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Schola Musicorum presents Gregorian chant

Marty Schroeder | Friday, March 10, 2006

On Wednesday the Schola Musicorum presented “Abend-Musique,” a concert of Gregorian chant – named after Pope Gregory the Great – from the Middle Ages. The performance was held in the Reyes Organ Hall of the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts (DPAC).

Music professor Alexander Blachly, Paul Appleby, a production assistant at the DPAC, Daniel Stowe, music department professional specialist and theology professor Michael Driscoll were the featured performers. They were also accompanied by a group of students for one of the pieces.

The Schola Musicorum was founded in 1993 by music department faculty for the purpose of studying and performing Gregorian chant directly from manuscripts dating from the Medieval period. The directors of the program are professor Calvin M. Bower and Blachly, who also performed at the event.

The Gregorian chant featured in the performance originates in England and was written in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was also the music used on the first Sunday of Lent. This type of music is of note because it predates the use of the modern harmonic system. As a result, it does not follow a metrical rhythm but instead relies on the rhythm of the chanted words.

All the pieces featured by the Schola Musicorum were in Latin – as is the case with the vast majority of Gregorian chant – although a small portion of the chant corpus was written in Greek. This style of chant is also sung in unison with no instrumental accompaniment.

The four featured singers gave incredible performances that moved the audience. With a style and rhythm that is no longer used in contemporary liturgy, the show offered a truly unique experience. The talent of these men is unquestionable and showed as they adeptly moved through the pieces.

At times, an individual would sing, at other intervals two and at other points, all four. The movement of voices in and out of the performance added a complexity that would not have been present otherwise.

The section of the performance featuring the students was also notable. Most of the students that performed were female, which added even greater depth to the four male voices that were heard throughout most of the show. The layering of the different ranges was also skillfully performed.

The Reyes Organ Hall provided the perfect space for this type of performance. The crossbeams of the ceiling and the massive organ with its beautiful woodwork made the audience members feel almost as if they were in a medieval church themselves. The smaller size of the venue also provided an intimacy that would not have been present had the performance taken place elsewhere. The acoustics in the Organ Hall were fantastic and allowed the music to flow with a balance of power and delicate beauty.

Medieval chant isn’t your typical DPAC fare, but it was on exceptional display Wednesday and captivated the audience throughout the performance. The Schola Musicorum performs every fall and spring, so the next chance to catch the show will be in the fall. It is definitely not a performance to be missed.