Circle Dance Tambourine
The Medieval garland, as well as the dance circle itself, and the tambourine -- played by women, who "throw their instruments up high, and as they fall, catch each in their finger tips, and never fail" -- are symbols of love, the fertility of spring and female sexuality.
Circle
Women's Medieval Circle Dance Songs
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CONTENTS
Anonymous Women's Dance-Songs from the Carmina Burana
May Songs / Rites of Spring
Drum-Dance Songs: Notes & Related Sources
WOMEN'S CIRCLE DANCE SONGS FROM THE CARMINA BURANA & CANTIGAS DE AMIGO

There are some truly wonderful secular women's songs from the Middle Ages called "Women's Circle Dance Songs" that seem to be celebrating earth-based spirituality. Their texts refer directly to dancing and usually celebrate the sanctity of time and space (key elements in dance) -- for instance, a delight in the change of the seasons, or as regards space -- the sense of love as sacred ground (Cantigas de Amigo "Eno Sagrado En Vigo"). In "Women & Music: A History" (Indiana University Press, 1991), J. Michele Edwards says that indeed there are many Medieval song texts - - e.g. those in "Carmina Burana" (1200-1250) and in an eleventh century manuscript called "Cambridge Songs" -- that refer to "circle dancing," and women are most often cited as dance leaders.

TEMPUS EST IOCUNDUM
Anonymous women's dance-song from the CARMINA BURANA, recorded by the Boston Camerata, directed by Joel Cohen, Anne Azema, soprano, Erato CD 0630-14987-2, 1997.

Woman Dance Leader (or priestess)

It is the joyful season -- O maidens!
come you young men, rejoice!
O! O! My heart is all a-flower!

All (refrain)

My body's burning at the thought of first love,
I have a new, new love -- and it spells my end.

Women Dancers

The nightingale sings so sweetly;
Men listen to her melody; my blood's on fire.
O! O! My heart is all a-flower!

All (refrain)

My body's burning at the thought...

Men Dancers

My love is a virgin among virgins
And a rose among roses.
O! O! My heart is all a-flower!

All (refrain)

My body's burning at the thought...

Men Dancers

Your consent comforts me,
Your refusal exiles me.
O! O! My heart is all a-flower

Women Dancers

I'm inexperienced and awkward --
A poor figure of fun.
O! O! My heart is all a-flower!

All (refrain)

My body's burning at the thought...

Women Dancers

Silence, nightingale, just for a moment!
A song must rise from my heart!
O! O! My heart is all a-flower!

Men Dancers

In winter a man can control himself,
But in spring he's passionate.
O! O! My heart is all a-flower!

All (refrain)

My body's burning at the thought...

Men Dancers

Come in gladness, little mistress!
Come, come, my beautiful love -- now truly I die!
O! O! My heart is all a-flower!

All (refrain)

My body's burning at the thought...


CANTIGAS DE AMIGO

All seven "Cantigas de Amigo" by Martin (Martim) Codax are performed on "Bella Domna: the Medieval Woman, Lover, Poet, Patroness and Saint," SINFONYE, Stevie Wishart, Director, HYPERION CDA66283, 1987/2006. Listen to clips!! at Amazon from the 1987 release. A diverse selection of CDs were made in the late 1980s and 1990s by Sinfonye focusing on Medieval women & music.

The Galician trovador, Martin (Martim) Codax left us the earliest example of Spanish secular music -- a song cycle written in the voice of a woman -- called the "Cantigas de Amigo." According to the notes, "Their short, repetitive texts and simple but highly evocative melodies convey the wistful thoughts of a Callego girl (moça) as she looks out to sea and pines for her lover (amigo/amado) who is far from the shore of Vigo. The seven poems, with music for six of them, came to light on a parchment leaf inside a bookbinding in 1914 by a Madrid bookseller." [They are now in the possession of the Morgan Library in New York.]
ENO SAGRADO EN VIGO
from the Cantigas de Amigo In Vigo and on holy ground
A body fair danced round and round,

All in love am I.

In Vigo, in this holy place,
Danced so slim and full of grace
That ne'er had looked upon love's face,

All in love am I.

Danced in a fair body round and round
That never had a lover found.

All in love am I.

That never had a lover found
and danced there on holy ground.

All in love am I.

That never had looked upon love's face
And danced in this holy place.

All in love am I.
 
Tambourine
MAY SONGS / RITES OF SPRING
3 "Olive Tree" caroles, on CD titled "Le Jeu D'Amour" (The Game of Love): Anne Azema, voice; with Shira Kammen, viele, rebec, harp; Jesse Lepkoff, flute, recorder; Robert Mealy, vielle, harp; Margriet Tindemans, vielle, gittern, harp. and others. ERATO 0630-17072-2, 1997.
(Listen to sound samples at Amazon)

From the notes by Anne Azema:

"Unlike the poetic texts of the South, in which certain texts are signed by women, it is more than doubtful that any of the trouvère texts which concern us here are actually by women authors. Nevertheless by collecting texts which speak in the feminine voice, we can get a glimpse of how women may have participated in the poetic, musical and social life of medieval French society....

"Apart from the relatively 'liberated' role of married women in the aristocratic courts, there was a moment during which rural women and girls were relatively free as far as their actions and their bodies were concerned: the May 'fetes'. One whole segment of trouvère songs is steeped in this spirit of the loves of May, in their permissiveness and in their playful quality. Such songs mirror real goings-on current at that time in the lands around the courts. We know little about the 'caroles' and 'rondels' (dances), except that these short monophonic phrases derive from popular practice. The 'caroles' were probably sung (perhaps by one voice with a group replying), and danced by ladies and maidens, in procession, or in the round, inside as well as outside 'under the green olive tree, in the fields.'"

Hand in Hand

Hand in hand...
in front of the tent, in a green meadow,
the maidens and the young men
began again to dance in the round.
A lady approached,
dressed in a scarlet surcoat,
and she sings first.

Under the Olive Tree

Under the olive tree do not have any regrets --
the spring gently gushes forth.
Maidens, dance!
Do not have any regrets
for loving loyally.

It is Beneath the Olive Tree

It is beneath the olive tree in the meadows
Do you not feel at all the pains of love? --
that maidens and ladies go dancing.
Look at your arms!
Do you not feel at all the pains of love
as I do?

It is there Beneath the Olive Tree

It is there beneath the olive tree
that I shall lead my most sweet friend;
the little spring gently gushed forth.
Now dance;
I shall lead my most sweet friend
down to the meadows.

See also women's medieval circle dance songs from the Carmina Burana and other sources, on CD titled "Garland Dances" by the Renaissance Players, directed by Winsome Evans. WALSINGHAM 8006-2, 1995.

According to the notes, the Medieval garland, as well as the dance circle itself, and the tambourine -- played by women, who "throw their instruments up high, and as they fall, catch each in their fair, soft finger tips, and never fail" -- are symbols of love, the fertility of spring and female sexuality.

Woman with Frame-Drum
WOMEN'S DRUM-DANCE SONGS:
Links & Related Sources

Women's Medieval Music CDs
Sacred Dance & Spirituality, Articles by Lynn Frances

• For ancient beginnings in regard to women and the tambourine, see When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm, by Layne Redmond (Three Rivers Press, NY, 1997). According to Layne Redmond:

"Hand-held frame drums are among the oldest known musical instruments. They are hoop-shaped drums with a diameter that is much greater than the depth of their shell. In prehistoric times, their rhythms helped shamans and seers attain the sacred trance state necessary for healing and prophecy. The rituals of the earliest known religions evolved around the beat of frame drums.

"These religions were founded on the worship of female deities -- Mother Goddesses who evolved into the many goddesses of Mediterranean cultures in classical times. In the oldest times women's bodies were considered holy, because they had the seemingly magical ability to give birth, to create new human beings. As a result, women became the first technicians of the sacred, performing religious functions we would today associate with the clergy or priesthood. Sacred drumming was one of their primary skills. It remained a powerful tool for communal bonding and individual transformation until the fall of the Roman Empire.

"Though the existence of cultures whose primary deity was a goddess has been well documented in the last twenty-five years in popular and influential works by scholars such as Marija Gimbutas, Buffie Johnson, Merlin Stone, Rianne Eisler and Joseph Campbell, the role of women as custodians of the spiritual life of these cultures is not as well known. Perhaps for this reason, the significance of the frame drum as the focus of women's spiritual power has been virtually overlooked."

• See also Carol Myers' "The Drum-Dance Song Ensemble: Women's Performance in Biblical Israel," in "Rediscovering the Muses: Women's Musical Traditions," edited by Kimberly Marshall (Boston, Northeastern University Press, 1993). Carol Myers writes:

Frame Drum Tambourine"In the case of ancient Israel, ...issues arise specifically in relation to musical traditions because of the existence of certain data that conflict with contemporary notions of percussionists and gender. These data consist of archaeological materials -- Iron Age terracotta figurines depicting women drummers -- and references in a number of biblical passages to women playing drums. These artifactual and textual sources have long been known to archaeologists and biblical scholars. However, if examined in the light of scholarship that explores the dynamics of performance in relation to the gender of the performers, they are a source of new information about women's lives in ancient Israel."

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