with which Caitríona O’Leary and her colleagues take both the story of Ledred’s fierce treatment of his innocent victims and the spirituality of his Latin verses…
There isn’t a dull or disappointing track on the disc… The results are fascinating.”
German magazine AUDIO has reviewed Citadel of Song by Anakronos.
In “Citadel of Song”, the medieval ensemble Anakronos breathes new life into ten texts from Boccaccio’s “Decameron” with elements of fusion jazz, prog rock and contemporary classical music. With this revival of 14th century Italian love poetry, the Irish elfin-voiced singer Caitríona O’Leary confirms her status as the world’s leading early music avant-gardist.
The Island of Saints is a new ground-breaking feature length music film by director Eric Fraad inspired by the medieval/jazz fusion ensemble Anakronos’ highly-acclaimed album, The Red Book of Ossory and its backstory.
The Island of Saints oscillates between three types of scenes; music performance scenes of Anakronos performing music from The Red Book of Ossory, scenes dramatising the infamous witch hunt and trial of Dame Alice Kyteler in 1324 and the burning of her servant Petronilla de Meath and hallucinatory music videos that engage with philosophical themes in the songs from The Red Book of Ossory.
Written, Produced & Directed by Eric Fraad
Music Director – Caitríona O’Leary
Producer – Karina Lundström
Executive Producer, Paula Heil Fisher
Director of Photography – Martin Mai
Costumes Designer – Monica Ennis
Edited by Martin Mai
Art Direction – David McDermott
Hair and Makeup Design – Tee Elliot
Recorded by Alex Borwick
Caitríona O’Leary, Voice
Nick Roth, Soprano Saxophone, Recorders, Percussion
Deirdre O’Leary, Clarinets, Percussion
Greg Felton, Nord Synthesizer, Percussion
Mel Mercier, Percussion
Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory – Raymond Keane
Petronilla de Meath, The Virgin Mary – Megan O’Malley
Dame Alice Kyteler – Caitríona O’Leary
William Outlaw – Ethan Dillon
Artisson – Vitor Bassi
Dominican Friar, Assistant to Artisson – Michael Cooney
Dominican Friar, Assistant to Artisson – Gavan O’Connor Duffy
Funded by the Arts Council of Ireland, Begin Together Arts Fund (Bank of Ireland / Business to Arts), Fingal County Council, Heresy Films.
Reviews for THE RED BOOK OF OSSORY & ANAKRONOS
★★★★★ – Michael Dervan, The Irish Times
“A work of singular genius…This brilliant suite of songs practices its own witchcraft, seducing you straightaway with its beauty.” – ArtMuseLondon
“Absolutely extraordinary… One of the Best Albums I’ve Heard This Year. Musically the gang are firing on all cylinders; thematically it’s fascinating; and historically it is horrifying and illuminating in equal measure… Wonderful music, fascinatingly presented” – Bernard Clarke, RTÉ Lyric fm ‘In the Blue of the Night Show’
Backstory to The Island of Saints
Fourteenth century Ireland was a time of invasions, war, lawlessness, famine and plague. In 1317 Richard de Ledrede – an English Franciscan of the Order of Friars Minor – arrived in Kilkenny, appointed by Pope John XXII in Avignon as the new Bishop of Ossory and immediately set about challenging the secular authorities and making a name for himself as a zealous moraliser and “scourge of heresy”.
In 1324 Ledrede declared that his diocese was a hotbed of devil worshippers. The central figure in this affair was Dame Alice Kyteler, a wealthy Kilkenny woman. Ledrede accused Kyteler together with members of her family and friends, of a variety of supernatural crimes. The bishop claimed that she was the leader of a group of heretics and witches who sacrificed to the Devil and performed revolting magical rites. Alice herself was said to have a familiar – a demon with whom she regularly had sexual intercourse. She was also accused of poisoning and murdering her four husbands.
With the help of influential relatives Alice escaped to England and vanished from history. Her servant, Petronilla de Meath, was tried, tortured and burned at the stake.
The Kyteler trial was the first witchcraft trial in European history to treat the accused as members of an organised sect of heretics, and the first to accuse a woman of having acquired the power of sorcery through sexual intercourse with a demon. It is also the first occasion in history that a woman was burnt for heresy charges deriving from witchcraft and occult practices.
The Red Book of Ossory
The Red Book of Ossory is an important 14th century medieval manuscript which was compiled in Kilkenny and is housed there in St Canice’s Cathedral. Pre-eminent among the manuscript’s texts are sixty remarkable Latin verses by Bishop Richard de Ledrede. The bishop instructed that these lyrics be sung by the priests, clerks and choristers of St Canice’s “on the important holidays and at celebrations in order that their throats and mouths, consecrated to God, may not be polluted by songs which are lewd, secular, and associated with revelry, and, since they are trained singers, let them provide themselves with suitable tunes according to what these sets of words require”. Accordingly, Anakronos’ founder Caitríona O’Leary has drawn from various medieval music sources (Chansonnier du Roi, Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, Codices Chantilly, Modena, Squarcialupi etc.), made speculative reconstructions of many of the bishop’s hymns, and with the members of Anakronos deconstructed those songs with learned disregard for proper chronology.
“Absolutely extraordinary… One of the Best Albums I’ve Heard This Year. Musically the gang are firing on all cylinders; thematically it’s fascinating; and historically it is horrifying and illuminating in equal measure…Wonderful music, fascinatingly presented”
Bernard Clarke, RTÉ Lyric fm ‘In the Blue of the Night Show’
“A work of singular genius…This brilliant suite of songs practices its own apparent witchcraft, seducing you straightaway with its beauty.”
“The wonderful ..innovative Irish ensemble Anakronos – which features the voice of Catriona O’Leary, Deirdre O’Leary’s clarinet, Nick Roth’s saxophones and the keyboards and percussion of Francesco Turrisi…… delivers an exquisite and refreshing sound in a saturated world that is slowly forgetting its ancient musical roots …a stunning bridge between the past and the present.
Best Albums of 2020
“A new take on what music can do and say. As O’Leary and Anakronos evince, music need not simply entertain us—it can also educate us.”
Colleen Taylor, The Irish Echo
“My anticipation soared when I opened the CD booklet, a beautiful production in all the key areas of design, historical background, musical intention and musicianship– particularly the latter.”
Dick O’Riordan, Sunday Business Post
“An innovative and exalted musical experience…The Red Book Of Ossory is a singularly effective combination of medieval melodies and contemporary psychedelic jazz, triumphantly portraying humanity’s duality in its music. It’s undeniably beautiful, but always with some dissonance—often subtle—sleeping beneath each track.”
Lori Lander Murphy and Owen Murphy Irish Philadelphia.com
“A recently-formed ensemble with a hint of the supergroup about them…as the debut album from Anakronos grows more familiar, it reveals and revels in layer after layer of sinister chills and thought-provoking arrangements and effects….Anakronos don’t sound quite like anybody else”
“One of the lovely things about the disc is the freedom of the music and the performances. The original medieval melodies are present and recognisable, yet treated with a flexibility and freedom which comes from the performers’ traditional music and jazz backgrounds. In style the disc is sui generis, reflecting the varied backgrounds of the performers who have synthesised influences into something entirely original.”
Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill
“Caitríona O’Leary has a lovely, bell-like voice with clear articulation and sensitivity to the Latin text. The performances are interesting, the sound is quite attractive, and not to be dismissed – a recommendation for this enjoyable collection.”
Michael Wilkinson, MusicWeb International
“The Red Book of Ossory” was written by a 14th century Irish Bishop for his trebles. Now this spiritual collection of songs enchants us to sinfully beautiful effect on the debut recording of the medieval jazz quartet Anakronos. The bell-like voice of early music chanteuse Caitriona O’Leary charms her way through between keyboards, a clarinet, the saxophone, and the folksy Irish bodhrán like a cat between the legs of the assembled party guests.”
Winifried Dulisch, Audio Magazine
“…The contemporary sounds heard here capture the essence of these beautiful, interesting pieces.”
Jan de Kruijff, Musicalifeiten
Caitríona O’Leary talks to Ken Phelan of The Irish Independent about the musical collaboration that is Anakronos as they gear up for a major concert.
Anakronos (Photo: Tara Slye)
“Now performing with her new ensemble, Anakronos, Malahide vocalist and virtuoso Catríona O’Leary has taken her music in yet another new direction, blending medieval music with jazz, global rhythms and the contemporary to form her own inimitable style.
Catríona this month takes newly-formed Anakronos to their debut performance of The Red Book of Ossory at the National Concert Hall, and with it a unique and distinctive sound.
Inspiration for The Book of Ossory came from a 14th century medieval manuscript which was compiled in Kilkenny and is housed there in St Canice’s Cathedral. Within the manuscript’s texts are sixty Latin verses by Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory, which Caitríona has set to music.
Following the performance, the group plans to put together their first ever recording before embarking on a tour of Ireland and Europe.
Anakronos will make its debut in the world premiere of The Red Book of Ossory on February 20 at the National Concert Hall, Dublin.