A Worcester Ladymass

Trio Mediaeval

Oslo’s Trio Medaeval presents a reconstruction of a 13th century votive Mass to the Virgin Mary, based on surviving manuscripts from a Benedectine Abbey in the English Midlands. Inserted amid the medieval music are a Credo and Benedicamus Domino specially composed for this programme by Gavin Bryars: the old and the new intermingle in the work of this vocal ensemble. Anna Maria Friman: “The members of Trio Mediaeval feel that performing mediaeval music today gives us the freedom to let our imagination and ideas flow, as though we are creating contemporary music.”

Featured Artists Recorded

February 2010, Propstei St. Gerold

Original Release Date


  • 1Salve sancta parens
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 2Kyrie
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 3Gloria
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 4Munda Maria
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 5Sponsa rectoris omnium
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 6O sponsa Dei electa
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 7O Maria virgo pia
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 8Benedicta / Virgo Dei genitrix
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 9Credo (2008)
    (Gavin Bryars, Traditional)
  • 10Felix namque
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 11Salve rosa florum
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 12Grata iuvencula
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 13Inviolata integra mater
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 14De supernis sedibus
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 15Dulciflua tua memoria
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 16Sanctus
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 17Agnus Dei
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 18Beata viscera
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 19Alma Dei genitrix
    (Anonymous, Traditional)
  • 20Benedicamus Domino (2008)
    (Gavin Bryars, Traditional)
These three voices blended with a supernatural clarity and beauty that might cause even a confirmed agnostic to contemplate a spark of divinity in these centuries-old manuscripts.
New York Times
Ce patchwork intituled A Worcester Ladymass est tout simplement extraordinaire. Les voix féminines du Trio Mediaeval chantent avec tant de pureté, de force et d’enchantement qu’elles plangent l’auditeur hors du temps, dans un monde rempli de joie, de sérénité et de beauté.
L.S., Tribune de Genève
A Worcester Ladymass sources from a series of 13th century snippets (The Worcester Fragments) from the Abbey of St. Mary's, in Worcester, England. Complex polyphony imbues the 18 choices that Trio Mediaeval culled from the hundred-plus songs left by the Abbey's monks, brought together in a cohesive, 50-minute program that also includes two more inherently modernistic pieces, from contemporary composer Gavin Bryars, that remain a contextual fit with its 800 year-old musical cousins. The darker, minor-keyed "Credo" appears halfway through the song cycle and, coming as it does from Bryars' more considered pen, is the album's longest, most structurally developed piece barring "Kyrie," where Trio Mediaeval demonstrates its remarkable ability to combine soaring unison singing with expansive harmonies, as well as an ability to pass melody amongst its members like an athletic tag team—a feat that might be considered impossible, were it not possible to watch Trio Mediaeval actually do it.
John Kelman, All about jazz
The appeal of this music is its rareness and obscurity crossed with the pioneer spirit of an exceptional vocal trio and a visionary producer.
C. Michael Bailey, All about jazz
Herausgekommen ist ein faszinierender, fünfzigminütiger Musikhybrid, der den Zuhörer zuerst tief ins dreizehnte Jahrhundert entführt, um dann mit zwei, drei überraschenden Noten in Arvo Pärt’scher Manier einen sanften Bogen in die Gegenwart zu schlagen.
Martin Morgenstern, Crescendo
Whatever possesses humans to refine the art of singing to such a level of sonorous purity and expressive simplicity as exemplified by the three women of Trio Mediaeval.
David Vernier, Classics today
L’interprétation, aux lignes souples et à l’harmonie pleine, discrètement colorée par quelques touches de carillon dans deux plages, rend pleinement justice à cette musique, proche parente de celle de l’école de Notre-Dame. Les melodies, tantôt d’une confondante simplicité, tantôt complexes et sinueuses (sans parler des envolées de Bryars), plangent l’auditeur dans des catmosphères soigneusement alternées, entre le bercement typique de la rythmique monochrome de l’Ars Antiqua et la déclamation plus hiératique des conduits. Une réussite d’une délicieuse subtilité.
David Fiala, Diapason
This disc fills a gap on the medieval shelf, and it is likely to come off the shelf for repeated listening.
J. F. Weber, Fanfare
The performances are ravishing. The three high, pure voices manage to incorporate warmth in a manner that seems almost impossible; each has a particular timbre, and no singer tries to suppress that individuality. In songs of praise they seem overjoyed, and meditative moments are just as effective; they add an eerie drone to the penultimate number, and chimes to the “Agnus Dei”. The recording, too, is perfect. Behind the three women’s voices is silence – clear, honest, and respectful. This is a must.
Robert Levine, Stereophile
Die von englischen Mönchen gesungene messe zu Ehren der Heiligen Jungfrau Maria verwandeln die drei Norwegerinnen in ein zeitlos erhabenes und betörend schönes Bekenntniswerk.
Guido Fischer, Sono Magazin
Anna Maria Friman, Linn Andrea Fuglseth, and Torunn Østrem Ossum have voices of exceptional purity and sweetness, and their intonation is focused with such absolute precision that the music rings with clarity.
Stephen Eddins, All music
Trio Mediaeval’s most recent recording for the ECM New Series is titled “A Worcester Ladymass”. It is filled with some of the most beautiful music one will hear this side of Heaven.
Greg Barbrick, Blogcritics
“A Worcester Ladymass” marks a welcome return for Oslo’s Trio Mediaeval. It’s their first new recording in four years (“Folk Songs” was recorded in February 2007), as well as the first of their discs since “Stella Maris” (2005) to incorporate the medieval sacred music for which their vocal sound seems so eminently suited. As England’s Daily Telegraph observed, “The word ‘mellifluous’ might almost have been coined to describe the distinctively pure, cool sound of Trio Mediaeval’s three female voices. It has an alluring quality all its own, which makes everything they sing – from the earliest polyphony to newly composed pieces which, to some extent, inhabit the same sound-world – wonderfully rewarding to listen to.”

On their fifth ECM New Series album, Anna Maria Friman, Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Torunn Østrem Ossum present a reconstruction of a 13th century votive Mass to the Virgin Mary, based on manuscripts and fragments originating in an English Benedictine Abbey. As Nicky Losseff, the trio’s medieval music editor, explains in the liner notes, “complex polyphonic music was important to the monks who lived at the Abbey of St Mary's, Worcester. Polyphony gave life to the otherwise ‘plain’ song of the liturgy. At Worcester, an unusual number of single leaves and fragments have survived. Through them, we have been left more than 100 songs, in many different musical styles: polyphony to adorn the movements of the Mass; the freely-composed, intricately-interweaving voices of motets; the stricter, declamatory tones of the conductus. All in all, it testifies to a thriving musical community. “

Singing this music today is more than ‘interpretation’, as Anna Maria Friman emphasizes: “There is a lot of guesswork and individual intuition in medieval music performances. We feel that performing this music gives us freedom to let our imagination and ideas flow, as though we are creating contemporary music.” The trio lays no claim to historical “authenticity” here: “It is impossible to know what this music would have sounded like in the middle ages and therefore impossible to recreate a mediaeval vocal sound.” This can be a creative bonus: “We have chosen to use the lack of original information to form our performance in the present.” In the case of the “Ladymass”, this has sometimes necessitated the bridging of fragments with new music. Noting that the Worcester Mass lacked a Credo and a Benedicamus Domino, the singers invited Gavin Bryars, a supporter of the group since its earliest days, to compose the appropriate settings. Bryars proposed that his pieces be inserted into the “Ladymass” in such a way as to “maintain the same ethos, without any sense of incongruity”, despite the fact that his compositions would sound audibly different from the surrounding sections. The old and the new, literally and conceptually, intermingle in the work of this vocal ensemble.