At the Yale Schola Cantorum’s first concert of the season, audiences can expect an evening of otherworldly music.
Schola, which brings together an array of graduate and undergraduate students to perform sacred music, will perform a concert titled “Choral Evensong” this Saturday at 5 p.m. in New Haven’s Christ Church. Their repertoire for the evening includes pieces traditionally sung in cathedrals as well as Renaissance songs narrating psalms and prayers.
“The music is a cross-section from the enormous canon of sacred music over many centuries,” said David Hill, the choir’s principal conductor. “The service of choral Evensong is sung every week in Christ Church, and Schola Cantorum is privileged to sing this service on Saturday.”
One of the program’s highlights is late 19th, early 20th-century English composer Gustav Holst’s “Nunc Dimittis.” Noting the magical qualities of the piece, choir member Joel Thompson MUS ’20 said the composition involves a “hushed and plaintive beginning, but ends with one of the most brilliant chords of the entire concert.”
The program also includes a choral rendition of the story of St. Michael, “Factum et Silentium” by English Renaissance composer Richard Dering, Spanish Renaissance composer Sebastián de Vivanco’s “Magnificat,” as well as the anthemic “Faire is the Heaven” by William Harris. Thompson characterized “Magnificat” as a “vibrant and joyful setting of the Song of Mary from Renaissance Spain” while adding that the Harris song “seeks to create a sense of awe” and “conjure the images of angels — powerful, majestic, full of light.”
Additionally, one of the main anticipated parts of the concert is the premier of “Preces and Responses,” a series of sung prayers composed by Maggie Burk MUS ’19, another member of the group. In composing these pieces, which will be sung at various moments during the service, she aimed to evoke a sense of “light pouring through stained glass windows in a Gothic cathedral.”
This weekend’s venue, Christ Church on Broadway St., excellently complements the ethereal atmosphere created by the singers. Its neo-Gothic architecture, carvings and stained glass windows reflect the original performance venues of many pieces on Saturday’s program.
“There is something fitting about performing in a space that would have been spiritually and aesthetically familiar to the composers,” said Joy Wang GRD ’23.
From an audience member’s perspective, the location will make the experience of the music even more authentic, promises Burk.
“Everything from the smell of incense to the magnificent architecture serves a higher purpose: to draw one closer to the divine,” said Burk. “Singing in this space, with its rich acoustic, makes you think that this is how music should sound.”
Saturday’s performance will set the tone for the rest of Schola’s season. In just the first semester, the group will sing a diverse array of repertoire, including a baroque oratorio and a piece by contemporary Scottish composer Judith Weir, Thompson noted. The season will also include a new commission, “Ascensio Domini,” by Paweł Łukaszewski, he added.
After this concert, the choir will jump straight into rehearsals for a performance in two weeks, led by world-renowned early music conductor Masaaki Suzuki, Schola’s principal guest conductor.
The group also anticipates their annual choral tour, where they will share spiritual music with audiences across the globe. Having visited places such as England, India and Japan in the past, they will travel around Scandinavia this summer, where they will have the chance to perform a wide range of pieces.
The Yale Schola Cantorum was founded in 2003.
Iyala Alai | email@example.com