Living History & Reenactment Music

Musical Rambles Through History © by Sara L. Johnson
Including The Kitchen Musician's "In Tune With The Times" Articles From Smoke & Fire News
Good Taste in Dinner Theatre
Packington's Pound

For those of you who think Mud-Wrestling Dinner Theater is the height of entertainment, I have to inform you that you were outdone, in the 15th century, no less. Christopher Hogwood's book written for the Folio Society, London, 1977, Music at Court, describes the ultimate in dinner theater, a little event put together by Philip the Good in 1454, to persuade Burgundians to sign up for a new crusade. The description comes from Olivier de la Marche, self-styled star and organizer of the scenic effects of the Banquet of the Oath of the Pheasant. Although he claims to have "cut a long story short", I believe I will cut it still further:

"The hall.. was large..with five doors, each guarded by archers...Inside there were three tables laid out...On the medium one there was a church, with windows, very properly made, and a bell that rang and inside four singers, who sang and played on an organ when their turn came...There was also another decoration consisting of a small child naked on a rock pissing rose-water continuously...On the second table there was a huge pie, in which there were twenty-eight living people playing on divers instruments, each when their turn came....(skipping the castle, serpent, moat, windmill, desert, tiger and camel)...while on the third table...several strange-looking beasts which moved by themselves just as though they were alive. When everyone was in position and the guests were seated, the bell of the church ... suddenly rang loudly; when it stopped, three trebles and a tenor sang...When they had finished a shepherd from the pie played on the bagpipe in a very novel fashion. Immediately he had finished, through the doorway of the hall came a horse, wearing a coat of orange silk, and bearing two trumpeters seated back to back... the organ in the church began to play very softly, and in the pie a German cornett played in a very strange a chanson from the church, and a doucaine with another instrument accompanying it from the pie, and suddenly a very cheerful fanfare from four trumpets.. (cutting out the arrival of Jason in armor and battle with a dragon) two blind musicians in the pie played on hurdy-gurdys... after those in the church and those in the pastry had each performed, ..there entered..a great and beautiful stag: upon the stag was mounted a young lad...he began the upper part of a chanson, very high and clear: and the stag sang the tenor....After this interlude of the white stag and the child, singers sang a motet in the church and in the pastry a lute was played with two good voices, and the church and the pastry always did something between the interludes."

(Blah, blah, blah, til the giant leads in the elephant with a castle on its back, containing none other than Olivier, star and narrater, dressed as a nun, who sings a lament in falsetto.)

And then those ungrateful wretches failed to sign on for the crusade. Audiences! who knows what they want?! And the musicians gave their all, playing in a very novel fashion,or in a very strange way, probably owing to being knee deep in pastry. At your next banquet, don't forget the "Lute en croûte" and "Bagpipe en sauce nouvelle".