Alright, we confess – we have not been able, yet to find any Knight Templar music – which is hardly surprising given their vows. However, the Rosslyn Templars have found several items of music from the Medieval period that Knights Templar would certainly have heard during their lifetimes.

Music of the Crusades

It is not often appreciated that the Crusades spanned a period of a wee bitty o’er 200 years (c.1091 – c.1302) and that represents five generations (based on the generous calculation that an average life span was, then, about 40 years). Here is a brief ‘time line’ in order (however inadequate) to place the crusades in that historical chronology.

1157. Richard the Lion Heart, King of England, born 1157. Succeeded to the throne on the death of his father in 1189.

1189. King Richard leaves only six months after becoming King to go on a crusade and was absent from England for almost five years although the crusade only lasted two years. He was held hostage by Leopold, Duke of Austria, who extracted a ransom of 150,00 gold marks. Richard died in 1199 having been shot by an archer. Over 600 years later Sir Walter Scott used Richard’s absence from England as the background to the first recognisable ‘Historical Novel’ – Ivanhoe, 1819.

1291:  Philip IV is king of France, Edward I is on the throne of England but no monarch reigns, yet,  in Scotland. Duns  Scotus, a Scottish Philosopher, was ordained Priest at Northampton in this year. He was Beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1993.

1391:  Robert III, great-grandson of Robert the Bruce, is king of Scotland. Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1340-1400) wrote The Canterbury Tales four years earlier, in 1387. The Peaseant’s Revolt, in England, was led by Wat Tyler ten years earlier, in 1381.

1491: A Scottish Lodge, in Edinburgh, is first mentioned. The following year Christopher Columbus discovers America.

1591:  James VI is king of Scotland. He may have been a Freemason. The Spanish Armada consisting of 132 ships was defeated by Francis Drake over a eleven day period – 19th to 19th July 1588.

1691:  Scotland is still an independent country although with a joint monarchy (with England). The Union of Parliaments (Scottish and English) took place in 1707. Many Scots Members of Parliament hade been bribed by the English government. 80 years later Robert Burns was to write about Scotland’s sovereignty being ‘bought and sold for English gold’.

1791:  The Scottish Enlightenment was well underway. Robert Burns had five years left to him.

1891:  Queen Victoria had 10 years left to live. Britain had an empire over which the sun never set. The First World War would not begin for another 13 years. The ‘first heavier than air ‘ flight took place on 17th December 1903 at the Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, USA, by the brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright in their machine called Flyer I.

1991: Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11th February 1990 having been in prison since 1963.

2001: Cardinal Thomas Winning dies.

Between the twelfth and nineteenth centuries the true events of the Crusades were romanticised beyond recognition in the poetry of the troubadours, trouveres and minnesingers, in folklore and later in novels. On this recording there are two examples of troubadour texts (written in langue d’oc), eight examples of trouvere (in early French), and one of minnesang (in early German), as well as various Latin texts. Some relate directly to the Crusades, such as Pax in nomine Domini! and Chevalier, mull estes guariz Most, however, are from the time of the Crusades rather than having any direct relation to them. A good example is Ja nus pons pris, attributed to Richard the Lion?Heart.

There are approximately sixty manuscripts surviving of troubadour and trouvere poetry. Only a small number contain musical notation, and it is not at all clear if this music is the work of the poets themselves, their scribes, or the jongleurs and minstrels who performed the songs. This early notation, like that of Gregorian chant, provides the performer with only a series of pitches to be sung and no clear indication of specific rhythmic values (if, indeed, any were intended). Hence the performer must decide, with the help of modern theories, whether or not to impose a specific rhythm on a given song, and though one performer’s interpretation might be very different from another’s, both could be equally valid. We know from contemporary pictorial and literary evidence which instruments were in use in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. For strings, the early lute of four/five courses, played with a plectrum: the circle, which apparently employed metal strings, also played with a plectrum; the rebec, in various sizes and played with a bow; and the harp. For wind instruments, the simple wooden flute, the recorder, a simple form of bagpipe and the early shawm. On this recording the crumhorn is used to simulate the sound of the bladder?pipe, a contemporary instrument. For percussion, the nakers (a small pair of kettledrums), tabor and a range of tuned bells. Ironically, the lute, shawm and nakers had all been recently imported to Europe from the Middle East. The performances heard here represent an attempt at solving some of the practical problems of recreating twelfth and thirteenth?century music and a desire to present as varied and useful an introduction to this repertoire as possible. James Tyler.

This CD by the Early Music Consort of London contains 19 tracks the majority of which are drawn from French sources. Most of the music, initially, sounds quite alien to us today hardly surprising given the dramatic changes since then in musical forms and the invention of new instruments (there were, for instance, no organs). The music is evocative of the period and for us gives a small insight to the type of music enjoyed by people of that time. The Knights Templar would have been familiar with all the music on this CD. There, as far as we are aware, no music specific to the Knights Templar which is unsurprising given their quasi-monastic lifestyle. We can do no better than quote directly from the notes which accompany the CD.

The Crusades were a series of wars begun at the instigation of Pope Urban II in 1095 and ostensibly fought to `free’ Jerusalem from the Muslim `infidels’. These expeditions involved all of Christian Europe. The nobility of each nation and their armies journeyed to Jerusalem four times between 1096 and c.1250, slaughtering not only Muslims and Jews but also local Christians, and sacking Constantinople, the seat of the Eastern Christian Empire, along the way. The promised rewards for the Christian armies were twofold: spiritual salvation from the Pope and riches from the pillage of the cities between Constantinople and Jerusalem.

This CD, having been listened to many times, is highly recommended. As mentioned above the initial effect is one of alien, eastern (which does have an influence) music. Perseverance will pay dividends.

Organ Dreams

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