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Throughout history women have seemed to exist in the shadow of men, their personal and economic survival dependent on them. Although women’s marginality was to some extent a fact, it is not the whole picture. In Southern France during the 11th and 12th centuries, an auspicious moment for women arose. The Crusades and other wars at that time decimated the male population in the homeland leaving women effectively in charge of their properties. Southern France, unlike England or Northern France, followed the Justinian Code, which allowed women to own their inherited property outright. This, paired with the popularity of the Cathar religion, which believed in the equality of men and women, gave women unprecedented power and freedom, thus enabling the women troubadours (trobairitz) to flourish.

"Une Vie de Femme" seeks to portray the lives and feelings of these medieval women as is reflected through the music and poetry of the time. While many texts and melodies remain anonymous, we have some clear authorships of women and men in this program. It is for the listener to decide if a different viewpoint or mode of expression between the genders can be discerned. Though this program in no way claims to show a representative comparison of male troubadour and female trobairitz texts, perhaps this small taste will tantalize us into looking more closely for insights into the lives and thoughts of medieval women.

The CD was made with the idea of portraying the lives and feelings of medieval women. There are secular songs of friendship, love, longing and jealousy and sacred music from the cloister and spiritual life.

The music has been chosen on the basis of the texts, composers and the beauty of the music. Its specialness lies in its incredible intensity and intimacy in both the given text and music and its interpretation. The recording itself is of superb quality giving the listener an amazingly clear yet warm sound as though having a private concert in a castle chamber.

Appropriately, the performers on the CD are two women playing instruments of the time. Debra Gomez-Tapio brings her learned expertise and confident interpretation of this genre to life. Accompanying herself on the harp, she gives the intense intimacy of a troubadour telling her heart felt stories. Kay Stonefelt’s diverse background in classical and ethnic drumming as well as her long time experience with hand drumming in medieval music show in her virtuosic ease as a soloist and as an accompanist.

Debra Gomez-Tapio has performed throughout Europe and the Americas. She has recorded with such groups as Sequentia, Ferrara Ensemble and Ricercare on the labels of Deutsche Harmonia Mundi and Arcana and has made radio recording throughout Europe. Debra has is also a respected choral conductor and has twice conducted for the YLE radio early music festival, Music before the Romantic Era. In Finland, Debra has been active performing with her two professional early music ensembles, Fioretto and Lumous as well as conducting the Handel Choir of Tampere. She has received numerous grants for her activities and was honored with the Pirkanmaa Artist of the Year Award in 2009.

Dr. Kay Stonefelt is a Professor of Music and Chair of the Percussion Studies Area at SUNY Fredonia, where she teaches private studio lessons and conducts the SUNY Fredonia Percussion Ensemble. Kay joined the Fredonia School of Music faculty in 1993 while she was concurrently the recipient of a Fulbright Senior Scholar Research Grant to Ghana, West Africa. She is a recipient of a 2006 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the 2010 Poummit Faculty Recognition Award in the School of Music.

The CD "Une Vie de Femme - A medieval woman’s life" (Debra Gomez-Tapio & Kay Stonefelt) was published in March 2012. The CD release concert was in the Sääksmäki church, Finland, on 18 April 2012. The CD is available from the Finnish retailer Fuga (CD) and from the US based CD Baby (CD, MP3).

"Having listened to the CD this evening with undivided attention (not quite the case a few days ago), I can’t let the evening end without telling you how much I admire your work—immensely. Your voice is a gift of beauty, used with rare conviction and musicality. Timbre, pronunciation, enunciation, interpretation are perfect. Accompaniment is splendid. And the sound engineering could hardly be improved. Your recorded sound has a living presence that is remarkable." - Samuel Rosenberg

Une vie de femme CD


Kirsi Väntsilä

p. 040 5032 745

Photographs: Carita Berg
Graphics: Jussi Lyly