Food, Wine & Song

Music and Food in Medieval and Early Renaissance Europe

In the unending battle to please the senses it is hard to imagine a more irresistible combination than good food and good music. Throughout history the two have gone hand in hand and from the period explored in this programme by the Orlando Consort (c1250-1550), documents have survived testifying in detail to the most tremendous feasts and lavish entertainments.

The chefs and musicians of the day proved themselves true masters of their crafts. In music, composers intertwined beguiling melodies with sophisticated harmonies and rhythms, and matched vigorous popular tunes with stirring accompaniments. Cookery was conceived both as a precise science and a complex art, and chefs availed themselves of a full range of herbs and spices to create dishes worthy of any grand occasion. The dramatic combination of the two disciplines provides not only a fascinating picture of contemporary eating habits, but also a striking image of social life in general.

‘La Carte - La Musique’

France:Beginning with a delicate aperitif in honour of St. Francis and the vineyard; followed for main course by rumbustuous Parisian diners (c.1300), and for dessert the risqué songs of Adam de la Halle. 

England:The monks of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire serve up some of the most sumptuous religious music of the 14th century, together with prodigious quantities of strong, monastery-brewed ale! Plus 15th-century advice on etiquette and good table manners.

Italy:Follow the whole cooking process, from the trip to the market, to advice on how to produce cheese and how to eat artichokes: “Eating an artichoke without salt is like going to the carnival with your own husband!” But don’t be fooled. Even though the songs appear to be about food, in reality they are obsessed with sex!

Burgundy:Celebrate the lavish Feast of the Pheasant (1454) with the beautiful songs of Guillaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois. Relax to Compère’s beautiful motet in praise of Bacchus. And revel in the party thrown by the composers Robert Morton and Hayne van Ghizeghem - so loud, that it could be heard 40 miles away!

Spain and Portugal:Taste a selection of the finest Spanish wines as described by the none-too-sober composers of the Palace Songbook. Experience the sharp end of haggling for grain in the Portuguese market place. 

Germany: Learn of a hundred and one things to do with eggs and wash them down with the very finest German beer and wine. As the poet optimistically says: “Drink and sing, for the landlord will surely let us drink on credit until tomorrow!”

The music alone makes for a delectable evening. But why not consider offering Medieval-style refreshments for your audience as well?….a sumptuous banquet, light snacks, or a simple glass of heart-warming ‘hypocras’ before, after, or even during the concert! The Orlando Consort will provide recipes based on Medieval cookery collections, commissioned from some of Britain’s leading chefs, including Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jean-Christophe Novelli. And send your audience home with a selection of recipes so they can make their own feasts for years to come!

Music and Feasting in Renaissance Europe
Harmonia Mundi USA (HMU 907314)

• See the Early Music FAQ for additional information.

A grand celebration of medieval music and food, complete with authentic-style recipes — this disc features works by French, English, Spanish, Portugese and German composers.

"The Orlando Consort's gusto is irresistible."
—American Record Guide

"One to relish, for those who like wassailing and cooking, is the innovative early music singers' new CD, Food, Wine and Song on the Harmonia Mundi label. As well as a score of songs sacred and secular on the subject of eating and drinking, the beautifully produced (with the elder Breughel's Peasant Wedding on the cover) package incorporates a booklet of medieval recipes brought up to date by knowledgeable chefs and cookery writers including Jean Christophe Novelli (bread, almond and saffron pudding with a fig and raisin crust), Sara Paston-Williams (haddock in ale) and Clarissa Dickson-Wright (leeks and beetroot in raisin sauce). Jamie's slap, bang, wallop, and a guitar solo, it ain't. Food, Wine and Song is jolly and good..."
—The Independent Read David Vernier's review at in which he has given Food, Wine & Song the highest possible marks for both artistic and sound quality.

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What am I listening to?

You are listening to a commemorative motet, ‘Quis dabit capiti meo aquam’, by the composer, Heinrich Isaac (c1450-1517). Specifically, you will hear the last of the four sections of this beautiful piece, a lament on the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici in April 1492. It is one track from our latest disk, The Florentine Renaissance, produced by Hyperion records (DA68349), a rich and varied selection of secular and sacred music, an aural collage of the vibrant city of Florence in the early Renaissance.