Cantus Merlini

A staged concert telling the story of the unknown sides of Merlin the magician. Based on the earliest writings in Welsh, French and Latin. Music inspired by the musical soundscapes of the 11th to 13th centuries.

For three musicians and narrator.

Merlin the magician is a well-known figure in Arthurian legends from the British Isles and continental Europe. Yet the earliest records tell a different story than that known from the works of the late medieval period and 19th century Romantic revival. The version of Merlin most known today was first written in the epics of Robert de Boron, Mallory and others–many centuries after the original events.

Merlin, first named Myrddin, appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 1130 Historia Regnum Brittaniae, Vitae Merlini, and Prophetiae Merlini, he is described as a king, a warrior, and a sage, participating in an even more direct way in the political context of his time. In these stories, he also had a sister, who was equally gifted with otherworldly powers.


As a figure straddling two worlds, from the tale of Merlin’s inception as a cambion (half-incubus/demon, half-human) to his place in the broader literary context, occupying space in both the pagan and post-Christian spiritual contexts of early medieval Wales, he also embodies the archetype of the wild man of the forest.

Our concert, based on the earliest sources in Latin, Welsh and langue d’oil (medieval French), tells the story of this more “human” and personal Merlin, as a figure representative of nature and court. With themes of ecological empathy, relationships to time, otherness, and mental health, we present Merlin not as a legendary wizard but as a person, whose story can inspire us to look within ourselves and acknowledge our deep connections to the earth and to our present, past and future selves.