Vision at Heath Street Baptist Church performed by The Telling

PUBLISHED: 12:10 25 February 2019

Vision: The Imagined Testimony of Hildegard of Bingen picture by Robert Piwko

Vision: The Imagined Testimony of Hildegard of Bingen picture by Robert Piwko

Archant

Dramatised concert about the life and music of a Medieval Abbess who defied the strictures of her time, kicks off its tour in Hampstead on Wednesday.

A dramatised concert about the life and music of a Medieval Abbess who defied the strictures of her time, kicks off its tour in Hampstead on Wednesday.

Heath Street Baptist Church hosts the first major performance of Clare Norburn’s piece celebrating the extraordinary life and mesmeric music of Hildegard of Bingen.

Acclaimed medieval ensemble The Telling perform Vision which is described by playwright and soprano Norburn as “half a concert and half a play.”

It is staged by acclaimed drama director Nicholas Renton and stars RSC regular Teresa Banham as Hildegard.

Born in 1098, Hildegard created a haunting and distinctive chant but also suffered painful and visceral visionary experiences throughout her life. In the drama the visions are recast as flashbacks as she revisits and re-experiences meaningful episodes from her past.

“This concert/play explores questions such as: what did it feel like to be taken away from her family at the age of eight?” says Norburn.

“How did she experience the visions which she referred to as “the Living Light”? What was the physical experience of her visions? What did it feel to have so much responsibility in an age when women were generally powerless and silent?

“The meaning of the visions and their physical form is fascinating. Much has been written on them including the well-known psychiatrist and neurologist Oliver Sacks, who concludes that she suffered from “scintillating scotoma”, a form of migraine. “Hildegard herself explained that she saw visions accompanied by a great blinding light, with her eyes wide open: “the light that I see… is far, far brighter than a cloud that carries the sun. I call it ‘the reflection of the Living Light.’”

“Sometimes she refers to hearing a divine voice which explains and introduces the visions.”

She adds: “Hildegard’s music is effectively chant, but whereas one piece of chant is usually undistinguishable from another plainsong chant, Hildegard’s is extraordinarily distinctive and personal.

“In 12th century terms she was also a shrewd marketing manager – her music is effectively a marketing tool – a vehicle to enhance her text and heighten her visionary message to reach more ordinary people.”

Singers will perform numbers from around the church and move around the audience using candlelight.

The Telling is at Heath Street Baptist Church at 7.3opm on Wednesday February 27.

Tickets (£12 Adult, £8 Concession) the-telling-vision-hampstead.eventbrite.com

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