Les Jongleurs de la mandragore
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Les Jongleurs de la mandragore

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Les Jongleurs de la mandragore @ Église St-Jean-Berchmans

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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The best kept secret in music


It was a sunny afternoon. I closed the drapes and, in the dim light a door opened between my speakers and I entered the 12th centhury. Much more effectively than images, sound can bring memories back to life and carry us to faraway times.
Barbarossa refers to the time of Friedrich 1 of Germany who ruled over a kingdom reaching from the North Sea to the Mediterranean until his death in 1190. Several of the pieces are from the original Carmina Burana German manuscript, there is an icelandic traditional piece, and an excerpt of the Laon Maniscript dating from the France of around 930.
None of these, however, prepares you for the presence of the multitalented group called Les Jongleurs de la Mandragore ("the Mandrake jugglers"). Infused with an uncanny energy and joy, they recreate the atmosphere of medieval times, blending superb voices and instruments, giving life to dusty and brittle texts. Interestingly, an Oud, the direct ancestor of the European lute, is used by Andrew Wells-Oberegger, and his playing is refined and expressive. The midrange sound of the instrument is richly modulated. François Taillefer is a wizard with percussion instruments, especially the large duff and smaller darbuka. All those instruments, of Persian or Turkish origin, were introduced to Europe by the Moors through Spain, and brought back with the return of the Crusaders.
It becomes fascinating to hear the flavor of those Eastern sounds combined with those of the Traverso (wooden flute), the Cittern and Hurdy-Gyrdy (also known as the Wheel Fiddle). Don't miss the great duff solo on track 2 and the lovely composition by Hildegarde von Bingen on track3; watch for the intricate harmonies of the flute with Ingried Boussaroque's warm soprano, and see how her voice rises, pure as a flame, floating away at the end.
On track 4, the traditional Icelandic instrumental piece sounds almost modern with its oud and duff duo. Listen carefully as the percussion builds and rises to a frenzy, and later, on track 8, a composition by Adam de la Halle. You'll be surprised by the bass impact, just before the male voices appear in 3-D. Suddenly, much too soon it seems, with what sounds like a distant bell in the fog, the music stops. I slowly walked over and opened the drapes again.
René Laflamme of Fidelio has done a magnificient recording job with this ensemble. The high, deep space of th echurch where it took place and the natural sound of voices and instruments are sweetly reproduced using XtractHD process, avoiding most computer manipulation. They even designed their own wooden sphere microphone system and installed it in a binaural configuration, as you'll see on the CD back cover photo. - UHF (Ultra High Fidelity Magazine), issue no 73

Reconnue comme l'une des plus festives formations de musique ancienne du Québec à cause de la place prédominante qu'elle accorde aux rythmes et percussions, la Mandragore n'en a pas moins exploré des manuscrits du XIIe et du XIIIe siècles pour Barbarossa, un 3e album qui surfe librement sur les musiques du royaume de Frédéric 1er et qui s'étendait de la mer du Nord à l'Italier. L'approche n'a rien de puriste: esthétique originale très actuelle, voix célestes, choeurs masculins, instruments arabes, clins d'oeil au sud, improvisations débridées. Malgré des passages plus calmes qu'auparavant, la Mandragore parvient encore à faire swinguer le Moyen-Âge comme peu savent le faire. 8.5/10 - ICI (13-19 octobre 2005)

...Les Jongleurs de la Mandragore se démarquent du courant médiéval "puriste" par une présence nettement festive et des arrangements qui empruntent éventuellement aux musiques du monde. "C'est vrai que nous sommes moins "classiques" que d'autres, et certains puristes nous le reprochent un peu, explique Ingried Boussaroque, mais l'objectif principal reste d'obtenir un son qui nous plaise et qui soit vivant. Nous avons beaucoup joué dans des festivals, des fêtes ou des mariages, pour faire danser les gens, alors évidemment, ça se reflète dans notre musique. Cependant, notre 3e album est peut-être un peu plus calme." (...) - Voir, 8 septembre 2005, Réjean Beaucage


Miracle! (2001, independant)
Gibraltar (2002, independant)
Barbarossa (2005, Fidelio Audio)


Feeling a bit camera shy


"Ensemble Mandragore is one of Montreal's most exciting young Early Music groups to emerge in the past five years. Both connoisseurs and the public at large appreciate their amusing, dynamic concerts that stand as the perfect introduction to Medieval music. Highly recommended!"
Susie Napper, Artistic Director, Montreal Baroque Festival, June 2004

Mandragore's music has a powerful effect on its listeners, similar to those attributed to the mythical mandrake plant for whom they are named. The ensemble was founded in Montreal in 1995, and specialises in European music of the 12th to 14th Centuries.The Artistic Director of this Early Music ensemble is Ingried Boussaroque (Soprano, recorders, crumhorn and harmonium), and François Taillefer (Percussion) acts as co-director. The other members include Sean Dagher (Cittern and Hurdy-Gurdy), Grégoire Jeay (Flutes, Recorders) and Andrew Wells-Oberegger (Oud, Lute, Bouzouki).This Medieval music ensemble boasts two distinguishing factors: first, an explosive energy and dynamism, and second, a musical approach that combines both musicological rigour and contemporary creativity. Mandragore adds catchy rhythms, languorous voices, rich chords and unexpected colours to medieval melodies. The results speak for themselves: invitations, concerts, recordings, etc. They have performed all over Quebec at festivals and period events. Mandragore has graced all manner of venues from Quebec City's Musée de la Civilisation to Montreal's Kola Note.The musicians of the Mandragore love to present rare instruments and share stories behind the music and historical context. Their performances seduce audiences of all ages, from neophytes to connoisseurs.Miracle!, their first recording released in 2001, features mostly religious music from Montserrat's Llibre Vermell (Red Book) and Cantigas de Santa Maria. Their second album, Gibraltar followed the next year, with a selection of Sephardic and Arab-Andalusian pieces.Mandragore will record its third album in January 2005, under the Fidelio Audio label, featuring Medieval music from France and Germany. The ensemble will also be playing in Montreal, Quebec and abroad.