The Principal’s Music Series at St. Michael’s College
The Musicians In Ordinary
for the Lutes and Voices
Fr. Madden Auditorium, Carr Hall
St. Michael’s College
Oct. 30th, 2015
Lecture 7:30PM, Concert 8PM
Prophetiae Sibyllarum Orlando Lassus (1532-1594)
Ricercars for Lute Melchior Neusidler (1531-1590)
I. Sibylla Persica
II. Sibylla Libyca
Ricercar Terzo from Il secondo libro
III. Sibylla Delphica
IV. Sibylla Cimmeria
Ricercar Quarto Il primo libro
V. Sibylla Samia
VI. Sibylla Cumana
Ricercar Primo from Il secondo libro
VII. Sibylla Hellespontica
VIII. Sibylla Phrygia
Ricercar Secondo from Il secondo libro
IX. Sibylla Europaea
X. Sibylla Tyburtina
Ricercar Quarto from Il secondo libro
XI. Sibylla Erythreaea
XII. Sibylla Agrippa
The Musicians In Ordinary
Named after the singers and lutenists who performed in the most intimate quarters of the Stuart monarchs’ palace, The Musicians In Ordinary for the Lutes and Voices dedicate themselves to the performance of early solo song and vocal chamber music. Soprano Hallie Fishel and lutenist John Edwards have been described as ‘winning performers of winning music’. A fixture on the Toronto early music scene for over 10 years, in 2012 MIO became Ensemble in Residence at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. They have concertized across North America and lecture regularly at universities and museums. Institutions where MIO have performed range from the scholarly to those for a more general public and include the Shakespeare Society of America, the Renaissance Society of America, the Shakespeare Association of America, Grinnell College, the Universities of Alberta, Toronto and at California at San Diego, the Kingston Opera Guild, Syracuse, Trent and York Universities and the Bata Shoe Museum. They have been Ensemble in Residence at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.
Praised for her ‘mellifluous yet clear’ singing [James Young, Music in Victoria], mezzo-soprano Rebecca Claborn has performed with a wide array of ensembles and conductors throughout North America. A graduate of the University of New Hampshire and the University of Alberta, Rebecca also studied at the University of Toronto, the Victoria Conservatory of Music, the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, and the Franz Schubert Institut in Austria. She has been a featured soloist with Edmonton’s Richard Eaton Singers, the Alberta Baroque Ensemble, the Victoria Baroque Players, the Ottawa Bach Choir, the Victoria Choral Society, the University of New Hampshire Concert Choir, the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, and the Theatre of Early Music, appearing on their recent releases on the Analekta label: The Heart’s Refuge (2014) and The Vale of Tears (2015).
Ben Kim is a composer and tenor Toronto. Originally hailing from Geoje, South Korea, he grew up playing the piano. It wasn't until in he joined a choir at the age of 20 that he started singing in earnest. As a singer, he has performed with various amateur and professional groups from the US and Canada. Currently, he is a member of St. James Cathedral Choir. As a composer, his music has been appreciated and performed throughout the world by many musicians and ensembles. Notably, his choral arrangement of a Korean folk song called Hangangsu Taryeong -- a "dissonant tone painting," as one reviewer put it -- was performed in Disney Hall by LA Master Chorale. His music is often described as eclectic or prismatic. He is published by Renforth Music in Canada, and earthsongs in the US.
Sean Nix has over 13 years of experience as a professional chorister in Southern Ontario, the United States and the United Kingdom. He is an experienced section-lead and soloist with perfect pitch, low range (B two octaves below middle C), and boasts paramount sight-reading skills. He currently serves as Bass Section Lead at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church, and sings regularly at The Oratory of St. Philip Neri, with Holy Blossom Temple Choir and with Lachan Jewish Chamber Choir, all in Toronto. Aside from music, Sean is a full-time Professor and Program Coordinator in the Transportation Engineering at Mohawk College in Hamilton. He holds a Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning and Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering, both from Ryerson University. He is a Registered Professional Planner in Ontario.
Two times six ‘Modulating chromatic songs’ the introduction to Lassus’s music promises us.
At a first look at the original partbooks of this music, no doubt prepared as a very special presentation, ones breath is taken away by the sheer beauty of the decorative initial letters depicting the ancient Greek and Roman oracles and all that gold leaf. Once one has got over that a musician will notice that the music uses all seven of the clefs then in use. Modern singers read in two clefs, treble and bass, but different numbers in the ‘cantus’ part are notated in treble, soprano and alto clefs and the other parts are similarly various. Does this mean that Lassus wants different sybylls sung by different singers? Probably not. Notation conventions of the time mean that certain combinations of high clefs (treble for the top part, the now rare tenor or obsolete baritone clef for the bass) would transpose down a fourth. Less commonly used, and less clear about the distance to transpose, were combinations of low clefs which means to transpose up. By this means Lassus avoids using what then would have been extreme keys and accidental sharps and flats in his ‘chromatic songs’. A Renaissance singer’s skill set included transposing everything four notes down, but less so getting his head around accidental D flats.
Perhaps also Lassus is making a little puzzle for the recipient of the fancy manuscript to decipher from the introduction, pointing to the ‘secret music’ aspect of the work. Sometimes characterized as ‘motets’, that is to say, music most commonly used in church to replace bits of the Mass or Vespers liturgy, the texts, though in Latin, and style of the music wouldn’t seem to to fit into liturgical use. We therefore perform these pieces tonight with one singer on a part, rather than as choral music as it might more commonly be heard in our century. This heightens the ‘madrigalesque’ tricks Lassus employs with textures, text setting and word painting; ‘Solo’ sings the soprano alone, the other voices dropping out.
From the time that Dante was guided through Hell and Purgatory by the Roman poet Virgil, and as the Renaissance gathered steam, artists became desperate to claim all things Greek and Roman. Michelangelo popped a few of the Sibylls in among the Old Testament prophets on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The lyre was elided in the Renaissance with the lute and famous lutenists were given honor as ‘the new Orpheus’ in almost every commendatory verse at the time.
Melchior Neusidler worked for a short time at the Imperial court (He got fired for eating meat in Lent.) sent lute pieces to Lassus’s patron the Duke of Bavaria but was mostly patronized by the extremely rich and music mad Fugger family in Augsburg. (They had become rich by lending money to the Habsburgs to secure the title Holy Roman Emperor.) Neusidler has left more lute music than any other German of the Renaissance, though much of it is in the difficult to decipher German tablature. Perhaps to escape an outbreak of the plague he visited Venice, the capital of music publishing, and had some of his works printed in Italian tablature. The Ricercars you hear tonight also appear in a French (letters instead of numbers) tablature anthology of the 1570s, but the editor had copied all of the numerous errors from the Italian print and added some new ones.
Modulating songs which you hear with a chromatic tenor,
these are they in which our twice-six sibyls once
sang with fearless mouth the secrets of salvation.
The son of a virgin mother shall sit on a crook-backed ass,
the joyful prince, the only one who can rightly bring
salvation to the fallen; but it will happen in those days that
many shall tell many prophecies of great labor.
But it is enough for the oracles to bring forth with a single word:
That great God shall be born of a chaste virgin.
Behold the days will come, at which time the immortal prince,
sowing abundant crops, shall take away their crimes from men,
whose synagogue will shine with new light;
he alone shall open the soiled lips of the accused,
he shall be just to all; let the king, holy, living for all ages,
recline his limbs in the bosom of the queen of the world.
He shall not come slowly (but this work must be held with
quiet thought), he who will ever store this in a mindful heart,
why his prophets may announce great joys of this
exalted one, who shall come forth conceived from the
virginal womb without taint of man. This conquers all
the works of nature: yet he has done this who governs all things.
In her tender years, distinguished with beauty, in honor
the holy virgin will feed the king of the eternal host
with her milk; through whom all things will rejoice
with uplifted heart, and in the east will shine
a marvelous star: Magi bringing their gifts with praise
shall present to the child myrrh, gold, Sabaean frankincense.
Behold, the joyful day which shall lift the black darkness
will soon come and unravel the knotty writings of the prophets
of the Judean tribe, as the people's songs tell.
They shall be able to touch this glorious ruler of the living,
whom an unstained virgin will nurture at a human breast.
This the heavens promise, this the glowing stars show.
Now my most recent words shall remain certain and true,
because they were the last oracles of the king to come,
Who, coming for the whole world with peace, shall be pleased,
as he intended, to be clothed fitly in our flesh,
humble in all things. He shall choose a chaste maiden for his
mother; she shall exceed all others in beauty.
Once while I was reflecting, I saw him adorn a maiden
with great honor (because she kept herself chaste);
She seemed worthy through his gift and divine authority
to give birth to a glorious offspring with great splendor:
the beautiful and true child of the highest Thunderer,
who would rule the world with peaceful authority
I myself saw the high God wishing to punish
the stupid men of the earth and the blind heart of the rebel.
And because crimes shall thus fill our skin,
God himself wished to send from heaven into the body
of a virgin his son, which the angel shall announce to the fostering mother,
so that he may raise the wretches from the uncleanness they have contracted.
From the body of a virgin shall come forth the pure
word eternal, who shall cross valleys and high mountains.
He, willingly sent even from starry Olympus,
will be sent into the world a pauper, who shall rule all creation
with silent power. Thus I believe and shall acknowledge in my heart:
He is the child of both divine and human seed.
The truthful God himself gave me these gifts of prophecy,
that I might proclaim in song the holy virgin
who shall conceive in Nazareth's bounds
that God whom Bethlehem's lands shall see in the flesh.
O most happy mother, worthy of Heaven,
who shall nurse such a child from her holy breast.
I behold the son of God, who sent himself from on high,
when the joyful days shall bring the last times.
He whom the comely virgin shall bear from the Hebrew lineage,
he who shall suffer much on earth from his tender years on,
he shall nevertheless be here a great seer in godly prophecy,
the son of a virgin mother, truthful and of a wise heart.
The highest and dearest shall be born in the flesh the son
of the true virgin, and the holy word shall fill the womb
of the maiden through the pure intention of the nurturing spirit;
although contemptible to many, he, for love of our salvation,
will censure the sins committed by our guilt;