Houston Early Music



directed by Stevie Wishart


Vivien Ellis, Mina Kanaridis

and singers from The Oxford Girls’ Choir

Victoria Couper, Clemmie Franks, Emily Levy

Narrated by The Reverend Helen Appelberg, D.Min.

Celestial Harmonies

The Music, Words, and Images of Hildegard of Bingen

Presented In Conjunction with the

1998 Neil J. O’Brien Triennial Symposium in Medieval Studies:

"Constructing Hildegard: Reception and Identity, 1098-1998"

November 20-21, 1998, Rice University

Generously Underwritten by

British Airways

The British Council

The Neil J. O’Brien Endowment for Medieval Studies, Rice University

The Center for the Study of Cultures, Rice University

The Shepherd School of Music, Rice University

Guests of Houston Early Music stay at the Park Plaza Warwick Hotel

KUHF Radio is the official radio station of Houston Early Music

This program is made possible in part by grants from the City of Houston and Harris County through CACHH and by the

Texas Commission on the Arts


8:00 p.m., Friday, November 20, 1998

Stude Concert Hall

The Shepherd School of Music, Rice University







Celestial Harmonies

From Wherever They Came (Unde Quocumque)

Honey and Milk Beneath her Tongue (Favus Distillans)

The First Woman (Deus Enim in Prima Muliere)

O Energy of Wisdom (O Virtus Sapientie)

O Fiery Spirit (O Ignee Spiritus)

Living-Light Angels (O Gloriosissimi Lux Vivens Angeli)

But the Devil Mocked (Sed Diabolus in Invidia)

The Devil’s Suggestion (O Tu Illustrata)

O Radiant Mother (O Clarissima Mater)

O Boundless Ecclesia (O Orzchis Ecclesia)

Place of the Ancient Heart (O Vos Angeli)

Charity Abounds (Caritas Habundat)

Song to Ecclesia (Nunc Gaudeant Materna Viscera Ecclesia)

English song texts by Barbara Newman; Saint Hildegard of Bingen: Symphonia. Published by Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1988. Used with permission.


Early Conversations Lecture Series - "Music of the Spheres"

The "Early Conversations" lecture for this evening is part of the 1998 Neil J. O'Brien Triennial Symposium in Medieval Studies Constructing Hildegard: Reception and Identity 1098-1998 and is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Cultures and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Members of the ensemble Sinfonye discuss the resurgence of interest in the music of Hildegard, and the special challenges performers face in bringing her music to life.

The Music

Hildegard composed over seventy-five songs in the form of liturgical chants which were for the most part completed by 1158. The songs survive in two manuscripts: the earlier was prepared under Hildegard’s direct supervision around 1175 as a gift for the monks of Villers. A revised and enlarged collection was produced at the Rupertsburg scriptorium in the 1180s, shortly after Hildegard’s death. The music for this program is taken from Hildegard’s elaborate song cycle, Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revelationum (Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations / The Harmonious Music of Heavenly Mysteries).

Symphonia was described by the 19th-century editor Pitra as a varied and dramatic program of lyrics, songs and colloquies which the virgins of Bingen, led by Hildegard in ecstatic fervor, used to perform outside of choir on their titular feast day. Our selection of songs from Symphonia trace the main events in Hildegard’s life and her visionary experiences which she recorded in exceptional detail. They are in the form of antiphons, hymns, sequences and highly florid responsories marked by an alternation of solo verses and choral responses. Her melodic writing is highly original with expansive phrases and a melodic range of up to two and a half octaves, and as many as eighty notes may be sung to a single syllable of text. Our use of voices will alternate between these highly virtuosic pieces for solo voice and the ensemble singing for the responses with occasional drone underlay.

The Words

The songs are linked by extracts from Hildegard’s books of visions and are drawn from her scientific writings on the natural world and from her writings on women. They include: Ways of Seeing (Scivias), Causes and Cures, Letters, and the enigmatic Unknown Language and Unknown Writing. Selections are also included from the Life of St. Hildegard by the monk Godfrey who acted as Hildegard’s secretary and provost to her nuns at Rupertsburg.

The Images

Visual projections of Hildegard’s prophetic visions which were used to illustrate two of her books of visions, Ways of Seeing (Scivias) and The Book of Divine Works (Liber divinorum operum) form the visual backdrop to this presentation.


Hildegard of Bingen entered the monastery of St Disibod, near Mainz, at the age of eight, when her parents offered her as a tithe to God. As a young child, she was gifted as a visionary; "a brightness so great that my soul trembled" she later wrote of a vision she experienced at the age of three, and this gift remained with her throughout her long life. It was not until she was in her forties that she was bold enough to write down her visions, combining these with more scientifically-based treatises and books on medicine, as well as composing over seventy liturgical songs. She became famous throughout Europe as a writer and composer, helped by the monk Volmar of St Disibod, who served as her copy-editor until his death in 1173, six years before her own. Her books were further expanded by her extensive correspondence with popes, statespeople like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Thomas ā Becket, and prominent ecclesiastical authorities, including Bernard of Clairvaux.

Despite strong opposition, Hildegard founded her own independent convent at Rupertsburg, near Bingen, which was consecrated in 1152. She founded a second community at Eibingen in about 1165, which is the site of the present-day community at the Abbey St. Hildegard.

Notes by Stevie Wishart

The Artists

The Reverend Doctor Helen Appelberg

Helen Appelberg, a native Texan, has been in Houston since the start of the space program. Over the past few years, she has owned an import business "Shop in Denmark," taught at a Montessori school, and served as a counselor. Divorced, she has one daughter and two grandchildren. Always active in the Episcopal church, she realized a call to the priesthood and was accepted for the ordination process. She graduated from Seminary of the Southwest after having earned a Doctorate of Ministry at the Presbyterian Seminary in Austin and was ordained in 1990. Hildegard holds a special place in her life because of the vision she casts for the future and the call for both men and women to find their special life’s work and their gift. In particular, Reverend Appelburg feels that Hildegard challenges women to find their voice and to discover what they are giving their children, their families, and their communities as we move into the new millennium. In addition to being part of the liturgical team at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Reverend Appelburg serves as Chaplain and Assistant Director of Pastoral Care at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital. She is also involved in "Community of Hope," a program which encourages men and women to discover their gift for ministry and to encourage others to become caregivers in the communities in which they live. This is based upon the philosophy of the Benedictine order of which Hildegard was a member.


Founded in 1987 by Stevie Wishart, Sinfonye was conceived as an ensemble combining improvisatory skills derived from traditional music with performance practices recreated from historical research, with a particular interest in repertories sung, inspired or composed by women. Since its inception, Sinfonye has performed extensively throughout Europe and Australia and has made a number of recordings acclaimed for their innovative approach to the medieval repertory. In addition to their group work, the members also maintain active solo careers.

Sinfonye and The Oxford Girls’ Choir have worked together over a number of years developing a unique process which involves semi-oral learning by rote combined with learning the songs from Stevie Wishart’s transcriptions and a familiarity with the original manuscript notation. Wishart’s editions are based on the manuscript from Dendemonde which was written within Hildegard’s personal supervision and also the later, but more complete Wiesbaden manuscript. Our performances also incorporate creative input from the singers developed in a workshop process. This was particularly important for the more ambiguous aspects of Hildegard’s music which raises questions of pronunciation, ornamentation and performance style.

The flowering of the special rapport which has evolved between Sinfonye and the choir can be found in the series of recordings, The Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations: The Complete Hildegard of Bingen. Volume One of the series was awarded a Gramophone Magazine Critic’s Choice for 1996, with further volumes released in 1998. The relationship continues with a newly commissioned work written by Stevie Wishart for the Oxford Girls’ Choir.

Stevie Wishart developed her musical studies at the University of York, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and, with a Vicente Caņada Blanch Fellowship, at New College, Oxford, where she is completing a D.Phil on medieval bowed instruments. Wishart’s most recent recording, Red Iris: 14th century Italian instrumental music (Glossa), breaks new ground in its format of an interactive CD Plus which invites the listener to play with the multi-media visual tracks based on Florentine frescos contemporary with the music.

Vivien Ellis developed as a singer with Sinfonye which she joined in 1989 and with whom she tours extensively in the UK and abroad. With the Dufay Collective she has recorded two discs for Chandos, and has made a number of overseas tours. Vivien also works in contemporary, folk and improvised music, dance-theatre and jazz. She sings with Keith Tippett’s big band Tapestry, in an improvising trio with sax player Theo Travis and bassist Olly Blanchflower, and in Alba, a folk-medieval duo with fiddle player Giles Lewin. Her research into the old song traditions of Europe have taken her throughout Britain and beyond, to Bulgaria, France, Spain and Corsica.

Mina Kanaridis graduated in music from Sydney University where she majored in vocal studies. She sings with the Sydney-based early music ensemble the Renaissance Players and Coda, a contemporary music group, performing at the Sydney Opera House and other major venues. She broadcasts on the Australian networks and has recorded for a number of labels.

The Oxford Girls’ Choir was founded by Richard Vendome in 1984 to give girls a similar vocal training to that provided for boys in Britain by the collegiate choirs. The choir has sixty members aged 8 - 18 who work in groups according to age and experience. Associated with the choir is the Oxford Prep Choir which teaches boys and girls aged 4 - 8 to explore the world of music.

In addition to singing the standard repertoire, OGC specialises in areas historically associated with women such as opera-ballet and the Venetian ospedale tradition. It gives regular performances both at home and abroad; sacred music, opera, historical entertainments with dance and costume, and jazz are all part of the choir’s activities. In the field of new music, the choir has premiered many new works, including Stevie Wishart’s Secret Spaces.

Copyright 1996-9 by Houston Early Music 
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