Pilgrimage Song:
Bertrandon de la Broquiere


  • Tenor, Flute, Oboe or Soprano Saxophone, Clarinet, Violin, 'Cello, Trombone
  • Duration: 9 min.



Mosque, Aleppo, Syria

In 1996, I walked the pilgrimage to Compostela across France and Spain. During these months, I conceived of a series of works that could musically enact the slow transformations of the individual that experience creates.

Bertrandon de la Broquirere was a minor noble from Southern France. Little is known of his life, though from his narrative we learn that he held the minor post of "first carving squire" at the Burgundian court of Philip the Good. In February of 1432, Bertrandon left Ghent for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, returning in mid-1433. Like many others, before and since, Bertrandon was not traveling solely for devotion; he was also clandestinely assessing the possibility of Philip's launching a new crusade.

Bertrandon's sea journey to Jaffa was relatively uneventful. On his return journey overland through modern-day Syria and Turkey, Bertrandron was confronted with many troubles: at the gates of Damascus he was pulled from a fight over his felt hat ("not the usual costume in those parts"); in Homs, another group threatened to kill him; in the mountains near Tarsus he took ill. In all of these instances, a Mameluke sultan named Mahomet, who seeing that Bertrandon was alone and could not speak the language, accompanied and cared for him. During their time together, Bertrandon learned the ways of his guide: he sat cross-legged, slept on the ground, drank water without wine, and rode his horse without stirrups. At their parting he was moved, and wrote:

"I am writing this so that people will remember that a man not of our faith did many good things for meÉ and he bade me to be very careful, from now on, of the Saracens whose company I kept, warning me that they can be as bad as the Europeans."

Among writers of the time, Bertrandon's kind portrayal was anomalous.

This work is dedicated to the memory of Jonathan Kramer.

The Valley around Palmyra, Syria


Based on memory and rough . . . notes, I have written this account...

(Beards... Horse... memory ... felt hat... memory...)
I was wearing a wide felt hat...
Four days...
One of them hit it and knocked it off my head. I raised my fist
          to hit the man.
They seem to be mean people...
They dry themselves and comb their beards.
I was cold that night and caught some indecent disease.
We rode through the mountains for four days without seeing
          any human habitation.
I was in great danger.
I will continue trying...
A poor man passed by.
Call the man over...
Eat with us...

If it is not as well said as others might have, I beg pardon.

from Galen R. Kline, The Voyage d'Outremer by Bertrandon de la BroquiŽre Translated, Edited, and Annotated with an Introduction and Maps (New York / Darmstadt 1988) 1, 20, 58, 63, 66, 170.


Merkin Concert Hall, New York March 30, 2005
CC Ensemble
Alex Richardson, tenor
Ulla Suokko, flute
Eliot Gattegno, soprano saxophone
Carol McGonnell, clarinet
David Fulmer, violin
Joanne Lin, cello
Mike Boschen, trombone

Matthew Cody, conductor

Miller Theater, New York December 7, 2005
CC Ensemble
Alex Richardson, tenor
Ulla Suokko, flute
Jacqueline Lecalir, oboe
Carol McGonnell
Miranda Cuckson, violin
Joanne Lin, cello
Mike Boschen, trombone

Todd Tarantino, conductor

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