Playing cards with the devil?

IF YOU played a game of cards with the devil, who do you think would win? The devil no doubt, as he would have no compulsion about cheating and pulling devious strokes.

Seeing as card playing is often the subject of gambling, some people might feel cards and card games are the devils work. Perhaps this is why early music group Quadrivium are bringing show to Galway based on this idea.

Quadrivium’s The Devil Made The Game, a show about playing cards and music, will be performed in St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church on Friday May 28 at 8.30pm as part of next week’s Galway Early Music Festival.

Quadrivium - Ellen Delahanty (vocals ), Geert Van Gele (recorder ), Bill Taylor (harp ), and Willem Mook (lute ) - in their researches into Mediaeval and Renaissance music discovered two sets of 15th century playing cards that have pieces of Renaissance music printed on their backs.

This music became the basis for their programme for The Devil Made The Game. However, there is another card game involved. The third set of cards they came across were from a Japanese card game based on the nation’s ancient waka poems.

Each beautifully illustrated card shows one half of a poem out of a set of 100 and the players must try to be the first to put the two halves together. Five of these poems have been set to hauntingly beautiful music for Quadrivium by the Flemish composer, Janpieter Biesemans.

Quadrivium make a point of using replica instruments known with certainty to have been in use during the late Mediaeval period: small types of medieval recorders with cylindrical bores; small lutes played with plectrums or the fingers; gothic harps utilising the unconventional but well- documented bray pins which give a buzzing sound not unlike a sitar; organetto (small lap organ ), vielle and psalterium.

All the stringed instruments are fitted with gut strings, except for the psalterium which is brass-strung. The tuning used in the ensemble is a modified Pythagorean tuning, as described in multiple sources in the 15th century.

Tickets are €19/13 or €5 for children. For more information contact, festival programme, and ticket booking see


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