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Article Title

In Memory of Audrey Ekdahl Davidson

Authors

David Bevington

Abstract

No more appropriate tribute to the memory of Audrey Ekdahl Davidson could be found than this special memorial issue of Comparative Drama. It all began at the Forty-first International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, on 6 May 2006, in a performance demonstration of the Cividale Planctus Mariae sponsored by Comparative Drama. Audrey Davidson transcribed and edited the Planctus Mariae, with an acknowledged debt to the late Fletcher Collins, Jr., for the loan of photographs of Cividale, Realo Museo Archeo-logico Nazionale, MS CI, fols. 74r–76v, originally from the collection of Karl Young. Audrey’s husband, Clifford Davidson, Professor Emeritus of English and Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, served as dramatic director for this demonstration performance in the Kanley Chapel on the Western Michigan University campus. Arrangements were capably handled by Eve Salisbury, the editor of Comparative Drama, with the assistance of her staff, along with the Reverend Bob Cochran and the Lutheran-Episcopal Ministry. St Luke’s Episcopal Church assisted Audrey and Bob with properties; St. Luke’s and the Cistercian Institute worked with the costumes. The scenic artist was Jon Reeves. Assisting with props and costumes were Eve Salisbury, Anthony Ellis, Cynthia Klekar, and Nick Gauthier. A translation of the Planctus Mariae was provided in the program, thanks to E. Rozanne Elder. The singers and instrumentalists were members of the Michigan Bach Collegium and the Western Michigan Collegium Musicum, with which Audrey, and sometimes the Society for Old Music, had collaborated in her final years of teaching. The Michigan Bach Collegium acknowledged a debt of gratitude for support from the Irving Gilmore Foundation and members of the community.

The staging was very simple and moving, with ecclesiastical costuming, processional movement, and a simple visual representation of the Cross. The Planctus Mariae, being fairly short, proved to be an apt choice for performance in the chapel, leading to a lively discussion afterward. The text is from a fourteenth-century processional originating in Cividale del Fruili, incorporated in the liturgy for Good Friday. Accordingly, this performance demonstration began with a singing of Psalm 21, “My God, my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me,” and moving on then to a singing of Ecce lignum Crucis (Behold the wood of the Cross). Next, the Lament of Mary and the Others on Good Friday dramatized the scene at the foot of the Cross following the death of Jesus. The text, though rather static, offered on this occasion the opportunity for eloquent gestures of grief by Jesus’ mother and the other Marys accompanying her. The Marys sang of their sorrow at the loss of their Master. The disciple John was there as well, to celebrate Jesus’ role as Heavenly King remitting others’ punishment for their wickedness while being himself the Lamb without blemish. John and Mary the Mother of God embraced each other as son and mother, forever dear to each other and to the memory of Christ. Mary arraigned those perfidious minds and deceitful witnesses who had forsaken and betrayed him. In a closing action, the choir sang the Crux fidelis (Faithful Cross), whereupon all those present in the chapel were invited to join in singing the Pange, lingua, or “Sing, my tongue,” in thankful praise of the Redeemer for having surrendered himself up to his Passion and thereby making of himself a sacrifice on the tree of the Cross.

The performance demonstration showed wonderfully the intent of the ceremony in erasing time, as in all liturgical practice, allowing the scene of the Crucifixion to assume its fullness of meaning in the lives of those hearing and taking part in the celebration. The gestures employed by the actors were especially effective in invoking an occasion of deep sorrow combined with thanksgiving for Christ’s great sacrifice. The music, ably edited by Audrey, showed itself to be accessible and movingly effective in its repetitions and in its rise and fall of powerful emotional responses.

Instruments were chosen sparely and simply, focusing on strings and drone: Elizabeth Marquart played the vielle, Rick Johnson the organistrum, and Mary Ross the marine trumpet.

The performance singers included the following: Amanda Quist as Mary Magdalen, Debra Netz as Mary Major, Dixie Edwards as angel with lance, Walter Ogston as crucifer, Katie Rohwer as Mary Jacobi, Chris Kohler as St. John, Robert Small as Thurifer, and Eric Strand as banner bearer. Eric Strand is the artistic director and conductor of the Michigan Bach Collegium as well as organist-choirmaster at St. Luke’s. Matthew Steel is Professor of Music at Western Michigan University, where he directs the Collegium Musicum; he was assisted in 2005–6 by Amanda Quist, who was the Audrey Ekdahl Davidson Scholar in Early Music.

This special memorial issue of Comparative Drama in honor of Audrey appropriately includes some contributors who were not part of the Planctus Mariae session, but I know that they will join us all in dedicating this publication to Audrey and to the performance demonstration that she and others made possible through their splendid contributions to music and drama at Western Michigan University.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.

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