Pre-order of ORDO VIRTUTUM. You get 2 tracks now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more), plus the complete album the moment it’s released.
Querela Animarum in carne positarum
3 O nos peregrine sumus.
Quid fecimus, ad peccata deviantes?
Filie Regis esse debuimus,
sed in umbram peccatorum cecidimus.
O vivens sol, porta nos in humeris tuis
in iustissimam hereditatem quam
in Adam perdidimus!
O rex regum, in tuo prelio pugnamus.
O dulcis divinitas, et o suavis vita,
in qua perferam vestem preclaram,
illud accipiens quod perdidi in prima apparitione,
ad te suspiro, et omnes Virtutes invoco.
O felix Anima, et o dulcis creatura dei,
que edificata es in profunda altitudine
sapientie dei, multum amas.
O libenter veniam ad vos ut prebeatis
michi osculum cordis.
Nos debemus militare tecum, o filia regis.
Sed, gravata, Anima conqueritur
O gravis labor, et o durum pondus
quod habeo in vesto huius vite,
quia nimis grave michi est
contra carnem pugnare.
Virtutes ad Animam illam
O Anima, voluntate dei constituta,
et o felix instrumentum,
quare tam flebilis es contra hoc
quod deus contrivit in virginea natura?
Tu debes in nobis superare diabolum.
Succurrite michi, adiuvando, ut possim stare!
Scientia Dei ad Animam illam
Vide quid illud sit quo es induta, filia salvationis
et esto stabilis, et numquam cades.
O nescio quid faciam, aut ubi fugiam!
O ve michi, non possum perficere hoc
quod sum induta. Certe illud volo abicere!
O infelix conscientia, o misera Anima,
quare abscondis faciem tuam
coram creatore tuo?
Tu nescis, nec vides, nec sapis illum
qui te constituit.
Deus creavit mundum:
non facio illi iniuriam sed volo uti illo!
Strepitus Diaboli ad Animam illam
quid prodest tibi laborare?
et amplectetur te magno honore.
O plangens vox est hec maximi doloris!
Ach, ach, quedam
in mirabili desiderio dei surrexit,
in qua delectatio camis
se latenter abscondit,
heu, heu, ubi voluntas crimina nescivit
et ubi desiderium hominis lasciviam fugit.
Luge, luge ergo in his, Innocentia,
que in pudore bono integritatem non amisisti,
et que avariciam gutturis antiqui serpentis
ibi non devorasti.
Que est hec Potestas,
quod nullus sit preter deum?
Ego autem dico, qui voluerit me
et voluntatem meam sequi, dabo illi omnia.
Tu vero, tuis sequacibus nichil
habes quod dare possis,
quia etiam vos omnes nescitis quid sitis.
Ego cum meis sodalibus bene
scio quod tu es ille antiquus dracho
qui super summum volare voluisti –
sed ipse deus in abyssum proiecit te.
Nos autem omnes in excelsis habitamus.
Lament of embodied Souls
3 We are pilgrims here!
What have we done, straying into sin?
We ought to have been daughters of the King,
but we have fallen into the shadow of sins.
O living Sun, carry us on your shoulders
back to that most just inheritance
which we lost in Adam!
O King of kings, we are fighting in Your battle.
O sweet divinity, O delectable life,
in which I shall wear a bright robe,
accepting that which I lost in my first formation –
I cry to you and invoke all the Virtues.
O happy Soul, O sweet creature of God,
fashioned in the profound height
of the wisdom of God, you show much love.
Oh, I come to you freely, that you may give me
a kiss from your heart!
We must fight with you, O daughter of the King.
But a troubled Soul complained:
O such heavy toil, and oh, what a harsh weight
that I bear in the dress of this life:
because it is too heavy for me
to fight against my flesh.
Virtues to Soul
O Soul, you that were created by the will of God,
you instrument of bliss,
why are you so tearful in the face of the evil
which God has crushed in a virgin being?
In us you must overcome the devil.
Hasten to me, help me to stand firm!
Knowledge-of-God to the Soul
See the dress you are wearing, daughter of salvation,
and be steadfast and you will never fall.
I know not what to do or where to flee!
Oh, woe is me, I cannot perfect this dress
I have put on! In fact I want to take it off!
O unhappy conscience, oh, poor Soul,
why do you hide your face
in the presence of your Creator?
Knowledge of God
You do not know, or see, or taste the One
who has set you here.
God created the world:
I’m doing him no injury – I only want to enjoy it!
Devil, shouting at Soul
What use is it to you all this toil?
Look to the world and it will embrace you
with great honour.
O wailing voice in which is the greatest sorrow?
Ah, a certain marvellous victory
already rose in that Soul,
in the marvellous desire of God,
in which the delight of the flesh was secretly hidden.
Alas, alas! where previously the will had known no guilt
and desire of man fled lust.
Mourn for this, mourn, Innocence,
you who did not give up your integrity
in your fair modesty,
who did not devour greedily
with the throat of the ancient serpent.
What is this Power –
as if there were no one apart from God?
I say, whoever wants to follow me and do my will,
I will give him everything.
As for you, Humility, you have nothing
that you can give your followers,
because none of you even know what you are!
My companions and I know very well
that you are the ancient dragon
who wanted to fly higher than the Highest:
but God Himself hurled you in the abyss.
As for us, we dwell in the heavens.
Hildegard of Bingen: Ordo Virtutum DIVISIO (4–9)
Hildegard of Bingen: Ordo Virtutum DIVISIO (10–16)
17 Heu, heu, nos Virtutes plangamus
et lugeamus, quia ovis domini fugit vitam!
Querela Anime penitentis et Virtutes invocantis
O vos regales Virtutes, quam speciose
et quam fulgentes estis in summo sole,
et quam dulcis est vestra mansio –
et ideo, o ve michi, quia a vobis fugi.
O fugitive, veni, veni ad nos, et deus suscipiet te.
Ach! ach! fervens dulcedo absorbuit me
in peccatis, et ideo non ausa sum intrare.
Noli timere nec fugere,
quia pastor bonus querit
in te perditam ovem suam.
Nunc est michi necesse ut suscipiatis me,
quoniam in vulneribus feteo
quibus antiquus serpens me contaminavit.
Curre ad nos, et sequere vestigia illa
in quibus numquam cades in societate nostra,
et des curabit te.
Penitens Anima ad Virtutes
18 Ego peccator qui fugi vitam:
plenus ulceribus veniam ad vos,
ut prebeatis michi scutum redemptionis.
O tu omnis milicia regine,
et o vos, candida lilia ipsius, cum rosea purpura,
inclinate vos ad me,
quia peregrina a vobis exulavi,
et adiuvate me, ut in sanguine filii dei possim surgere.
O Anima fugitiva, esto robusta,
et indue te arma lucis.
Et o vera medicina, Humilitas,
prebe michi auxilium,
quia superbia in multis viciis fregit me,
multas cicatrices michi imponens.
Nunc fugio ad te, et ido suscipe me.
O omnes Virtutes, suscipite lugentem peccatorem,
in suis cicatricibus, propter vulnera Christi,
et perducite eum ad me.
Volumus te reducere et nolumus te deserere,
et omnis celestis milicia gaudet super te –
ergo decet nos in symphonia sonare.
O misera filia, volo te amplecti,
quia magnus medicus dura
et amara propter te passus est.
O vivens fons, quam magna est suavitas tua,
qui faciem istorum in te non amisisti,
sed acute previdisti quomodo
eos de angelico casu abstraheres
qui se estimabant illud habere
quod non licet sic stare;
unde gaude, filia Syon,
quia deus tibi multos reddit
quos serpens de te abscidere voluit,
qui nunc in maiori luce fulgent
quam prius illorum causa fuisset.
Que es, aut unde venis?
Tu amplexata es me, et ego foras eduxi te.
Sed nunc in reversione tua confundis me –
ego autem pugna mea deiciam te!
17 Alas, alas, let us Virtues lament and mourn,
because a sheep of the Lord has fled from life!
The Soul, lamenting, penitent and calling to the Virtues
O you royal Virtues, how stunning
and how brilliant you look in the highest Sun,
and how delightful is your home,
and so, oh what woe is mine that I fled from you!
O fugitive, come to us, and God will receive you.
Ah! Ah! a burning sweetness swallowed me up
in sins, and so I did not dare come in.
Don’t be afraid nor run away,
because the Good Shepherd
is searching for His lost sheep – in you.
Now I need your help to receive me,
because I stink of the wounds
where the ancient serpent has poisoned me.
Run to us, and follow those footsteps
where you will never falter in our company,
and God will heal you.
The Penitent Soul to the Virtues
18 I am a sinner who fled from life:
covered in sores I will come to you
so you can offer me the shield of redemption.
O all of you warriors of Queen Humility,
and O you, her white lilies with crimson purple,
turn to me, who exiled myself
from you like a stranger,
and help me, that in the blood of the Son of God I may arise.
O fugitive Soul, now be strong and clothe yourself
in the armour of light.
And you, o true medicine, Humility,
grant me your help,
for pride has broken me in many vices,
inflicting many scars on me.
Now I am escaping to you, and therefore receive me!
O all you Virtues, receive this mournful sinner,
with all her scars, for the sake of Christ’s wounds,
and lead her to me.
We want to bring you back and shall not desert you,
and the whole host of heaven will rejoice over you:
therefore it is right for us sound our music in harmony.
O unhappy daughter, I want to embrace you:
the great Healer has suffered harsh
and bitter wounds for your sake.
O living fountain, how great is your sweetness:
you did not turn you face away from these,
but you acutely foresaw how you could avert them
from the fall the angels fell,
they who thought they possessed
a power which no law allows to be like that.
Wherefore rejoice then, daughter of Zion,
because God is giving you back many
whom the serpent wanted to separate from you,
who now gleam in a greater brightness
than would have been their state before.
Who are you? And where do you come from?
You were in my embrace, and I took you for a ride.
Yet now you are going back, defying me –
but I shall fight you and bring you down!
Hildegard of Bingen: Ordo Virtutum CONFUTATIO (19–21)
Hildegard of Bingen: Ordo Virtutum PERORATIO (22)
One of the earliest-named composers in Western musical history and outspoken in her dealings with princes and popes in mediaeval Europe, Abbess Hildegard of Bingen created the earliest-known opera or music drama, Ordo Virtutum, for the female inmates of her Abbey at Rupertsberg. Recorded and filmed at Waterloo Studios Australia for Circle of Virtue, The Song Company presents a semi-staged performance – directed by Leonie Cambage – of Hildegard’s story of the internal struggle of a Soul battling for her mental well-being with seventeen Virtues on one side and the Devil on the other...
HILDEGARD OF BINGEN
The Benedictine Abbess, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), is one of the very earliest composers known to us. As well as her fame as a medieval composer, she was and is renowned as a visionary, prophet (the ‘Sybil of the Rhine’), theologian, preacher scholar, physician, and poet – and was recently declared a Saint by Pope Benedict XVI. A tireless reformer of the Roman Catholic church, Hildegard tussled fearlessly with aristocrats, archbishops, prelates, popes, and princes, and in her later years travelled across Germany preaching and advocating for change. Having entered the monastery of Disibodenberg as an oblate at the age of eight, she was elected as magistra in 1136, later founding, against considerable opposition, her own convents of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165.
Hildegard’s output as a writer was prodigious, encompassing letters to the rich and powerful seeking action and to others providing advice and consolation, and texts addressing theology, medicine, astrology, and botany. Her musical compositions include seventy-seven songs, the Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum, (Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations) and the Latin sacred drama, Ordo Virtutum, regarded as the earliest surviving ‘morality play’.
Hildegard stated that from childhood, she experienced intense visions in which, through ‘the reflection of the living Light’, she heard the voice of God and saw powerful images revealing God’s message. In 1141, she stated God had instructed her to ‘write down that which you see and hear’. A trio of theological treatises followed over a thirty-year period – Scivias (Know the Ways of God), Liber Vitae Meritorum (Book of Life’s Merits), and Liber Divinorum Operum (Book of Divine Works). In these treatises, Hildegard describes and interprets her vivid, strange visions in immense detail, and instructs how their insights should be applied to life. Scivias was written between 1141 and 1151; the manuscript produced at Rupertsberg was adorned with illuminations capturing in meticulous detail Hildegard’s descriptions of her visions.
It is in Book Three of Scivias that the text of Ordo Virtutum is found. In the Symphony of the Blessed, the thirteenth and final Vision, Hildegard tells the story of Devil tempting a struggling Soul, and her fall, repentance, and rescue by the Virtues. The Virtues’ exhortations are drawn from Vision Three (The Tower of Anticipation of God’s Will) and Vision Eight (The Pillar of the Word of God).
The play was composed around 1151 and may have been first performed by Hildegard and her community of nuns for the consecration of Rupertsberg convent, with her teacher and scribe Volmar, a Disibodenberg monk, perhaps cast as the Devil. Notwithstanding that Hildegard’s personification of the Virtues as females agrees with earlier models, the play’s subtext of what women can achieve through collaboration, perseverance, and courage would not have not have escaped its audience.
WORDS & MUSIC
Ordo Virtutum is a powerful blend of poetic texts brimming with the vivid imagery of Hildegard’s visions, monastic restraint in the pace of the narrative, echoes of liturgical ritual, and peaks of musical and emotional intensity conveying that the Soul’s eternal salvation or damnation is at stake.
Music was a powerful weapon in Hildegard’s evangelistic weaponry, and she wields it very deliberately in the play. With the exception of the Devil, the characters sing together and as solo voices in plainchant throughout. During their rescue of the penitent Soul, the Virtues sing:
“Volumus te reducere et nolumus te deserere, et omnis celestis milicia gaudet super te – ergo decet nos in symphonia sonare”
“We want to bring you back – we shall not desert you, the whole host of Heaven will rejoice in you; thus it is right for us to sound our music – to play instruments in harmony.”
Denied singing or harmony of any kind, the Devil must deliver his evil persuasions by speaking or shouting – in this production, his utterances are elaborated with unpitched percussion, tritones (“diabolus in musica”) on the portative organ, and wholesale digital effects.
For this production the music has been transcribed anew from the original notation and rhythmic inflections inferred according to the burgeoning 12th-century system of rhythmic modes – contrasted with a much freer soloistic rhythmic interpretation by some of the main characters in the drama. Humility and three of the other Virtues introduce themselves with their “Ego” statements before the drama begins in a semi-improvised praelocutio. Drones and other harmonic and colouristic effects including “symphonia” – instrumental sounds from the time – have been added in a characteristic blend of moderation and exuberance.
DESIGN & CONCEPT
In connecting with Hildegard’s play, its ideas of human vulnerability, forgiveness, healing, and the collaboration of women seemed to resonate most powerfully; diffused from their religious source, these ideas seem more relevant than ever. Equally, the Ordo Virtutum is a work whose author, and her remarkable visions, cannot be separated from its realization. As such, Hildegard’s visions and their illuminations inform the physical world of the play and our own ‘illumination’ of that world.
The vision titled the Trinity in the Unity (as featured on the album cover) in particular underpins the play’s environment, in which concentric circles of silver and gold represent the light of the Father and the flame of the Holy Spirit surrounding the Son of God. In the touring production from the filming of which this recording was made, this illumination is re-envisioned as a three-dimensional mandala, suggesting both the beauty and brilliance of the Palace of the Virtues (a place for contemplation and healing), and a battle ground for fighting the Devil. We play also with the refraction of light, and Hildegard’s use of colour in her imagery – for example, she describes a ‘wondrously bright light’ shining on Discretion’s breast, “...divided into many rays as is the splendour of the sun when it shines through an object’s many openings...”
In the course of the play, colour is in several key objects – the jewels on Humility’s crown and the red of Celestial Love’s flowers and Patience’s crown. The blue of Charity’s skin and tunic, the brilliant red of Faith’s necklace, and the purple of Discipline’s tunic are also enhanced with handheld colour filters and lighting washes.
Through these devices, and through transitions from utter darkness to brilliant light, audiences have experienced Ordo Virtutum immersed in Hildegard’s plainchant and imagery, with voices, sound, light, darkness, and colour conspiring to evoke the extraordinary richness of Hildegard’s visionary world.
Ordo Virtutum falls into a number of sections that reflect textbook concepts of Latin rhetoric and the idea of an “arrangement” (dispositio) of a classical oration, as outlined by Cicero and others – whether or not these were known to Hildegard is a matter of conjecture, but they are helpful labels for understanding the structural division of the play into introduction (exordium), statement of facts (narratio), outline of the argument (divisio or partitio), proof (confirmatio), refutation of opposing arguments (confutatio), and conclusion (peroratio).
Hildegard on the Soul:
“...fiery globe that had no human lineaments... this human form... changed its colour according to the movement the globe made in that form...”
“...many whirlwinds assailed one of these globes in a body and bowed it down to the ground; but gathering back its strength and bravely raising itself up, it resisted them boldly and said with a groan, ‘A pilgrim, where am I? In the shadow of death...’”
The Soul describes its tabernacle “...of marrow, veins, bones, and flesh... but alas! Its sensibility gives rise to filth, licentiousness, and wantoness of conduct and every kind of vice... but when I think... of the leaden scale of sin, I condemn all those works that burn with carnal desire...”
Hildegard on the Virtues:
“...for each of these virtues is sweet and delightful, never weighing people down or constraining them, but softly instilling into their minds the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom.”
“...not that any virtue is a living form in itself, but a brilliant star given by God that shines forth in human deeds. For humanity is perfected by virtues, which are the deeds of people working in God.”
“...all these figures are uttering their individual speeches through the mystery of God, to admonish humans; for in all the virtues, God’s tenderness sweetly instructs the minds of the people and exhorts them to put aside evil and raise themselves up to good.”
Hildegard on the Devil:
“...Before the end of the world the Devil will perish and the truth be known.”
“A worm, wondrously large and long, which aroused an indescribable sense of horror and rage... black and bristly, covered with ulcers and pustules, and divided into five sections... like stripes... and they were full of deadly poison... eyes bloody... and burning within... ears round and bristly... nose and mouth of a viper, its hands human, its feet a viper’s feet, and its tail short and horrible...”
Hildegard on the Trinity in the Unity:
“...Then I saw a bright light, and in this light the figure of a man the colour of a sapphire, which was all blazing with a gentle glowing fire. And that bright light bathed the whole of the glowing fire, and the glowing fire bathed the bright light; and the bright light and the glowing fire poured over the whole human figure, so that the three were one light in one power of potential...”
Notes by Leonie Cambage and Antony Pitts
Scivias quotes from Classics of Western Spirituality (Paperback) By: Saint Hildegard, C. Hart (Translator), J. Bishop (Translator), Published: 1st January 1990; ISBN: 9780809131303
Photographs by Christopher Hayles from Circle of Virtue in Cell Block Theatre, National Art School, Sydney, November 2020.
releases December 1, 2021
THE SONG COMPANY
The Soul (Anima)
Humility, The Queen of the Virtues
Victory, and Knowledge of God, Discretion, Patience
Hope, and Charity, Fear of God, Obedience, Faith, Modesty, Mercy
Chastity, and Innocence, Contempt of the World, Celestial Love, Discipleship/Grace of God
The Song Company belongs to a land whose first peoples have always used songlines and vocal music to pass knowledge and
culture from one generation to another. We bring together Australia’s finest voices in innovative performances, commissioning new music, emerging artist development, educational outreach, and collaborative music-making across art forms....more