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Wednesday Talk: March 27, 2024, 2-4 pm – in-person and on Zoom

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March 27 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Speaker: Jesse Billett, Divinity, Trinity College, Divinity, Trinity College; Centre for Medieval Studies

Title: “The Lost Chants of Anglo-Saxon England”

Abstract: In 1086, two decades after the Norman Conquest, the monks of Glastonbury, the largest and wealthiest monastery in England, were ordered by their new Norman abbot to adopt a Norman chant repertory. When the monks obstinately refused to obey, the abbot’s armed retainers entered the monks’ meeting room and began to shoot arrows at them. The monks fled and barred themselves into the abbey church. When the bishop’s men broke through the doors, the monks fought back with stools and candlesticks. Several monks were killed, but the survivors managed to repel the abbot’s men. William the Conqueror subsequently sent the abbot packing back to Normandy. No chant books from Glastonbury have come down to us. But a careful sifting of various fragmentary sources has revealed that the music the monks fought to defend derived from a source entirely different from the northern French monasteries whose music dominates the surviving Anglo-Saxon sources. It seems instead to have been learned from Frankish singers east of the river Rhine. This chant tradition may have arrived in England as early as the reign of Æthelstan (924–939), who may have promoted this chant repertory as an expression of his reputation as a “Second Charlemagne.”

Bio: Jesse D. Billett is Associate Professor (Liturgy and Ecclesiastical History) in the Faculty of Divinity at Trinity College, Toronto, and a member of the faculty of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies, where he teaches Latin and supervises graduate research in medieval liturgy and music. A native of southeastern Ontario, he studied Music at Harvard University (AB 2001) and Medieval History at the University of Cambridge (MPhil 2003, PhD 2009). Before his appointment to Trinity College, he held postdoctoral fellowships at Cambridge and the University of Toronto. In addition to his academic work, Dr. Billett is an experienced performer of sacred music. He was a choral scholar in the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and he has performed and recorded with several professional early music ensembles, including the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge and the Toronto Consort. He currently serves as assistant cantor and bass-section lead in the choir of St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, Regent Park.

The link to register is  https://forms.office.com/r/jTe79Nv5jt

The deadline to register is the Monday before the event at noon.  The Zoom link will be sent to registrants only.