Two Songs after Christine de Pisan (1365-c.1430)
for Mezzo-soprano and harp (2015)
by Ron Hannah

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  1. Sage seroit qui se saroit garder...
  2. Que ferons nous de ce mary jaloux?...

Duration: about 5 minutes

     I had been unaware of this poet before her name was made known to me by Andrea Mellis, a singer whom I have respected for years, and whom I have lately married. She often suggests interesting compositional projects to me. Christine de Pisan lived in the Middle Ages, and when her financial security disappeared she discovered she could make a living as a writer - surely an unusual occupation for a woman of that time, but she was a remarkable person, deeply insightful into the human condition, who wrote wisely and wittily about the people and problems of her time.

     I chose two of her "Cent Ballades" to set to music for a concert taking place in May of 2015. They both express the feelings of women in different situations, and if you can make out the old French you will see that they are quite telling. The first warns women about the blandishments of men who claim to by dying of love for them. Don't believe it, she says in the last line of each verse: "Qui plus se plaint n'est pas le plus malade" (he is not sickest who complains the most).

     The second deals with a woman who is disgusted with the behaviour of her jealous husband. She calls him a "gout-foot shrivel-brain" among other colourful epithets, she complains that he is always spying on her, and that she hates him and wants him to die horribly. I take great pleasure in pointing out to Andrea that it is also plain that she wants to be with her lover, and that the husband is perhaps justified. We have agreed to disagree on this point...

     The première performance featured Andrea and the fine Hungarian harpist, Zsuzsa Aba-Nagy, and it was a pleasure to write for her again. The arTrium Trio, of which she is a member, did a fine job of my Introduction and Dance of Qualified Joy in 2014.

    The score is available through the Canadian Music Centre, or (free of charge) by sending me an email, below. Do please let me know if you decide to perform these songs so that I can keep this website up-to-date.



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