I have been known to say that the most beautiful instrument in the world is a woman's voice. Combine the a capella voices of four women with the acoustics of a 1,000 year-old chapel tucked into a quiet corner of the Pyrenees and the result is magical.
The chapel is the Prieuré Santa Maria del Vilar, an 11th Century priory gone to complete ruin, photographed in 1913 and promptly forgotten again, only to be rediscovered in 1993 and lovingly restored with many original features remaining including the remnants of what must have been truly fantastical frescoes when original. The restorers, primarily an army of volunteers led by a committed local archaeologist, decided that the site was too sacred to turn over to the government. Today, monks of the Romanian Orthodox Church inhabit and care for the site.
The voices that we heard on a recent August evening belonged to Madamicella. Four Corsican women, each with strong voices, held a capacity audience of about 120 or so lucky listeners spellbound from their first notes. The concert, as advertised, combined the sacred with the profane - polyphonic music of the ancient church mixed with uptempo, sometimes playful Corsican melodies. The women clearly enjoyed the music and each other. And they were flat good. The audience demanded two encores.
Both the venue and the music defy simple description. The story of the Priory can be found HERE. Listen to the video above. If you have never been exposed to this kind of music before, give it a chance. For some, it will grab your heart instantly. For more about Madamicella, the best I can do is refer you to the site of the 12th Annual Festival of the Troubadours HERE. Hopefully, it will stay up for awhile. The festival continues through the end of September and is an annual event that gets into full swing every July. Check it out HERE.