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  • Writer's pictureLogan Quigley

Experiencing Medieval Music: What did medieval music sound like? (O'Mara, Monroe, & Mullins Bailey)

Updated: Feb 24

What did medieval music sound like? How can we read and perform the musical notation from medieval manuscripts? What does singing and playing music written before 1500 actually feel like? How did the early music tradition carry forward into the seventeenth century? In this episode, Reed O'Mara interviews musicologists Elena Mullins Bailey and Allison Monroe from the musical ensemble Trobár on the ins and outs of medieval song, both sacred and profane, and the mechanics of historical performance practice.

Allison Monroe, an early music specialist, performs on Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical violin and viola, viols, vielle, rebec, medieval harp, and sings. Her performing credits include concerts with the Newberry Consort, the Boston Camerata, Apollo’s Fire, Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, Les Délices, Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Oregon Bach Festival’s Berwick Academy, the Washington Bach Consort, Bourbon Baroque, Alkemie, and the Brecon Baroque Festival Orchestra. She has directed Case Western Reserve University’s Collegium Musicum, comprising the Medieval and Renaissance ensembles, since 2018 and is a founding member of Trobár. She is the incoming Director of the Five College Early Music Program based at Mount Holyoke College.

Elena Mullins Bailey (soprano, percussion) is a lecturer in the Department of Music at Case Western Reserve University. She has wide-ranging interests in the field of early music. In the 2015 summer issue of Early Music America Magazine she was recognized as one of the country’s most promising early music performers. Elena has sung with Trobár, The Newberry Consort, Apollo’s Fire, Three Notch’d Road, Generation Harmonique, and Quire Cleveland, and has attended the American Bach Soloists Academy, Urbino Early Music, the Madison Early Music Festival and the Vancouver Early Music Festival.

Reed O'Mara is a PhD candidate and Mellon Fellow in the Department of Art History & Art at Case Western Reserve University. Her primary research interests lie in Jewish illuminated manuscripts, Gothic architectural sculpture, and Indian miniature painting. Reed served as Chair of the Graduate Student Committee of the MAA 2022-23 and was the Mentorship and Professionalization Coordinator for the Vagantes Conference on Medieval Studies Board of Directors 2021-23. She is one of the founding producers of TheMulticultural Middle Ages.

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