Chez Schedel, phase 3! “Celebrate Chez Schedel” at the May Festival, 23 May

After 4 concerts exploring the repertoire surrounding the Schedel Songbook in 2015, we finally returned to Nuremberg in 1466, this time focussing on recreating the social context of Hartmann Schedel’s graduation party! We were in St Mary’s Chapel, which is a 15th-century addition to St Nicholas Kirk in Aberdeen. The event was generously funded by the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Early Modern Studies.

The chapel is partially underground, and was built primarily to support the extension of the main church above. Currently a bit of a building site, as it’s gradually being restored, the chapel is nevertheless a wonderfully athmospheric, intimate venue, with period wooden panelling on the walls and a lovely acoustic. We set the context by introducing the “party guests”, all people who are either known to have been connected with Schedel at the time, or where a connection seems very likely: co-students at Leipzig and Padua universities, who shared similar interests and life trajectories. A huge card catalogue, held in the Nuremberg city archive, of Nuremberg students attending universities between 1300 and 1600, was very helpful here!

Another major feature was the food, and its production and pricing. An audience with an appetite attacked the buffet: only a few meatballs, some shreds of pike, and the back-up “ugly” crab tartlets survived the onslaught (probably only because the “ugly” tartlets were still in a container)! Tara D. Power came up from York to reconstruct the historical recipes, mostly drawn from the “Küchenmeisterei” published in Nuremberg in 1485. Assisting her in the week of preparations was extremely interesting, and showed me why such events seem to have been outsourced to caterers in the period: I soon gave up on grating Lebkuchen by hand, and stuffed it into a modern food processor!

For music, we chose a slightly different direction this time. I had available a small Italian harpsichord, on which I played some intabulations of German Tenorlieder, as well as a basse danse setting of “Ma doulce amour”. An audience member kindly served as a willing experimental subject to learn a few dance steps. Two of my student singers, Lewis Thorn (tenor) and Sebastian Lim-Seet (contratenor) joined me in singing some of the Tenorlieder from the Schedel Songbook, and also tried their hand at a little bit of simple improvised polyphony. This configuration somehow gave a very different feel to the vocal ensemble: more casual, believable as a group of people at a social gathering, who are singing and exploring these songs for their own enjoyment.

There was a very nice review of the event by journalist Marka Rifat, to be found here: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/music/news/13087/  I especially like her use of “Gesamtkunstwerk”; it’s exactly what we were aiming for!

The next iteration of this project will be in a lecture recital at the Med-Ren conference in Basel, on 6 July.

I am especially proud of this fish:

(It’s a pike, prepared “three ways”: baked, jellied, and fried, surrounded by stuffed freshwater eel.) And here are the singers:

We also had Schedel there himself, in Marzipan form (based on the illustration in his World Chronicle, which may very well not be him at all, but which has become associated with his image):

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