Hildegard Transfigured: a medieval trance for the 21st Century

“Voice trio and their show Hildegard Transfigured were one of the highlights of Spitalfields Festival. It’s so rare to find ‘the full package’ – beautiful singing, wonderful programming encompassing ancient and modern, and exceptionally high-quality visuals – that promoters and festivals should snap up this programme immediately!” Sarah Gee – Spitalfields Festival (Chief Executive)

“Unfolding in a seamless hour of vocal intensity and visual kaleidoscopes, Hildegard Transfigured celebrated the 12th-century polymath’s visionary heights.  The singing by this trio of sirens (Victoria Couper, Clemmie Franks and Emily Burn) was transfixing.  Perhaps it was the late hour or the temperature in the church, but I was ‘en-tranced’ in all the best senses of the word.” Opera Today review 2023

4* The Guardian – “Voice’s graceful presence, their haunting delivery, the feat of memory involved, were all notable.”

Watch Voice’s live showreel of Hildegard Transfigured (2021)

Hildegard Transfigured is a collaborative piece of concert-theatre by vocal trio Voice and visual artist Innerstrings that shines a light on the 12th Century polymath St. Hildegard of Bingen and her capacity to love, mourn, wield ferocity, and the visions which consumed her both physically and spiritually throughout her life, ‘the living light’. Supported by Help Musicians.

The audience is taken on a musical and visual journey in a seamless one-hour show of St Hildegard’s original music, new compositions setting her words, and live visuals.  Described as “quite simply outstanding” in a 5* review from Three Choirs Festival 2022. 

St Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) joined the monastery in Disibodenberg (in German Rhineland) when she was just eight years old and would stay there for nearly forty years, eventually becoming abbess in 1136.  She founded her own abbey at Rupertsberg near Bingen in 1147 and a second monastery in nearby Eibingen in 1165.  Throughout her life, Hildegard was a great spiritual leader, theologian, mystic, scientist, and composer.  Revered as a saint for centuries, Pope Benedict XVI canonised Hildegard of Bingen on 10 May 2012.  Hildegard experienced intense visions throughout her life, recorded in her major work Scivias (Know the Way), (1141-51), but was afraid of talking out about her experiences until she was in her 40’s. It is this aspect of her life that inspired the collaboration with visual artist, Innerstrings, and composer Laura Moody. 

Laura Moody set extracts and fragments of Hildegard’s letters in her composition Hildegard Portraits, written for this programme. You will hear Moody’s music interspersed throughout the show in the form of miniatures each representing a part of her personality. The show builds to a climactic finale, The Living Light, which represents – musically and visually – one of Hildegard’s intense visions. “It is some kind of miracle to have the kind of access to a female creator of the twelfth century that we have with Hildegard, her output only having been permissible during her lifetime because of her sacred status. From my perspective this project is also a collaboration with Hildegard herself – not only with her luminous, visionary musical language and multifaceted perspective on life and spirituality, but with her eighty-one years as a living human being.” (Laura Moody, 2021) 

All of Hildegard’s works performed in this show come from her body of work Symphonie armonie celestium revelationum (The Symphony of the Harmony of the Celestial Revelations), (1140s – 1150s). The trio has chosen them for the beauty of the texts and the uplifting, atmospheric nature of the music.  “What draws us to her music time and again are the soaring, melismatic lines, the flourishes and ornamentation and especially for the ensemble sound we can create.”  Hildegard’s music has helped to forge Voice’s unique ensemble sound, formed the backbone of many programmes, and provided inspiration for many of the works they have commissioned. 

Voice was introduced to Hildegard’s music in their teens, performing and recording with Stevie Wishart’s group Sinfonye. The trio are still close to Wishart today and perform from her transcriptions of Hildegard’s manuscripts.

Hildegard blog

Voice released an album of the show’s music ‘Hildegard Portraits’ on Somm Recordings June 2022, which featured live on BBC Radio 3 In Tune “The wonderful sound of Voice” Sean Rafferty. https://www.somm-recordings.com/recor…

Listen to Voice perform Hildegard’s ‘Nunc Guadeant’ on Classic Fm – 78K views

4.5* “Many will be drawn, as with Voice’s other albums, to the beauty and precision of the three-part female harmonies, but this album additionally represents a fresh way of presenting medieval chant, and it’s highly recommended, especially to those contemplating chant repertories other than the music of Hildegard.” —James Manheim, AllMusic

” Voice – were breathtakingly superb, their voices intermingling with the harmonic resonations of Hildegards meditations to transport us both back in time and out of time, into the spiritual realm of this most talented of nuns. ” Gscene, Brighton

Contemporary works included Hildegard Transfigured:

Laura Moody, Hildegard Portraits (a suite of 7 pieces, which create the narrative arc of the show)

Stevie Wishart, O Choruscans Lux Stellarum and Aseruz

Marcus Davidson, O Boundless Ecclesia

Emily Levy, How Sweetly You Burn

Tim Lea Young, Three Wings: pt 1

Lighting Designer: Dragonfly Lighting

Caligraphy: Tabitha Lincoln

VOICE

“Brilliant trio…sensational singers”   The Choir, BBC Radio 3 – Sara Mohr-Pietsch

Voice is an exciting, female vocal trio. In their fifteen years together, they have built a dedicated fan-base across the world; a rich, varied repertoire of their own arrangements, new commissions, and rarely performed Early Music; and they have honed a truly unique sound.  Victoria, Clemmie, and Emily first began singing together in Oxford as members of the Oxford Girls’ Choir, before going on to form the trio in 2006 as well as forging their own successful, diverse careers. They draw on their individual musical interests and experiences to create thrilling timbres and a blend that has been described as ‘one voice’.

Their interest in Early Music can be traced back to their performances and recordings of the medieval chant of St Hildegard of Bingen, which they learned as members of Stevie Wishart’s group, Sinfonye.  The singers still perform with Sinfonye today and as a trio, Voice continues to perform Hildegard’s music and have commissioned new works inspired by her words and chant.

The trio has toured throughout the UK, USA and Europe with their two self-released albums: Musical Harmony (2013), “a stunning body of work destined to prick up the hairs on the back of one’s neck” (Oxford Times & Mail), and Patterns of Love (2015). Collaborative releases include: I Have Set My Hert So Hy (Avie, 2015) with Dufay Collective, whom they also toured two new programmes of Spanish medieval pilgrim music in Galicia in September 2019; and Leoš Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared; Moravian Folksongs; Říkadla with Julius Drake and Nicky Spence (Hyperion, 2019). “The arrival of the siren-like trio… is heart-stopping and haunting in equal measure” (Gramophone Recording of the Month).

Voice released their latest album, Hildegard Portraits on SOMM Recordings in June 2022. 4.5* “beauty and precision.. Highly recommended” – James Manheim, AllMusic