Schola Antiqua of Chicago is a professional early music ensemble dedicated to the performance of repertory before the year 1600. An ensemble that executes pre-modern music with “sensitivity and style” (Early Music America), Schola Antiqua takes pride in providing the highest standards of performance, research, and education as it highlights underserved repertories from this period. Founded in 2000, the organization has received invitations to perform from museums, libraries, festivals, universities, and other institutions across the country. The ensemble is currently Artist-in-Residence at the Lumen Christi Institute and formerly a resident artist at the University of Chicago.
PROGRAM (subject to change)
Music in Secret
Michael Alan Anderson, Artistic Director
Naomi Gregory, Guest Director and Organist
Cora Swenson Lee, bass viol
Motet: “Ave sanctissimae Maria” Anonymous
from Musica quinque vocum motteta materna lingua vocata: Venice, 1543
Three Matins responsory plainchants for the feast of the Annunciation
From the late thirteenth-century antiphoner at the Art Institute of Chicago, Mrs. William E. Kelley Collection, MS 1911.142b
“Missus est Gabriel”
Motet: “Suscipe verbum, virgo Maria” from Musica quinque vocum Anonymous
Motet: “Sicut lilium inter spinas” from Musica quinque vocum Anonymous
Hymn: “Ave generosa” Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)
Motet: “Sancta et immaculata virginitas” Raffaella Aleotti (c.1570 – after 1646)
Organ solo: Toccata in F Ercole Pasquini (c.1560-1608/19)
Motet: “Ego flos campi” from Sacrae cantiones: Venice, 1593 Aleotti
Motet: “Duo seraphim” Caterina Assandra (c.1580-1620)
from Motetti à dua, & tre voci, op. 2: Milan, 1609
Solo motet: “Vulnerasti cor meum” (October 20) Alba Tressina (c.1590-after 1638)
from Sacri Fiori, libro quarto: Venice, 1622
Organ solo: Ego flos campi (October 21) Assandra
Motet: “Amo Christum” Lucrezia Vizzana (1590-1662)
from Componimenti Musicali: Venice, 1623
Organ solo: “La Organistina Bella in Echo” Adriano Banchieri (1568-1634)
from Canzoni alla francese, libro secondo: Venice, 1596
Motet for two voices: “O invicta Christina sancta” Vizzana
Plainchant Responsory: “Maria Magdalena et altera Maria”
from the Art Institute of Chicago, Mrs. William E. Kelley Collection, MS 1911.142b
Motet: “Maria Magdalena et altera Maria” Sulpitia Cesis (1577-after 1619)
Motet: “Stabat mater” Cesis
Motet: “Cantate domino canticum novum” Cesis
from Motetti spirituali: Modena, 1619
Notes on the Program
The sounds flowing from pre-modern convents constitute one of the better kept secrets of music history. Behind cloistered walls, nuns sang Gregorian chant and sacred choral music that their counterparts in monasteries would have performed, though in their own celestial vocal range and sometimes accompanied by instruments. Although many convents lacked the wealth and resources of local monasteries and cathedrals, monastic women still collected manuscripts of plainchant and sang the music of the Mass and the Divine Office. Their active participation in the liturgy is clear from surviving liturgical books. This program brings out vocal and instrumental music from medieval and early-modern convents that has scarcely received a modern hearing. In doing so, we hope to unveil a rich repertoire that has been neglected all too often.
Sonorous sixteenth-century convent polyphony and monophonic medieval chant interweave in the first part of this program. We will sing three five-voice motets from the first known collection of published convent polyphony—an anonymous set of partbooks, printed in Venice in 1543. All three motets have Marian texts; their liturgical use included the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and the Annunciation. These motets are complemented by three plainchants drawn from a thirteenth-century liturgical book currently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago in the Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor. This breathtaking source of music was compiled for an Italian convent and illuminated by artist Jacobus de Salerno. We will sing from images of this precious book tonight – three prescribed for the feast of the Annunciation. These beautiful melodies represent a small window into this rare convent manuscript of the late Middle Ages
It is impossible to talk about pre-modern music for the convent without mentioning the recently-canonized St. Hildegard of Bingen, the twelfth-century abbess from the Rhineland, who not only composed music but also authored treatises on natural science and medicine and was further known for her prophetic visions. Our program includes Hildegard’s Ave generosa, a hymn in praise of the Virgin Mary. The richness of Hildegard’s poetic expression is matched by the beauty of her musical setting. With its sweeping melodic gestures and wide range, the hymn is well suited for talented female voices.
The second half of tonight’s program explores northern Italian convent music of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. We begin with two works by Raffaella Aleotti, taken from a collection of motets for five to ten voices published in 1593. This source is remarkable as the first known publication of polyphony by an Italian nun.Aleotti was the music director at the convent San Vito in Ferrara, which maintained a high reputation for its musical performances. Included among the eighteen motets of Aleotti’s Sacrae Cantiones are two motets by her teacher, Ercole Pasquini. Pasquini was born in Ferrara, and later became organist of St. Peter’s in Rome. The Toccata in F exemplifies the kind of piece that Pasquini might have improvised during the liturgy: to introduce singing, accompany a liturgical procession, or to conclude the service.
Sacred music styles changed markedly in early seventeenth century Italy, with a turn towards a more intimate type of musical expression. Composers frequently used newly composed motet texts with a more personal, even sensual, devotional cast found in the biblical Song of Songs. The motets by Caterina Assandra, Alba Tressina, and Lucrezia Vizzana exemplify this new style. Alongside their careful text declamation, these works contain vivid examples of musical word-painting, surprising harmonic progressions, moments of striking vocal virtuosity, and an independent instrumental accompaniment. Assandra’s seraphim echo each other back and forth; Tressina’s setting captures the amorous intensity and languor of its Song of Songs text. Vizzana’s motets speak to her personal commitment to Christ and the church (Amo Christum) and to the patronal festival of her convent, San Cristina in Bologna (O invicta Christina sancta). Tonight’s program also includes an organ piece by Adriano Banchieri, one of the composers who published choral works dedicated to Vizzana’s convent.
The program closes with three motets by Sulpitia Cesis, a nun in the Augustinian convent of San Geminiano in Modena. These works are found in a collection of “spiritual motets” from 1619, which contained music for up to twelve parts. Maria Magdalena et altera Maria recounts a scene of the Resurrection, taken from Matthew 28:1, 6-7, while Stabat mater is a truncated version of a liturgical sequence for the Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross. Cantate Domino is a compilation of verses from psalms 95 and 99, highlighting the devotional act of praise through music. Its echoing double choirs create a musical space in which we can overhear the splendors of Italian convent polyphony and those talented musicians who created it.