Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Oxford Trobadors, Occitan poetry and song.

In preparation for the Oxford Trobadors concert for the Oxford Proms on 12th August, I have been working on Jaufre Rudel's lovely poem and song Quan lo riu de la fontana (When the water of the fountain). It is one of the medieval Occitan troubadours pieces in our repertoire.

So many of the songs of the troubadours tell of the pain of an unattainable love, a love far away, or amors de lonhdana. 

Amors de terra lonhdana           Those I love in a far off land
Per vos totz lo cors mi dol         for you all my body aches
E n'on puec trobar meizina        and I cannot find the remedy.


According to legend Jaufre Rudel was inspired to go on  a crusade after hearing of the beauty of Countess Hodierna of Tripoli. She was his amor de lonhdana.  Sadly he fell ill on the journey and was brought ashore in Tripoli a dying man.

Countess Hodierna is said to have come down from her castle on hearing the news.  Rudel died in her arms.

Is this romantic story true? Perhaps not, but it doesn't matter. It represents so much of  the poetry of Rudel.   I think of the story whenever I sing Lo Riu de la Fontana.

The music of the Oxford Trobadors is inspired by the langauge, poetry and culture of  Occitan, a language spoken today across the south of France and parts of Northern Italy.


One song that perhaps represents the spirit of the Oxford Trobadors is L'aiga de la Dordogna (waters of the Dordogne) composed by Jean Bonnefon of the renowned Occitan group Peiraguda. One of us, Denis Noble, performed this song 30 years ago in the town square in Ribérac as part of  a soirée occitane organised by Radio Périgord. It led to the formation of the Oxford Trobadors in 1998, and the song is a major feature of our repertoire. You can read the history of this event on the Oxford Trobadors website either in English or in Occitan.

It reminds us too that Occitan is a living language and culture of which as a group here in England we are proud to be a part.

You may also be interested in my article on the Battle for Regional Languages in France

Ray Noble is lead Tenor with the Oxford Trobadors

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