Having just spent the past year celebrating our namesake in our ‘Bach’s World’ season, we now turn to a very different theme. I’ve long been interested in the relationship between music and the other arts. To some extent, this comes with the turf of being a choral conductor, for our music contains and is based in part upon literature, either preëxisting or newly made. But beyond this fundamental connection, there are many possible touchpoints between the arts. Think of dance or of music theater. Of Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, of Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral Symphony’, or of an illuminated manuscript which preserves ancient music riddled with historiated initials and drolleries.
And then there is ekphrasis, the attempt to convey the gist, even the deep meaning, of a work of music in words. Sometimes this has been called wryly ‘dancing about architecture’, an impossible task on the face of it, perhaps even a fool’s errand. And yet a good writer or speaker who is highly attuned to music can sometimes lead us (as though by the hand) deep into a musical work.
In each of our concert sets this season, we will of course perform wonderful early music from different areas of the repertoire, as we are wont to do. But we’ll also tug at the connections between music and text; we’ll share works of visual art which bring to life scenes and stories from our music; and we’ll work to bind eye and ear, mind and heart together into an integrated experience which may transcend any one of the arts alone.
We begin with a close look at one of the most beloved motets of all time: The ‘Ave Maria’ of Josquin Deprez. In our Opening Recital, we’ll perform this great work, precursors to it, and later pieces which expand upon Josquin’s immortal music. In November, we’ll turn to the wealth of music manuscripts produced by the workshop of Petrus Alamire. Circa 1600 will present an a cappella concert featuring many of the motets, masses and Magnificat settings included in Alamire’s publications, matching the music with images from the manuscripts. And then we’ll close out 2023 with Heinrich Schütz’s oratorio setting of the Christmas Story, each phase of the tale illustrated by remarkable works of art from Schütz’s epoch. In the new year, our Organ Recital, featuring once again the illustrious Anne Laver, will focus upon Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Our Sacred Realms set will feature a variety of Renaissance works depicting scenes found on the very walls of the Church of St. Seraphim. In April, Circa 1600 will join with multi-instrumentalist Shira Kammen, lutenist Kevin Cooper, artist Julia Loopstra, and the Barefoot Consort of Viols to tell ‘Two Tall Tales’; and we’ll close in early June with a choral-orchestral set marking the 300th anniversary of J.S. Bach’s great second cycle of Leipzig cantatas, featuring our own Live Oak Baroque Orchestra and the Sonoma Bach Choir.
Wrapped in among our seven concert sets, we’ll fill in the picture with a series of illuminating Bach Talks. We’ll dive into diverse aspects of the music we’re performing; we’ll learn about our composers, about their lives and milieus; and we’ll explore how art in different media can connect with and complement our music.
Come join us the season as we explore the world of art through the lens of music!