From Courtesans to Cloistered Nuns: The Secret Music of the Celestial Sirens

During the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, the women musicians were either courtiers, courtesans, actresses or cloistered nuns. For 20 years, Deborah Roberts and Laurie Strass have been researching and interpreting the musical work done by these early modern women, through the project Musica Secreta (Secret Music). In 2002, they formed the  “Celestial Sirens”, an amateur and semi-professional women’s voice choir based in the South Coast of England. Their group range from 5 to 30 singers and they perform dressed as nuns, as a reference to the early modern women in Europe, who were placed in convents by their upper-middle class families, as a cheaper alternative to marriage. Such medieval nuns would perform behind screens, hidden from the public at the churches.

At the same time, there was a rise of female performers in court, including the famous concerto delle dame, which The Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso II, out of jealousy,  guarded  in secrecy, allowing only guests to hear to his private concerts. But despite his efforts, their fame spread throughout Europe and inspired a number of performers.

Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens Official Links

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