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Cappella Pratensis - Visiting Artist Series

Sat, April 15th, 2023
7:30 pm

The Williams College Department of Music presents Cappella Pratensis. in a program titled Mary Magdalene: a spiritual journey. There is an illustrated introduction to the program by M. Jennifer Bloxam, Herbert H Lehman Professor of Music. This event is free and open to the public.

In this program we follow the spiritual journey of Mary Magdalene from sinner to saint, drawing on the rich treasure of music from the Bossche Choirbooks. Her feast day, July 22, was one of the most important moments of the year at the Brotherhood of Our Illustrious Lady. It is therefore no wonder that the brothers asked the world-renowned music scribe Petrus Alamire to include the very special Missa supra Maria Magdalena by top composer Nicolas Champion in one of the choirbooks. This rich five-part mass interweaves seven antiphons from the office of Mary Magdalene, telling the story of her washing the feet of Jesus as a submissive maidservant, to her key role as witness to his resurrection. This program has been released as the third CD in the five-part series The Den Bosch Choirbooks under the title Apostola apostolorum.

Nicolas Champion | Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena
Anonymous | Magnificat (Tone 1)
Anonymos | Vesper antiphon Quando Martha
Gregorian chant | Introitus Gaudeamus omnes (with improvisation)

Cappella Pratensis specializes in the music of Josquin Desprez (= Josqinus Pratensis) and other polyphonic composers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The ensemble performs its own programs and original interpretations, which are based on academic research. As was customary in the renaissance, the singers of Cappella Pratensis usually stand around a central music stand, singing from facsimiles of original choirbooks. This creates a unique perspective on the repertoire. The ensemble, founded in 1987, is now under the artistic direction of singer and conductor Stratton Bull.

In addition to regular concerts in the Netherlands and Belgium, Cappella Pratensis performs in leading international festivals and venues in France, Portugal, Germany and the United States. The ensemble also has also released several CD recordings which have been greeted with rave press reviews and awards, including the Diapason d’Or and the Prix Choc. From 2005 to 2007, Cappella Pratensis was ensemble-in-residence at the Fondation Royaumont (France), where it gave courses and concerts, and worked with several prominent musicians. In 2009, it released a DVD/CD production of the Missa de Sancto Donatiano by Jacob Obrecht, which contained a reconstruction of the first performance of this mass, filmed on location in Bruges, supplemented with extensive documentation. This production was awarded with a Diapason découverte and the highest rating in the professional magazine Classica.

The CD Vivat Leo! Music for a Medici Pope (2010), directed by guest conductor Joshua Rifkin, was awarded a Diapason d’Or. A successful series of concerts of the Requiem of Pierre de la Rue was led by guest conductor Bo Holten. A DVD of one of these concerts, performed as part of the event Jheronimus Bosch 500, was released in 2010 under the title Bosch Requiem.

In January 2012 a new CD, containing the earliest surviving polyphonic requiem masses in music history, those by Johannes Ockeghem and Pierre de la Rue. In February 2014 the ensemble released a CD containing music written for the feast of the Assumption and transmitted in choirbooks from the Vatican, including Josquin Desprez’s masterpiece Missa Ave maris stella. In late 2015, the ensemble recorded the Missa Cum Jocunditate by Pierre de la Rue.

In 2016, Cappella and the Nederlands Kamerkoor performed eight concerts of the world premiere of the Missa Unitatis, composed in 2008 by Anthony Pitts (* 1969) in a unique partnership with choirs in Antwerp, Breda, ’s-Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, Tilburg and Helmond. It has also performed during the Early Music Festival in Utrecht, and presented five performances of the program Christmas with Josquin in the Season of Early Music.

Cappella Pratensis shares its vision and approach to vocal polyphony with professionals and amateurs in masterclasses, with multimedia presentations, and also in a week-long summer school that takes place annually during the festival Laus Polyphoniae in Antwerp. In a structural collaboration with the universities of Leuven and Oxford, the musical manuscripts of the workshop of Petrus Alamire are explored by musicologists and adapted for use by other musicians.

Cappella Pratensis is presented by the Williams College Department of Music with the generous support of the W. Ford Schumann ’50 Performing Arts Endowment.

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