I’ve been an interim director this last semester for an early music choir here called Schola Cantorum Occidentalis (Singing School of the West . . . or SCO for short). The director is a chemistry professor at BYU and on sabbatical at John Hopkin University in Baltimore. It was great to work with such an outstanding ensemble focused on early music. I think we’re the only early music ensemble in the Utah Valley. We just had a concert last night celebrating a newly build sanctuary at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Orem. The acoustic was very reverberant, which is ideal for Renaissance music. It was an incredible experience.
We decided to tailor our program to this specific circumstance. We started looking for music celebrating St. Francis, the previous events of Holy Week and their rather large Hispanic community. We put together what we thought was a fitting and appropriate program:
Hosanna to the Son of David – Thomas Weelkes (1575-1623)
The Faith of St. Francis I
Sive vigilem – William Mundy (1528-1591)
Beatus et sanctus – William Mundy
The Columbus Connection
Pueri haebraeorum – Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)
Vere languores – Tomas Luis de Victoria
Credo quod Redemptor – Alonso Lobo (1555-1617)
Canite tuba – Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599)
The Faith of St. Francis II
Proles de caelo – Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474)
Illumina le tenebrae – Joan Szymko (b. 1957)
SCO sang so beautifully last night, I was so proud of all they’ve done. All this with only 2 hours a week, and this isn’t easy music! We were also very pleased with the turnout for the concert. I was seriously only expecting 30 people but instead we got about 300.
After the concert was over I had an experience I’ve never had before that’s still on my mind. As we finished our program, took our bows and walked back to our pews I went to shake the hand of the priest. As I thanked him for letting us perform in his church I couldn’t help but notice that his face was beaming and his eyes were dancing with light. I was really struck by it. But it didn’t stop there, because every person who came up afterwards was the exact same way. Friends I’ve known for a while, friends I’ve only made recently, and complete strangers all came up afterwards with their faces and eyes filled with light.
These people had drastically different backgrounds. Some people I knew had been exposed to Renaissance music before and loved it, but others I knew had no exposure or didn’t really care for it (bless them for coming). Young and old. They all shared the same glow. I’ve never really seen anything like this before. There’s something about this music when you hear it in person in a space like St. Francis. It reminds me of the time when I first heard The Sixteen in The Royal Navel College Chapel in Greenwich. There’s never a dull moment and you can’t help but be transported.
What a beautiful evening. A HUGE thank you to SCO, everyone at St. Francis (especially Dr. Boerio-Goates), and everyone who came.