The Night's Tale

A Tournament Of Love

Performed by:

The Boston Camerata and Ensemble Aziman

Anne Azéma, Artistic Director

Le Tournoi de Chauvency, written circa 1285 by the French poet Jacques Bretel, is a narration of a courtly celebration in the Lorraine region of France, and the inspiration for “The Night’s Tale”. Our performance evokes a day’s festivities at the chateau of Chauvency. Daylight is the domain of men, who joust and fight in ritual encounters; when night falls, women converse in music and dance, far from the masculine violence of the daytime. Mutual desire aroused during the day culminates in the evening’s rites -- aggressive and courtly, passionate and playful.

The Boston Camerata

Anne Azéma, Annie Dufresne, Jennie Ellis, Els Janssens : voice

David Newman, Marc Mauillon, Jean-Paul Rigaud, Stephan Olry : voice

Shira Kammen: fiddle, harp

Tom Zajac: flutes, shawm, trumpet, hurdy-gurdy, jaw harp

Joel Cohen: narrator

Production coordinators: Kathryn Welter (Executive Director, The Boston Camerata) and Alexandra Cravotta (Chargée de Production, Ensemble Aziman).

This concert has its roots in Europe, and is the fruit of three seasons of residencies of Anne Azéma at the Arsenal in Metz, France. Along with several other activities including teaching projects, an international colloquium, recordings and publications, this musical production is centered on a rare and important manuscript from the Metz and Lorraine region: Le Tournoi de Chauvency, Oxford Bodleian, Douce 308. A fully staged version, Le Tournoi de Chauvency, was directed in 2007 by Francesca Latuada.

Most of the music of The Night’s Tale is recorded on: Le Tournoi de Chauvency: Une Joute d’amour en Lorraine Médiévale, K617 label (France).

The Boston Camerata has been fascinating and charming audiences around the world for more than five decades. Under the direction of Joel Cohen, the Camerata has been internationally praised for its consistently unique programming and superb execution.

Founded in 1954, The Boston Camerata was associated with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts until 1974, when the ensemble began touring overseas and building an international presence. The Camerata’s numerous teaching, research, recording and concert projects have brought their work to audiences throughout Europe as well as Singapore, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. The Camerata presents an annual series of six to eight concerts in the Boston area. The ensemble also tours extensively in the United States and has participated in the early music festivals at Berkeley, San Antonio, Indianapolis and Boston. 2008-2009 marks the first season of Anne Azéma’s Artistic Directorship.

Ensemble Aziman, directed by Anne Azéma, is a French based organization, comprised of musicians at the top of their field. Ensemble Aziman breaks new ground in the understanding of European medieval music through musicological research, careful historical scholarship, and a vital, dynamic performance ethos.

Ensemble Aziman is an outgrowth of Anne Azéma’s decade-long commitment to medieval music and to the instrumental, historical, and literary environments of these repertoires. Aziman’s goal is to create, for the twenty-first century, real and virtual spaces for songs, music, and texts of the medieval period. The group, whose membership varies according to the project at hand, welcomes veteran collaborators such as the renowned Shira Kammen, but also young professionals and established artists from other cultural horizons.

Program Notes

Amors est biaus commancemans (...)
d’Amors et d’ armes et de joie est ma matiere1

Medieval music, with its incredible richness, suppleness, and beauty, may be considered and enjoyed as and end to itself. But it is also a means towards better understanding of the human heart, and in this sense, it can properly be considered as something timeless. The inextricable links of words and sound in the songs of these centuries cut through all sham and pretense and go direct to the center of our strongest feelings and deepest concerns.

Why the focus on Le Tournoi de Chauvency - ‘The Night’s Tale’?

The first reason is the intrinsic interest of the manuscript – Oxford Bodleian, Douce 308 – that contains the Tournoi . This manuscript is an important source for the understanding of medieval society, from many points of view – literary, historical, visual, aesthetic, and musical. It reveals much about medieval love relationships, and their social context. The Tournoi text, a rhymed narrative of over four thousand lines, relates with verve and evident relish a weeklong program of combats and jousts, and the amorous exchanges of a privileged, youthful European "crowd". Within this narrative are to be found the keys to a vastly important code of behavior, what we now call the system of "courtly love."

Meaning, more precisely, what? Briefly, this system or code signifies something new in feudal society: the possibility of a love relationship between two equal partners. Unlike the more rigid and "tribal" view of marriage so widespread in medieval society, in this ethos one partner or the other is free to accept or refuse the suit of the other.

The tournament or ritual combat – whether it be physical or metaphorical – is, within the courtly love framework, one of the steps which can lead the two partners to the plenitude of a shared love relationship. "Love makes one heart from two", says Jacques Bretel, author of the Tournoi de Chauvency .

The steps required towards this yearned-for union are:
- Waiting for the Other, he or she who can ask the key question (Homage);
- The Test through combat or struggle (physical or poetic/spiritual);
- And finally the response, the Gift, freely offered, permitting a union in Love.

There are certain constants in human nature. Our own society, justly preoccupied with increasing the chances for equality in so many domains, can take inspiration from this audacious-for-its-time medieval experiment, and its blend of old and new insights into a universal quest.

Yet another reason for our interest in the Tournoi is its vivid evocation of music, dance, and festivity. But for all that, the manuscript itself contains not a single scrap of notated music. To make our project "work" the source itself urges us on. It obliges us, performers already familiar with many dimensions of medieval music, to push our inquiries still further, and to create something new based on the skills we have already acquired in more familiar, less enigmatic contexts. Important among these is the practice, widespread already in the Middle Ages, of adapting or "twinning" new texts to already-existing medieval melodies. Using this and other techniques we set out to create a new performance piece, meant to give delight and pleasure, guided every step of the way by Jean Bretel’s narrative, so generous and detailed in its descriptions of the festive music and dance at Chauvency circa 1310.

We cannot, of course, recreate with total precision the "music of 1310". Even as we procede with as much care and respect for our sources as possible, using Douce 308 and other related manuscripts of the period, we hope to avoid the pitfalls of pseudo-historicism. What we present to you is a work for our time, drawing, we hope, on the incredible life force that emerges from the manuscript’s folios, redirecting this magnificent force, to the best of our abilities, into our own ears, minds, and hearts.

Anne Azéma, March 2008
Translation: Joel Cohen

I. Prologue

Por mal tens ne por gelee

Thibault de Champagne (1201-1253)

II. Armes - Day

Veni Sancte Spiritus - En ma dame


Trop souvent me dueil


Abundance de Felonie

Jehan L’Escurel (?- 1304)

Vos arez la druerie – Vous n’alés pas


Se par force de merci

Gauthier d’Espinal (1230-1270?)

Ausi comne Unicorne sui

Thibault de Champagne

Or est Baiars en la pasture

Adam de la Halle (vers1237-1288)



Souvent souspire


Prendes i garde

Guillaume d’Amiens

Prennés i garde


Li dous regars de ma dame

Adam de la Halle

Jamais ne sera saous


Se par force de merci (Reprise)

Gauthier d’Espinal

En l’an que chevalier sont

Huon D’Oisy (?-1191?)

III. Amours - Night

Ausi comne Unicorne sui (reprise)

Thibault de Champagne

Toute soule


Trois serors sor rive mer


Le Robardel


Le lai des hellequines


Dame par vos dous regars

Jehan Lescurel

Bien se lace

Jehan Lescurel

Le Chapelet – La Sestieme estampie Real


Au renouvel


Amor potest conqueri


Bonne amourette

Adam de la Halle

C’est la fin – La quarte estampie real


IV. Coda

Por mal tens ne por gelee (Reprise)

Thibault de Champagne

“A project that may very well alter the way we look at the Middle Ages… Anne Azéma’s interpretation  is by turns evocative and distant… a new and liberated manner imposes itself…in the course of the performance,  the [performer’s]  outer shell falls, to reveal another body,  and an interior landscape,  in an evocation of the art of our own time.  A dream world is present at the rendez-vous.”

Roger Tellart, Diapason ,  March 1 2007

“Anne Azéma’s voice appears,  sovereign in the ray of light, often expressing itself a capella, mastering the fiorituras and shaping a clear, rigorous,  and subtly nuanced vocal line.”

Georges Masson, Liberté de l’Est ,  March 2, 2007

“Annie Dufresne,  Jennifer Ellis Kampani, Els Jannsens, Marc Mauillon, David Newman, Stephan Olry,  and Jean-Paul Rigaud,  in the very sparseness of their movements,  give off  magnetic sensuality of love or attraction”

RL (Metz), February 27, 2007

"That's Entertainment" -- The Night's Tale triumphs in Boston

The March weekend weather was cold and miserable,  the streets clogged with snow and ice,  but the Camerata faithful who came to the American première performances of "The Night's Tale: A Tournament of Love" were treated to something hot.

The Boston Globe reviewer used language we are more used to seeing in reviews of rock concerts: "Raucous", "gleeful",  "impulsive" and "rowdy" were some of the terms he employed.   "Superb...zest and elegance up front", he continued.  "This group was so committed and immediate, you forgot that the music was 700 years old. That's entertainment."

The audiences for the two performances were in agreement, as spontaneous standing ovations greeted the cast each night.   Rendezvous for the musicians in a little over three months,  for a July reprise of the show in France.  The commercial recording of this production is slated for a September release.