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  • Writer's pictureHolly Mead

Hildegard of Bingen

​O Ignee Spiritus (O Fiery Spirit)

In May of 2019, I gave a talk/performance at Pixar Animation Studios about nine extraordinary women composers and their music, and the first composer I introduced was Hildegard of Bingen. Here is a partial transcript of my presentation:

"Hildegard was born in Germany and was a nun, an abbess, and a polymath: doctor, philosopher, scientist, poet, and Christian mystic (she was famous for her visions!) - and she has one of the largest musical repertoires of ALL medieval composers, male or female!
As the 10th child of a noble family, Hildegard was given over to the church. During Hildegard’s time, nunnery’s were centers of intellectual learning run for and by nobility, so nuns (Hildegard especially!) had a huge amount of influence on politics and religion."

I went on to talk about Hildegard's rockstar-ness: politically and otherwise. For example - she would allow her nuns to perform her music while wearing glorious white shimmering garments and crowns!

One of the pieces I played was an abridged piano adaptation of Hildegard's “O Ignee Spiritus.” I thought it would be fun to sing this song in its entirety. The English translation is enough to make me weak in the knees! Here is one of my favorite lines:

Yet in your hand you always hold the sword

to cut away

the deadly apple offering

its blackened heart

You can visit the Hildegard Society's website if you would like (you will like!) to read the entire English translation and/or check out the full sheet music. A big thank you to Kathleen Mead for her assistance with the Latin pronunciation. If there are errors, they are mine - not hers!

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