Bruce Saunders on Adam de la Halle’s ‘Or est Baiars’

Nova’s concert in September 2017 was called ‘A Renaissance Menagerie’. Sourcing pieces for inclusion – music about animals or with animals in them – I came across the Baiars song, words and music both likely to have been by Adam de la Halle. The programme already included glorious soaring pieces by late Renaissance composers, so for contrast I wanted something really early that might go well with Hildegard of Bingen’s Columba aspexit, which is bursting with animals. Or est Baiars was perfect – a lively boisterous song in itself, and a very interesting three-part rondeau illustrating the period in European musical history when plainsong was beginning to turn into polyphony, and when performers would undoubtedly have added a regular rhythmic pulse, even though harmonic conventions were still very unstable. At that stage, I had no idea that the shoeless horse had more than one foot in the great Charlemagne tradition, but am delighted to have found it is so.


To listen to Or est Baiars, visit our virtual exhibition page.


Bruce Saunders
Director of Nova Early Music