“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.” Bernard Clarke, RTÉ Lyric fm
“Music Both Innovative and Enthralling…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,… jazz-like instrumental fluctuations with medieval, contemporary and even African echoes…” Dick O’Riordan, Sunday Business Post
Inspired Irish poems from the 14th century manuscript, The Red Book of Ossory set to medieval music and performed by a stellar band of early music, jazz and contemporary classical virtuosi.
In 1324 Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory initiated the famous witchcraft trial of Dame Alice Kyteler and was responsible for the first person in history to be burned at the stake for the heresy of witchcraft – Dame Alice’s servant, Petronilla de Meath.
The same mind that composed a fantastical and nightmarish list of sorcery charges also wrote beautiful poetry. Ledrede composed sixty poems for the priests and choristers of St. Canice’s Cathedral with the intention that they be sung to melodies of the day. They have been immortalised in a red, velum-bound manuscript, The Red Book of Ossory.
Poetry set to music by Caitríona O’Leary from: Chansonnier du Roi, Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, Codices Chantilly, Modena and Squarcialupi.
THE RED BOOK OF OSSORY: A 14th century manuscript and a true tale of political intrigue, sex, sorcery, murder and music
The Red Book of Ossory is an important 14th century Irish manuscript; the collection of texts includes 60 poems by Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory. Upon his arrival from the papal court at Avignon to Kilkenny in 1317 Ledrede immediately set about challenging the secular authorities and making a name for himself as a zealous moralizer and “scourge of heresy”.
In 1324 he arraigned Dame Alice Kyteler, a wealthy businesswoman and serial espouser (she married four times) on the charge of being a witch. He alleged that she denied Christ, enchanted the citizens of Kilkenny with magic potions made from the entrails of cocks which had been sacrificed to demons, dead men’s nails, hair and brains of boys who had been buried unbaptised, all cooked up in the skull of a decapitated thief, that she had a demon lover named Artisson with whom she had sex in public, and that she murdered her first three husbands and was poisoning her fourth. Dame Alice, however, had powerful allies who protected her and facilitated her flight to England where she vanished from history.
Though Dame Alice escaped with her life, her servant Petronilla de Meath was not so fortunate. She was captured, flogged through six parishes and a confession of sorcery was extracted. She was burned alive at the stake for the heresy of witchcraft, the first person in history to be thus charged and immolated.
Today Petronilla de Meath is considered a neo-feminist icon; the world-renowned artist Judy Chicago created a place setting for Petronilla in her famed installation, The Dinner Party.
Dame Alice’s son William Outlaw was charged with heresy for defending his mother. He was forced to pay for the roof of St Canice’s Cathedral to be covered with lead. The roof subsequently collapsed under the weight.
The lyrics of the songs on this album are by the 14th century Bishop of Ossory, Richard de Ledrede. The bishop instructed that these lyrics be sung by the priests, clerks and choristers of the St Canice’s Cathedral “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”.
1. Canite, Canite
2. Artisson’s Dance (Instrumental)
3. Jhesu Lux Vera Mencium
4. Maria Decoquit Panem Salvificum
5. Consendit Salamon Ventrale Ferculum
6. The Flight of Dame Alice Kyteler (Instrumental)
7. Regine Glorie
8. Ecce Sacerdos Magnus (Instrumental)
9. Amoris Vinculo
10. Christe Redemptor Omnium
11. Maria Noli Flere
12. En Christi Fit Memoria
13. Ubi Iam Sunt?
14. Summe Deus Clemencie (Instrumental)
15. Da, Da Nobis Nunc
16. Verum Est
17. The Burning of Petronilla de Meath (Instrumental)
Caitríona O’Leary – voice & research
Nick Roth – soprano saxophone, descant & treble recorders, percussion (bendir, davul, nutmeg grater, chains, bin lid)
Deirdre O’Leary – clarinet, bass clarinet, percussion (davul)
Francesco Turrisi – synthesiser, percussion (tombak, daf, tar, brushes, bendir)
Recorded at Grouse Lodge,Co. Westmeath, Ireland, February 2019
Produced by Anakronos
Recorded & Mixed by Alex Borwick Mastered by James Darkin
Designed by Gareth Jones
Executive Producer, Eric Fraad