Funny, in a way, that the March 2000 concert at which the baptism of little boy Charles was recalled, also acted as a kind of baptism of the ensemble Psallentes itself. A maiden concert. What’s more – and how coincidental can you get – this happened in the Saint Bavo cathedral, which at the time of the historical event of March 1500 was simply called the church of Saint John … the Baptist. This concert definitely marked the beginning of a new phase in my career as a musician – and in a nicely symbolic way too, although I only got to realize that quite some time later.
As a teenager I was very much into medieval music. I too had my portion of romantic longing for the idealized Middle Ages. I devoured youth novels set in medieval times, and there definitely was an obsession for medieval manuscripts. I distinctly remember visiting the exhibition on Flemish miniatures at the Gruuthuuse-museum in Bruges not once, but many many times – it was in 1981, I was fifteen. And whenever I had some money I went to the record shop to buy an LP with medieval music. It did not really matter what it was, as long as it had something to do with the Middle Ages. Although I played the piano from my early childhood, and eventually turned out to become a professional pianist and piano teacher, my love for and interest in medieval music and manuscripts had/has never left me. In order to keep in touch with the medieval music scene, I started to sing – rather late. Being a pianist occupied with nineteenth-century music and the like, singing (mainly of plainsong) was the best thing I could do to keep my chances open of one day entering the magical world of the Early Music. With the founding of Psallentes and the connections we made with other ensembles, I was finally able to move further into that universe of the Cantigas de Santa Maria, the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, the Codex Calixtinus. “Et la porte de paradis luy est ouverte.”
Hendrik Vanden Abeele