Bele Doette (‘Lovely Doette’) is based on an anonymous 12th century Chanson de Toile. The vocal line follows the original song-line closely for two of the eight stanzas and refrains.
Doette is at a window, reading, when she receives the news that her friend Doon has been killed in a jousting contest. The refrain reads “See now what grief I have”, and at the end she vows to become a nun in the church of St Paul. The original transcription of the song is published in the Anthology of Medieval Music, edited by Richard Hoppin (1978). Pitches are notated in the transcription but no rhythm. Therefore, rhythm is freely interpreted while the original melismas and word setting are maintained. The refrain is expanded beyond the original. The oboe has a dual role. First, it freely develops motifs based on the song-lines by a process using magic squares. These motifs are used in the introduction and interludes between stanzas and refrains. Second, the oboe has a dialogue with the soprano that involves imitation and decoration, particularly in the refrains.
Bele Doette was commissioned by Pepe Becker, and written for her and oboist, Robert Orr. It has been composed as part of Ritchie’s research at the University of Otago.