Christina Jarvis and her early-music ensemble, Musica Sonora, will present a concert on the life, writings and music of Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th-century nun canonized in May.


It took a thousand years before Hildegard von Bingen earned her sainthood from the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict XVI bestowed that honor in May, citing von Bingen's life of service to God that started when she was 8.

In many ways, von Bingen's destiny was foretold when she was just a toddler, suffering from what doctors today might describe as blinding migraines. The migraines led her to have visions, which were interpreted in her time - the early 12th century - to be divine.

"She started getting these really weird visions of light," said Christina Jarvis, whose Musica Sonora professional early music ensemble will perform a concert celebrating von Bingen.

Cloistered in a Benedictine monastery starting in the early 1100s, von Bingen received instruction from the priests, but no formal education. Yet she taught herself to compose, wrote poetry, penned thick volumes of theological writings and eventually went on to lead a convent that she bravely fought to separate from its monastery.

"She did all this stuff on her own," said Jarvis, who has studied von Bingen in preparation for Sunday's concert.

"St. Hildegard von Bingen: Reflections of the Living Light" opens Musica Sonora's 2012-13 season. Jarvis, a soprano and co-director of the ensemble with organist Jeffri Sanders, will join Musica Sonora soprano Mireille Hofmann Jacquod, and Phoenix Chorale members Cassandra Ewer and Karen Knudsen to perform excerpts from von Bingen's cycle of 70 liturgical songs.

The ensemble also will perform examples of von Bingen's chants and a truncated version of her musical drama "Ordo Virtutum," which tells the story of anima (Soul) being forced by the virtues to live in the world and struggling with the devil before she can return to God. Sanders will perform the speaking role of the devil.

Jarvis said there has been a resurgence of interest in von Bingen in the last 20 years, fueled in large part by the discovery of her "Ordo" by medieval Latin scholar Peter Dronke. Dronke was the first to bring the work to the attention of medievalists in 1970, unearthing what is largely regarded as the earliest morality play.

If you go

• What: "St. Hildegard von Bingen: Reflections of the Living Light."

• Who: Professional early music ensemble Musica Sonora.

• When: 4 p.m. Sunday.

• Where: Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 2331 E. Adams St.

• Cost: $15, $12 for groups of 10 or more. It's $5 for students.

• Details: or 628-8119.