Visiting Artists

Visiting Artist Series
Cappella Pratensis


The Williams College Department of Music presents the Cappella Pratensis on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. in Thompson Memorial Chapel on the Williams College campus. There are also two associated events. Professor Jennifer Bloxam presents a faculty talk: The “Josquin in Rome” Project: Reflections on the Pleasures and Problems of Ritual Reconstruction on Friday, Nov. 6 at 4:15 p.m. in the Bernhard Music Center, room 30. Capella Pratensis joins with talented Williams student singers for a master class on Saturday, Nov. 7 at 4 p.m. in Thompson Memorial Chapel. These free events are open to the public.

About Cappella Pratensis

The Dutch-based vocal ensemble Cappella Pratensis – literally ‘Cappella des prés’ – champions the music of Josquin Desprez and the polyphonists of the 15th and 16th centuries. The group combines historically informed performance practice with inventive programs and original interpretations based on scholarly research and artistic insight. As in Josquin’s time, the members of Cappella Pratensis perform from a central music stand, singing from the original mensural notation scored in a large choirbook. This approach, together with attention to the linguistic origin of the compositions and the modal system on which it is based, offers a unique perspective on the repertoire.

About the Program

The music of Josquin Desprez is performed, recorded, and studied more than that of any other composer of the period. Although his numerous Masses and motets are now more than 500 years old, they have entered our modern musical museum of masterpieces, heard in concerts and on recordings as independent works of art. Through superlative craft and sublime beauty, this music transcends its time and place, and its original function as sacred music.

But just as a stunning Renaissance altarpiece becomes even more impressive and meaningful when restored to its original place in the sacred space it was made to adorn, so the sacred polyphony of the period gains in beauty and meaning when heard within the ritual framework it once enhanced. That ritual framework told sacred stories – of Christ, his mother, and the saints – primarily through plainsong and recitation. For special occasions, in institutions able to support highly trained singers, sacred polyphony added special lustre.

This concert aims to recapture a sense of the ceremonial context that would have surrounded Josquin’s sacred polyphony in a place where he sang and composed and where his music continued in use long after he left.  That ritual context is the Saturday Mass for the Blessed Virgin during Advent, a liturgy focused on the Annunciation story; that place is the Sistine Chapel in Rome.