Earlier this year, Benjamin discovered an opportunity to partake in the Byrd Ensemble’s Italian Renaissance Course in Petritoli, Italy. The focus of this course was on the performance of music by composers who were a part of the Roman School. Benjamin auditioned and was accepted to be a singer in the course, and with the support of our Worship and Music Committee, attended the course in July.
Benjamin arrived at Palazzo Mannocchi in Petritoli, IT on Monday, July 18 to a group of singers from all around the world taking COVID tests to ensure that all of the singers could be healthy on their course. One of the coaches tested positive before journeying to Petritoli, so thankfully COVID did not spread to anyone on the program and all managed to stay healthy while on our trip.
The singers began the course by singing through “Missa Cantatibus,” which is a mass with music based on Palestrina’s “Cantatibus Organis” with contributions from many composers of the Roman School, including Palestrina, Annibale Stabile, Giovanni Andrea Dragoni, and Curzio Mancini.
The next several days included many hours of vigorous singing, a few workshops on the history of the composers and tuning voices, and many opportunities to connect with other singers, church musicians, and conductors. Benjamin learned quite a lot about the nuances of the vocal technique of renaissance music of the Church, as well as stylistic tendencies to make the performance more authentic.
The Italian Renaissance Course concluded with a concert in Rome at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The Basilica is one of the four papal basilicas in Rome, where Palestrina began his musical training and eventually took up a post. In 1537, he was he was one of the choirboys at the basilica and also studied music there between 1537 and 1539. By 1544, Palestrina was employed as an organist, music teacher, and signer at the cathedral.
Benjamin had a wonderful time learning about the music of this time period, and having the opportunity to learn about, see, and sing in a space where these composers first shared this music. You can listen to a performance of Palestrina’s “Cantatibus Organis,” the piece that the mass they performed is based on.