The featured work of this recording is the Easter drama of "The Three Marys" as it is transmitted in a manuscript from the Benedictine convent of Origny-Stainte-Benoîte in France. Liturgical dramas based on the Latin play “Visitatio Sepulchri” were popular in the Middle Ages. In its simplest form, this drama portrays the three Marys going to the tomb of Jesus early Easter morning to anoint the body of Jesus. They are met at the tomb by an angel declaring that Jesus is not there, but has risen from the dead. Then after Mary Magdalene encounters the risen Christ personally, the three Marys go the apostles to recount the joyful events. To this basic skeleton, many imaginative details are added in different versions of the play, such as the one presented in this recording, where the three Marys haggle with a merchant to buy the ungents before their journey to the tomb. This version is also notable in that some of the dialogues with the merchant and the angels are in the vernacular, so that the work shifts back and forth between Latin and medieval French. This simple drama is sung throughout in a musical style similar to Gregorian chant. Formally this work is skillfully unified by musical devices such as the refrains that conclude sections of text by the chorus of Marys. Such plays were performed in the context of liturgy, often at the conclusion of a celebration of the Divine Office and before Mass, using various areas and furnishings of the church as the setting. This recording takes this context in account by preceding the drama with a performance of the Exultet (the ancient chant associated with the lighting of the Easter Candle during the celebration of the Easter Vigil), and following it with sections of the Mass for Easter Day. The Easter chants in this recording feature elaborate tropes (additions of texts and melodies to the traditional chants) from manuscripts of Laon and Nivers. Taken as a whole, this creates some of the experience of a medieval Easter celebration, as it might have been performed by a community of women in medieval France.
Here's a clip of "Exultet: Les trois Maries." Listen to clips of all pieces on this CD.
Amazon.com also offers at least one recording of this piece, here, where you can listen to samples.