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The Legend of Tristan & Iseult
Patrick Ball and The Medieval Beasts

love, passion, magic and death ...
the story that enchanted an Age

The long, dark nights of Medieval Europe were rich with stories. But one legend was told and beloved beyond all others, The Romance of Tristan and Iseult. Filled with love, passion, magic, and death, it captivated the listeners because it was the very mirror of their own hearts, minds and souls. And to raise the telling beyond the power of words there was music: the vielle, the harp, the drum, the psaltery, and the singing voice. All this made for evenings of brilliance and enchantment throughout the Middle Ages. In “The Legend of Tristan and Iseult” Patrick Ball and The Medieval Beasts bring this same enchantment into our own time and place.

In the Beginning...

Twenty years ago I discovered a small, beautifully bound volume of The Romance of Tristan and Iseult. Ever since, I have wanted to tell this marvelous medieval story in performance. Its great themes of love, passion, magic, honor and death captivated me, just as they captivated the troubadours and minstrels of the Middle Ages. But, it's a deep, daunting tale, one which demanded more time and dedication than I was prepared to give. So, the years went by and I tended to other stories, other projects. Occasionally, though, I would take down the book and work on an adaptation that would fit this long tale into one night's telling. Finally, early last year, I found myself taking a deep breath and began to prepare the story for the stage.

The one element of the performance I was determined to have was layers of music underscoring the story and standing on its own in the natural pauses in the narration. I had little background in Early Music. But, whenever I listened to it, I found it every bit as bewitching as the story of Tristan and Iseult itself and the perfect atmosphere in which to tell this medieval tale. So, I proposed a collaboration with these three wonderful musicians whose work I have admired for a long time, hoping that they might be as drawn to the story as I. As it turned out, they all loved the idea and we set out on this adventure together.


The Cast

The Medieval Beasts

Patrick Ball: celtic harp, spoken word
Shira Kammen: vielle, medieval harp, voice
Tim Rayborn: lute, psaltery, medieval harp, voice

“Highly recommended! As an ethnomusicologist, musicologist and early music performer myself, I took great pleasure in hosting this performance of Tristan and Iseult. The seamless flows and interactions of literary, musical and folkloric materials were all presented as consummately effective theater with music, and the evening drew rave reviews from our audience.”
Linda Burman-Hall, Artistic Director, Santa Cruz Baroque Festival, University of California - Santa Cruz

“This performance is so valuable to the high school students! The curriculum in high school literature courses includes epic poetry as well as stories that were originally performed in the oral tradition. Modern students simply cannot visualize this type of performance no matter how diligently English teachers try to re-create the experience in their classrooms. Your performance of Tristan and Iseult enabled students to understand the power and drama of the oral performance. They understood the importance of vocal inflection to enhance the sounds of the words and the power of music to underscore the rhythm of the words. Thanks for changing people's at Montgomery High.”
Ann Butler, English Literature, Montgomery High School, Santa Rosa, CA

“Patrick Ball and The Medieval Beasts performed beautifully. The whole production of “The Legend of Tristan & Iseult” was brilliant and performed gorgeously. Patrick is a terrific story-teller and his blending of the medieval instruments and voices led to a refreshing and intriguing evening.”
Richard Miller, Los Banos Arts Council, Los Banos, CA

A Note on the Performance...

In Medieval times a storyteller looked into the eyes of his audience and told a tale. He used no props or scenery. He used only words and music and the limitless imagination of his listeners to create a world of love, passion, magic and death, the world of Tristan and Iseult.

In The Legend of Tristan and Iseult we tell this magnificent story much as a medieval storyteller would have done. The words are similar; the musical pieces were known and loved in the Middle Ages; the instruments - the harp, the vielle, the lute, the psaltery, and percussion - were all carried and played by this storyteller and those who accompanied him. And the imagination of the audience is called upon to play its part, just as it was all those centuries ago.

In our modern world we have an endless array of technologies that would have allowed us to present such a tale in a more modern way, perhaps on a television screen or the monitor of a computer. In fact, we do have the occasional microphone in this show and we wear modern dress. But, we tell this story in the old way. And we will be looking into your eyes while we do.

— Patrick Ball

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