Maybe Hildegard von Bingen is about as funny in German as Sally F. Johnson is in English. In other words, not very funny. But in response to that objection all I have to say is . . . Bing!
Anyway, to the point: in the remote, unpeopled cyber location known as What Do You Do for an Encore, I am often on the lookout for little known but inspiring bits of sacred music for my famously unfamous Sunday selections. It was in that context that I came across . . . Bing!
I mean, Hildegard von Bingen.
Now, s’pose youse happen to be cruisin’ along some Middle Age freeway, flippin’ up and down that radio dial for some rockin’ Gregorian toonz. Well, Hildegard, though maybe not super prolific, had a respectable number of releases that made the Monastic top 40 of her day. I wouldn’t call her a Linda Ronstadt of the Medieval charts, necessarily, but maybe like a Maria Muldaur or a Norah Jones.
But you know how it goes at this BoFN joint. We get into these things, we dig a little deeper, and before you know it we realize we’ve got a wild one on our hands.
Music (and poetry) were but the least of Hildegard’s gifts and accomplishments. But I really should say, Saint Hildegard, who is also a Doctor of the Church. That last is a rare distinction for anyone, male or female, as there are only about 34 Doctors of the Church (at last count) in over 2,000 years.
Hidlegard was a thin, wan, sickly child (let this be an inspiration to all of us thin, wan, sickly children) born to nobility in 1098. She had religious visions from the age of five, became a nun at the age of 15, and went on to live 81 years (if my calculation are right) in that time becoming one of the most prominent women of Medieval times. The following introduction from a fine entry about Hildegard at Fordham University gives us a useful thumbnail:
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a remarkable woman, a “first” in many fields. At a time when few women wrote, Hildegard, known as “Sybil of the Rhine”, produced major works of theology and visionary writings. When few women were accorded respect, she was consulted by and advised bishops, popes, and kings. She used the curative powers of natural objects for healing, and wrote treatises about natural history and medicinal uses of plants, animals, trees and stones. She is the first composer whose biography is known. She founded a vibrant convent, where her musical plays were performed. . . . Her story is important to all students of medieval history and culture and an inspirational account of an irresisible spirit and vibrant intellect overcoming social, physical, cultural, gender barriers to achieve timeless transcendence.
St. Hildegard von Bingen, pray for us! And . . .
Please don’t forget Dave in his good fight, folks. Click on the graphic below.