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Mystery and magic of Yardley’s medieval music

David Yardley. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “The Lost Codex Of Avalon II”, David Yardley with Luminescence Chamber Singers. At Drill Hall Gallery, December 3. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

MEDIEVAL music has been David Yardley’s passion since 12. Today he is a full-blown medieval man. He dresses and sounds the part to perfection.

Collaborating with the Luminescence Chamber Singers, David Yardley has created a fully immersed concert experience into the sounds of ancient music. As Yardley says: “This music is not a warm blanket, it’s a mythic sword of flames.” This concert held fast to his understanding of medieval music.

Opening with “White Iris On Thy Bier”, words by Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) with music by Yardley, on his small, hand-held harp, his countertenor voice fitted perfectly with the instrument and the acoustics of the Drill Hall Gallery, which made for an ethereal beginning.

From a 15th century manuscript from the Bodleian Library in Oxford, came “Blyssid Be That Lady Bryght”. Tenor Dan Walker entered then mezzo-soprano AJ America followed and as a duet they sang unaccompanied. Soon joined by soprano Veronica Milroy, they became a trio. While the music was mostly monophonic, small inclusions from the harp and sung embellishments made for a more complex piece.

David Yardley with members of Luminescence Chamber Singers. Photo: Peter Hislop

Yardley’s passion for medieval music crosses the world. He has taught and performed at several international concert halls and schools, imparting his love and knowledge of ancient texts and music. As a composer, he follows styles from medieval compositions. He just may be the original medievalist.

“Lay Of The Ash Tree”, from the 12th century followed. With Yardley singing and accompanying himself on harp, he also spoke some the lyrics adding a strong theatrical slant to this clever song.

Milroy, on a handheld drum accompanied America and Walker who sang “Sancte Martyr Domini Olave”, which came from the late 12 century. This profound, rhythmic and moving tune hit that feeling of ancient music smack on.

Then “Nou Sprinkles the Sprai”, 14th century, for the Luminescence singers with Yardley on the handheld drum. This bouncy work belied its tale of lovesick youths.

The work “Visions of Julian of Norwich”, performed by Milroy and Yardley on harp, captured a mood of pain and mourning. It was a truly transporting and timeless experience.

Yardley played, sang, and spoke “Wynter Wakeneth Al My Care” from an anonymous 14th-century manuscript. About winter and sorrowful times, it portrayed how all things go to nothing.

From a 15th century manuscript, “Eya, Jhesus Natus: Blyssid Be That Mayde Mary”, for America, Milroy, and Yardley singing with Walker on drum, through high-pitched notes and piercing volume, the merry making in this song told of the birth of Christ.

Five other pieces followed, mainly from ancient texts, some polyphony added much depth and diversity.

The final work from a contemporary poem by Anne Casey titled “Season of Brigid”, with music by Yardley completed a fascinating concert. Across all four voices, this piece flowed with a delicate and atmospheric style, which captivated.

The wonder, mystery and magic of Yardley’s medieval inspirations is a joy for the ear. To hear him speak and perform ardently of his love for this music makes one want to jump in a time capsule and trip back to the ancient past.

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Ian Meikle, editor



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