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Guinevere's Tale: Telling Old Stories with New Music

This past year, we've begun experimenting more crossing music with literature in our programming. With our concert series on Jane Austen (which you can read more about here!), we incorporated excerpts from Austen's novels to help inform our musical performances. Our audiences seems to really resonate with this form of programming, and I wanted to recreate that experience with a different literary icon.

While digging through a rabbit hole of mythology and folklore, I came across the book "The Once and Future Queen" by novelist Nicole Evelina. Her book documents the evolving portrayal of Queen Guinevere in Arthurian legends for the past millennia, and is really fascinating. I ended up reading it in two days, which is rare for me. You can find more on Evelina's book here, and I highly recommend anyone interested in Arthurian lore to pick this up!

As I went further into the myriad of Arthurian stories available, I thought it would be cool if we could incorporate the legends into our next series. The well-known "Le Morte d'Arthur" by Sir Thomas Mallory was published in 1485, with the last known publication around 1634. Unfortunately, the Arthurian trend mostly dies out in the 18th century, before resurfacing in the 19th century. Establishing a musical connection that works with our instrumentation was already much more difficult compared to Jane Austen.

These obstacles inspired our latest musical project, "Guinevere's Tale: The Once and Future Queen." Instead of focusing on early music, we will be commissioning female composers to create new works for the traverso and harpsichord, with music that helps portray Guinevere and her ongoing journey.

This project combines many of our goals in Amaranti: it connects music to literature, we'll be featuring female composers, and we'll help build the contemporary repertoire for traverso and harpsichord.

We've set 2021 as a tentative date for our project, to create the best recordings of each new work. This is our most ambitious project yet, and we want to take our time to do it right. Once we've got our commissions, we'll premiere all the works together in our concert series.

The new year always brings with it a challenge to go outside the box and try new ideas, and Guinevere's tale perfectly encapsulates that notion for us. Also thank you to Cayla Mendow, who created our beautiful teaser poster for the project. Have a happy new year, and keep updated with our project's progress here!

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