Something about the symmetry and scent of the addictive little alpine flower – the Primula auricula – recalls memories of the past for many, and inspired us to investigate it’s history.
We discovered, and then re-imagined a fascinating historical folk tale of persecution, love and loss. Picture how the flower will have grown on mountainsides as Roman Legions crossed the continent, and how by the 16th century it was cultivated by Huguenot people in what is now France and Belgium. The Huguenots were crafts men and women. They were weavers, and horticulturists. They were the first people to be called ‘florists’. In the 16th century the Huguenot people suffered persecution in the wars of religion. They left their homeland as refugees and eventually made new lives in new countries, many settling here in England. Of course as well as a historical tale this is is a story of love, loss and a new beginning. We are delighted that the album can be now downloaded from all the major digital outlets eg Bandcamp iTunes Amazon Google Play Spotify
Our original idea was to bring it to life with a suite of early music inspired electronic/acoustic songs and spoken word poems set to music. Some of the early pieces are not recorded yet, but The Auricula Suite album features acoustic instruments, guitars, hammer dulcimer and hurdy gurdy. It opens with The Same Sky Overture, a lovely melancholy tune, followed by a set of songs:
Kings and Weavers ‘Kings and Weavers’ tells of that story and introduces the characters in our set of songs – Valentina and Raoul. I imagine they are similar to this couple here in Victorian artist, John Everett Millais painting of a Huguenot couple. The young woman is trying to make her lover wear the white scarf which would protect him from death, and he, despite his love for her refuses to renounce his faith. I named them Valentina and Raoul after German composer Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Huguenot couple in his 1837 opera – but they are different people, symbols of many people fleeing persecution and making a new life in a new and strange land, even here, today.
Into the Sun Next, ‘Into the Sun’ is Valentina’s tale. She escapes from the war and boards a boat for the East Coast of England, leaving her lover behind to an uncertain fate. The Huguenot people were skilled artisans and horticulturists and were well accepted in their new land. Although Valentina is missing her loved ones – she says she’ll never forget Raoul – she is excited about travelling over the sea and starting a new life.
Madness and the Wind Still at sea, and continuing with Valentina’s tale on board the ship…as is very often the case out at sea, Madness and the Wind prevail…
The Same Sky Following Valentina’s tale is Raoul’s story. He stands by his faith and stays behind. He’s feeling so sad now that his lover has gone, but looks up at the heavens and feels comfort in knowing that wherever she is, she’ll look up and see the same moon, the same stars…The Same Sky.
English Garden Valentina embraces life in England, symbolised in this song by the roses in her garden. John Everett Millais’ painting is full of coded messages – the Victorian concept of ‘the language of flowers’. Red roses symbolise passion – but in this picture the lovers are standing by the wall – Canterbury bells signify faith; and Nasturtiums, patriotism. Valentina settles here in England, she marries and has a family. But she never did forget Raoul.
In the Greenwood Valentina is in England. In folklore the full moons have evocative names which are connected to the season such as Wolf Moon & Sturgeon Moon. The spring moon, when the Auriculas are in bloom is known in as The Flower Moon, and sometimes the Full Corn Planting Moon. Moons come and go and Valentina finds solace in the nature and the English woodland; in the trees and animals in the wood. The seasons turn, the full flower moon comes around again, and the Greenwood is good.
My Ancestors were French Valentina and Raoul symbolise many people throughout history who have suffered for their faith. Today, the world does seem smaller in some respects and there are many options, many choices. Our next song brings us into the present day. This is the tale of a young woman living in northern England. Something about the scent of the Auricula took her back to childhood memories of grandparents’ greenhouses…and further back…
Dressed in Blue The closing song is a tribute to the beautiful little flower, it’s endurance throughout history, and the unusual but traditional way of displaying it, on a miniature stage, sometimes even decorated with curtains and candles – an Auricula Theatre. As is the way with flowers they don’t last long. But they come back again. We discover more beautiful varieties every year.
Songs, flowers and photographs by Lou & Rich, thanks to Corey Clough-Howard for sharing his music which became ‘My Ancestors were French’.
Rich & Lou Duffy-Howard May 2012