Skip to main content

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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

The secret life of Giant Pandas

Giant pandas, Ailuropoda melanoleuca , have usually been regarded as solitary creatures, coming together only to mate; but recent studies have begun to reveal a secret social life for these enigmatic bears.  GPS tracking shows they cross each others path more often than previously thought, and spend time together.  What we don't know is what they are doing when together.  Photo by  Sid Balachandran  on  Unsplash For such large mammals, pandas have relatively small home ranges. Perhaps this is no surprise. Pandas feed almost exclusively on bamboo. The only real threat to pandas has come from humans. No wonder then that the panda is the symbol of the WWF.  Pandas communicate with one another through vocalization and scent marking. They spray urine, claw tree trunks and rub against objects to mark their paths, yet they do not appear to be territorial as individuals.  Pandas are 99% vegetarian, but, oddly, their digestive system is more typical of a carnivore. For the 1% of their diet

Work Capability Assessments cause suffering for the mentally ill

People suffering from mental health problems are often the most vulnerable when seeking help. Mental health can have a major impact on work, housing, relationships and finances. The Work Capability Assessments (WCA) thus present a particular challenge to those suffering mental illness.  The mentally ill also are often the least able to present their case. Staff involved in assessments lack sufficient expertise or training to understand mental health issues and how they affect capability. Because of  concerns that Work Capability Assessments will have a particularly detrimental effect on the mentally ill,  an  e-petition  on the government web site calls on the Department of Work and Pensions to exclude people with complex mental health problems such as paranoid schizophrenia and personality disorders. Problems with the WCA  have been highlighted in general by the fact that up to 78% of 'fit to work' decisions are  being overturned on appeal. It is all to the good that they