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Scholar to play song composed by Canute
A SONG written by King Canute will be the highlight of forthcoming medieval performances held at the historical Unitarian Chapel in Brook Street.
‘Caedmon, Canute and Sir Orfeo’, a medley of medieval verse and song, will be given by Knutsford resident Michael Gibson, a scholar of Middle and Old poetry.
The performances, described as a medieval mystery tour, will take place on Thursday, October 31 at 2pm and Wednesday, November 13 at 7.30pm.
“The beginning of the song composed by King Canute – who according to legend gave his name to Knutsford – is included in the ‘Liber Eliensis’, The Book of Ely, a twelfth-century chronicle of the history of Ely Cathedral,” said Michael.
“It is one of the oldest surviving songs in Old English. Canute was inspired to compose it after approaching the cathedral by boat and hearing the monks singing their devotions at the time of the Feast of the Candlemas.”
Over the past three decades, Michael has translated many English medieval texts in a manner that retains the substance, nuances of dialect, alliteration and what he calls the ‘dancing-ness’ of the original verse.
His translations present pieces in their original rhythms and are recited in their original dialects – as far as these are known.
Michael added: “I am intent in helping to keep our rich natural heritage alive, both in popular performance and academic circles. The language and themes are far from remote and dry.”
The Unitarian Chapel performances will continue with a shorter piece, ‘Caedmon’s Song’ dating from the seventh century, and the fourteenth century romance, ‘Sir Orfeo’.
Michael will also be performing early tunes, as well as his own compositions, played on a wooden pipe and a small harp.
He added: “We know that much Old English verse would be accompanied by some sort of harp, such as that of which the remains were found at Sutton Hoo.
“I am working towards an authentic representation of the kind of performance that would have been given in a Saxon or Anglo-Saxon communal gathering.”
Tickets for both the October and November performances are on sale at the Knutsford Heritage Centre and the Brook Street Chapel. Alternatively, call Michael on 01565 632819.
The ticket price includes light refreshments during the interval.
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