“Incipit de Lamentatio Jeremia … ” These words begin one of the most moving meditations on the despair that follows in the wake of war ever penned. According to tradition, after the destruction of Jerusalem and the capture of the Jewish king by Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century BC, Jeremiah retired to a cave outside the city, where he mourned the fall of his people and wrote his book. The Lamentations resonated especially deeply with Renaissance composers, who wedded the text to some of their most inspired music. Vox Resonat performs exquisite settings by Orlando de Lasso, Antoine Brumel, Alfonso Ferrabosco, Orazio Vecchi, and João Lourenco Rebelo. This program was first performed under the auspices of the Eugene Symphony Festival, Counterpoint: War and Peace.
The path from this life to the next has inspired composers from the middle ages to the present day to create some of their most profound works. This program weds the Musikalsiche Exequien (Musical Obsequies) by the Baroque master, Heinrich Schütz, to the 6-part Requiem by the Belgian composer, Willem Ceullers. Ceullers, a singer and organist who has spent his career immersed in medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music, takes the great requiem masses of the 16th century as his inspiration and starting point. His music is striking for it’s expressive power, his mastery of counterpoint, and his ability to adapt this musical vocabulary to his own voice. Ceullers’ Requiem was commisioned by the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, and Obsequies was first performed in 2012 as a memorial for Prof. Steve Larson, a beloved friend, teacher and colleague.
Veneration of the Virgin Mary reached a fever pitch in the middle ages, and this is reflected in the vast quantity of top-notch music written for her. Poets could not think of enough metaphors for her purity, humility, power and perfection, referring to her as royal virgin, mother of mercy, queen of glory, fortress of modesty, morning star, perfect flower and white lilly (candens lilium) among many others. Vox Resonat reaches back to some of the earliest music still in existence to sing music composed for the Virgin Mary between about 1150 and 1450 from Notre Dame de Paris, medieval Aquitaine, England’s Old Hall Manuscript and the Spanish convent of Las Huelgas, as well as Italian laude, English carols, and 14th-century France.
Lost Saints of Winter
In America today, there is one mega-holiday that dominates the coldest months: Christmas. But the Europe of ages past was awash in winter holidays, some of which are still celebrated in grand style to this day. In a time and place where separation of church and state were unthinkable, all holidays were religious, and composers wrote opulent music to accompany the festivities for St. Nicholas, St. James, St. Thomas of Canterbury, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and most important of all, the feast of the Three Kings—also known as the twelfth day of Christmas. In this concert, Vox Resonat explores some of the music written for these lost saints of winter.
The dark days of Lent, the penitential season, provide a perfect opportunity to turn inward and meditate on the life of the spirit. It culminates in Holy Week, which celebrates the central events and mysteries of the Christian faith. Composers of the Renaissance created some of their most profound and haunting music for this critical part of the church year. Vox Resonat presents Penitential Psalms, Lamentations and Lenten texts set by Lassus, Byrd, Tallis, Josquin, and others. This celebration of the Lenten season was presented at the Mount Angel Abbey by special arrangement of the Monks of Saint Benedict.
O, Fortuna! Music of Love and Fate
For centuries, man has been both appalled and fascinated by the power and unpredictability of fate. The vagaries of fortune has been a frequent trope for writers, philosophers and homilists since antiquity. The human condition was often illustrated by the Rota Fortunae, a device belonging to the goddess Fortuna who, with a spin of the wheel, can change the position of everyone on it, bringing down the exalted and raising up the downtrodden. And of course, one of the places in which the wheel turns most precipitously is in the realm of love. Perhaps no story illustrates the way mankind is buffeted by the forces of love and fate more than that of Dido and Aeneas from Virgil’s Aeneid. Musical settings of scenes from this ill-fated love affair, as well as other musical meditations on love, fate, and fortune form the centerpiece of this concert of vocal music from the 15th and 16th centuries. Featured composers include Josquin des Prez, Cipriano de Rore, Alexander Agricola, Robert Morton, and Nicholas Gombert. This program was presented as part of the Eugene Symphony Counterpoint Festival: Love+Fate.
VESPERAE: Timeless Masterworks in Liturgy
The Penitential season of Lent has inspired composers to create some of their most mystical and profound music. Vox Resonat marks the first Sunday of Lent by providing Renaissance and medieval vocal music for a Lenten Evensong service followed by a short concert of repentant a cappella works: service music by Binchois and Byrd, psalms by Josquin and Jacquet, motets by Brumel, Lassus, Mouton, Utendal, Victoria, and Anonymous.
Springtime in Paris
Tennyson wrote: “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” At no time or place has this been truer than in medieval Paris, a cosmopolitan city filled with young students and carefree clerics who often put their considerable talents for poetry and music to work in the service of love. Prominent among them was a budding class of professional musicians who, after fulfilling their obligations as singers at Notre Dame Cathedral, gathered in the pubs, the streets and the meadows to sing, dance and celebrate the new season with lighthearted poems and songs. But the pains of love expressed in the poetry of courtly love were never far away. France’s most famous poet, Guillaume de Machaut, was also her most famous composer, and he left behind Europe’s largest body of 14th century lyric poetry set to music. Younger composers as far away as Avignon and Milan expanded on his innovations, developing a learned ars subtilior style loaded with rhythmic complexities not heard again until the 20th century. In this concert, Vox Resonat presents amusing motets that straddle the cultures of cloister and tavern; lively dance songs that imitate the calls of the cuckoo and nightingale; and sophisticated love songs for the most discerning courtly audience. The singers of Vox Resonat are joined by Laura Zaerr, harp; David Rogers, lute; and Aage Nielsen, douçaine.