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Medieval musical poetry and themes of courtly love and chivalry. Such was the recipe for an evening of regional folk music from France.

The Oxford Trobadors have been performing songs in the regional French language of Occitan for the last 16 years.  Judging by the warm, relaxed and friendly feel of their recent concert, at Oxford’s Holywell Music Room, they have an established following too.

Occitan is a language of the southern regions of France and even apparently parts of northern Italy. It seems the language, still spoken, has hardly changed since the original troubadours would have sung poetically and romantically in the middle ages.

Drawn particularly from the 12th to the 15th centuries, the back to back musical tales of larks, hearts, hills and paradise juxtaposed the natural world with the emotional one. The Oxford Trobadors brought the language and form to life, sometimes also singing in Italian, with songs such as Lo Boier (The Herdsman); L’aiga de la Dordonha (Waters of the Dordogne); and Quan lo riu de la fontana (Waters of the Fountain).

The group of seven musicians, including soprano Rossella Bondi and their founder Denis Noble, kept the music flowing for 2 hours, watched by a committed audience as well as a French TV crew filming it all. Percussionist Keith Fairbairn also proved rather inspiring with his rapid changes between, at a quick count, at least 12 different musical instruments.

The lyrics were natural, earthy and sensual, while the tunes were sweet, melodic, and sometimes melancholy. The voices were always composed, controlled and strong.

All in all, it was a joyful night of some embracing and charming music, with several promised catchy tunes left ringing in the mind.

© Laura Claire H 2014

See: Oxford Trobadors