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Schola Musicorum to present biannual concert

Marty Schroeder | Monday, March 5, 2007

On Wednesday, the Schola Musicorum will present its biannual “Abend-Musique,” a concert of Gregorian chant – which derives its name from Pope Gregory the Great – from the Middle Ages. The performance will take place in the Reyes Organ Hall of the DeBartolo Center of the Performing Arts. The singers are expected to give a fine performance, especially if students accompany the faculty performers – something that happened last year and greatly enriched the music.

The music department faculty founded the Schola Musicorum in 1993 for the purpose of Gregorian chant study and performance directly from manuscripts dating from the Medieval period. The directors of the program are professor Alexander Blachly, professor Calvin M. Bower and professor Daniel Stowe. The name of the concert, “Abend-Musique,” is a combination of the German word for evening and the French word for music. It comes from the name 17th century composer Dieterich Buxtehude used for his afternoon recitals in the Marienkirche in Lübeck.

Last spring, the Gregorian chant performed hailed from England and was the music used on the first Sunday of Lent. It was written in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The music performed is interesting 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 words sung. All the pieces featured by the Schola Musicorum were in Latin, which is true for the vast majority of Gregorian chants, although a small portion of the chant corpus was written in Greek. Also, no instruments were used in last spring’s performance and likely none will used in the upcoming performance.

If the singers are up to last spring’s standard, the show will be equally impressive. Since this type of music is no longer used in liturgy and differs rhythmically from music made today, one of the joys of this performance is hearing unique music. The talent of the performers is unquestioned.

The style of the “Abend-Musique” ensemble is to have one individual sing, bring in another and then add the rest if present. The bringing of voices in and out of the performance adds a complexity that would not be present otherwise. Student participation this year would add another level of complexity. If female students sing, this will add even greater depth to the male voices heard throughout most of the show.

The Reyes Organ Hall provides the perfect space for this type of performance. The wooden crossbeams of the ceiling and massive organ with its beautiful woodwork transports the audience to a Medieval church. The small size of the space also provides an intimacy that would not be present elsewhere. The acoustics are fantastic and allow the music to flow into the audience, at times exhibiting its power and at others its delicate beauty.

If one would like to witness an excellent performance of Medieval chant in a wonderful space provided on campus, then this is the perfect performance to attend. The Schola Musicorum performs “Abend-Musique” every fall and spring, and its spring performance is this Wednesday at 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $3 for all.