Other Events

Cappella Pratensis
"Sounds of Salvation: Music for a 15th-Century Bruges Merchant"

The Williams College Department of Music presents Cappella Pratensis with Sounds of Salvation: Music for a 15th-Century Bruges Merchant on Saturday, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m. in Thompson Memorial Chapel. This free event is sponsored by the W. Ford Schumann ’50 Performing Arts Endowment and open to the public. Cappella Pratensis is a vocal ensemble from the Netherlands specializing in the polyphony of the 15th and 16th centuries.

“Capella Pratensis is a world-class vocal ensemble, and we’re excited to have them in Williamstown,” said Prof. Jennifer Bloxam of Williams College. “It will be terrific to hear great sacred music performed with such expertise in our magnificent Thompson Chapel.”

The concert has as its centerpiece an extraordinary Mass by the Flemish composer Jacob Obrecht, who worked in the city of Bruges. In the first part of the program, Prof. Bloxam, will tell the intriguing story behind the creation of Obrecht’s “Mass for St. Donatian” through pictures and musical demonstration. This will be followed by a full performance of the Mass in which the ritual context of Obrecht’s polyphony is evoked by the inclusion of plainchant and devotional images from Bruges.

“As a scholar, I try to understand this inspired sacred music in light of the faith and the society which formed it,” said Prof. Bloxam. “What’s unusual about the Saint Donatian Mass is how much we know about the story behind it: the man it commemorates, the woman who commissioned it, even the chapel where it was performed and the altarpiece decorating that sacred space. The Mass and its circumstances provide both a moving musical experience and a window into a past world.”

This program forms part of a larger project devoted to illuminating the beauties of this Mass in its historical context. In the Fall of 2008, Cappella Pratensis is launching a DVD that will feature a filmed reenactment of the Mass as it was first sung in October 1487, as well as commentary about the music and its context filmed on location in Bruges. A website created by Prof. Bloxam will compliment the DVD with additional commentary about the music, the people, and the time.

“Capella Pratensis is deeply commited to recreating the conditions of Renaissance musical performance,” said Prof. Bloxam. “The men perform grouped around a single music stand, singing from parts written in the original notation. They are devoted to this beautiful music, and inspired by the skill and dedication of the men who first performed it, five centuries ago.”

The ensemble, which is led by Stratton Bull, will also present a workshop for Williams students on Friday, Oct. 24, at 4:15 p.m. in Thompson Memorial Chapel. This event, in which the singers will discuss and demonstrate the challenge of singing from a single choirbook in original notation, is also open to the public without charge.

This concert is made possible by the W. Ford Schumann ’50 Performing Arts Endowment.