Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Philharmonia Orchestra come to Torquay "iOrchestra RE-RITE" visits Torre Abbey Meadow Noon-8pm Monday 26 May - Saturday 7 June 2014 (Plus a live performance on Sunday 8 June)

Friends get together with instruments
and play along with a professional orchestra
The Philharmonia iOrchestra installation
(Igor Stravinsky: "The Rite of Spring")
At Torre Abbey Meadows Torquay

Monday 26 May - Saturday 7 June
12-8pm every day

One hundred years after its first, riotous, performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" has been revived to astound new modern audiences here in Exeter. A couple of years ago Marion Wood, despite reservations about the shocking nature of the story, conducted the Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra in a performance of the ballet score at Exeter Cathedral (24 Nov 2011).

This year pianist An-Ting Chang and 'Concert Theatre' are touring Britain with their music/drama collision "Rite of Spring / Romeo & Juliet" - and have included a visit to Exeter Barnfield Theatre (1 May 2014). Meanwhile the Philharmonia Orchestra's audio-visual "Rite of Spring" installation, "iOrchestra Re-Rite" opened in Armada Way, Plymouth (29 April - 10 May 2014).

For anyone who missed that opportunity, the installation has now reopened at Torre Abbey Meadow (Torquay Seafront). The grand opening was on Bank Holiday Monday, 26 May, and the show is open every day from 12 until 8pm up to and including Saturday 7 June. On Saturday 31 May and Saturday 7 June guided tours are provided at 12.30, 1.30 and 2.30pm.

The Philharmonia Orchestra will be here in the flesh on Sunday 8 June at 5pm for a live performance of classical favourites on Torre Abbey Meadow.

Visitors are welcome at all times, with no charge for admission, and it is quite possible to guide oneself around the fascinating exhibit. Through the use of mini video cameras, and high fidelity sound recording, the installations recreates the experience of hearing and seeing the full orchestra playing Stravinsky's masterpiece - in close-up. Visitors can approach the larger-than-life images, eyeball-to-eyeball, and they never blink.

The experience is quite eerie. The images seem so real one feels able to reach out and touch the players, and yet they play on oblivious. The music fills the huge tent, and in every corner different sections of the orchestra can be seen playing. Sheet music is provided, and anyone bringing their own instrument is very welcome to play along. (There is a bass drum provided - which is strictly supervised!)

"The Rite of Spring" is in two movements "L'Adoration de la Terre" and "La Sacrifice" each lasting about 20 minutes. It is possible to enjoy both movements in under an hour, but most visitors stay much longer. Following the musical score, and marvelling at the intricate technique of the players can hold a viewer captivated in just one section for a whole movement - and there are over ten sections to see. Each is as fascinating as the last.

Not only are there detailed close-ups of all the action. Similar cameras are installed in the marquee, projecting images of visitors into the orchestra by closed-circuit television. In the main auditorium, all the musicians are seen playing together, in a montage of videos of the individual sections. Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen also appears but, once again, the audience members can take over, conducting by closed-circuit television.

Children can't resist getting involved in the action, and delight in all the clever interactive tricks dreamt up by the designers. Delight turns to fascination, and eager curiosity is easily satisfied by the accompanying text, videos, and audio commentary. No-one leaving Re-Rite will be at a loss for something to say about Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring".

Many thanks to Lona Kozik, Trustee and Classical Presenter at Soundart Radio (Dartington Hall), and Amelia Mariette, Keeper of Art at Torre Abbey, for information about this extraordinary and excellent exhibition. What a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of iOrchestra's two week sojourn in sunny Torbay and get really intimate with a spectacular piece of classical music.

And every event in the iOrchestra Re-Rite run is ABSOLUTELY FREE TO ATTEND!

Come to the sunny English Riviera

Get out of the traffic line
Follow the arrows
to an amazing audio-visual installation
created by a professional orchestra
Visitors can enjoy lunch at the neighbouring
One World Café
Or a snack at the on-site sandwich bar
- but they don't linger long
Something very interesting is happening inside
First (quite rightly) the clarinets!
E flat: Jennifer McLaren
Bass: Larent Ben Slimane
Visitors follow the piccolo clarinet part.
(Just counting the bars rest is a challenge!)
Concert Master: Zsolt Tihamér Visontay
Joined at first desk by Lulu Fuller
Second Violins: Julian Milone
(If you lose your way in the score, bar numbers set you straight)
Visitors can't resist playing along
They can even be projected into the orchestra
French horns - in your face!
Nigel Black
Children have a ball conducting the strings
While parents search for their place in the score
The band plays on - Pizzi-Cam!
Neil Tarlton
"I don't care what Momma don't allow . . . "
Video screens and audio commentary explain all:
This screen explains how Stravinsky deliberately gave
each player slightly more notes than they could manage
to create the fevered sounds of "La Sacrifice"
Children cannot resist trying to keep up
Gerard Hoffnung would approve:
The giant tuba-mutes
Peter Smith
Interactive camera, caught on camera
Philip White
Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen
projected on a veil
- through which the oboes can be seen
A truly 3-D experience
In the final installation
Children receive bass-drum coaching
with Torre Abbey Keeper of Art
Amelia Mariette
Meanwhile 100 yards away
in the Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey
another exhibition co-ordinator, Gahan Oliver,
has been supervising the hanging of artwork for
The "Flying Colours" Art Exhibition
The Spanish Barn Torre Abbey
Monday 26 May - Monday 9 June 10am-5pm
15% of all sales prices donated to
Devon Air Ambulance Trust
Not to mention Torre Abbey and Gardens
A symphony orchestra by the seaside

Philharmonia iOrchestra

iOrchestra Re-Rite
     Come and join in . . .
(Details & video on the iOrchestra Website)
Torre Abbey Meadow, Torquay
Monday 26 May - Saturday 7 June 12-8pm
Saturday Guided Tours: 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm
Live Open Air Philharmonia Orchestra Concert (!!!):
Torre Abbey Meadow: Sunday 8 June 7pm
Audio-Visual experience of a full orchestra.
Walk through a performance of
Igor Stravinsky: "Rite of Spring"
by the Philharmonia Orchesta
Admission FREE
Tours FREE
School Groups Welcome
Torbay Project Co-ordinator:
Laura Forster: 07943 376893
Re-Rite Website  Paul Rissman's Video
Don't forget to take a look at the fabulous
Orchestra Unwrapped Resource Pack

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Counterpoint Choir Concert: "Glories of Sacred Spanish Polyphony from the 13th to 17th Centuries" Buckast Abbey Saturday 24 May 2014 As rehearsals reach completion, Conductor David Acres releases details of a very special programme

David Acres
Counterpoint Choir

‘The Glories of Sacred Spanish Polyphony
from the 13th to 17th centuries’

To include excerpts from :
Officium Defunctorum – Tomas Luis de Victoria
Peccantem me quotidie – Cristobal de Morales
O quam gloriosum & Ave Maria à 8 – Victoria
Versa est in luctum – Alonso Lobo
Ave virgo sanctissima & O Domine Iesu Christe – Francisco Guerrero
O quam suavis – Vivanco, Gloria in excelsis – Juan de Esquivel Barahona
Virgen Santa Maria – Alfonso X of Spain (el Sabio)
Riu, riu chiu (The Kingfisher) – Mateo Flecha

Buckfast Abbey
Saturday 24th May 2014 – 7.30pm

The Singers


Denise Kehoe
Denise Kehoe, Ellie Lane

Mary O'Shea
Sally Leger, Mary O’Shea

Emma Perona-Wright
Judith Overcash, Emma Perona-Wright

Elle Williams
Ann Williams, Elle Williams


Laurence Blyth
Laurence Blyth, Michael Dobson

Elle & Denise
Tony Kehoe, Anselm Carr-Jones
& Clive Dickinson
Clive Dickinson, Christopher Tipping


Michael Graham
Jason Bomford, Michael Graham

Edward Woodhouse
Jonathan Harris, Edward Woodhouse


Tony Kehoe, David McKee

Julian Rippon
Kit Perona-Wright, Julian Rippon

Directed by
David Acres


1.   Victoria - "O Quam gloriosum"
2.   Victoria"Officium defunctorum" - Excerpts
a. "Taedet"
b. "Graduale"
c. "Versa est in luctum"
d. "Libera me"
3.   Morales - "Peccantem me quotidie"
4.   el Sabio - "Virgen Santa Maria"


5. Mateo Flecha - "Riu, riu, chiu"
Solo: Julian Rippon
6.   Guerrero - "Ave virgo sanctissima"
7.   Victoria - "Ave Maria" à 8
8.   Guerrero - "O Domine Iesu Christe"
9.   Vivanco - "O quam suavis"
10. Esquivel - "Gloria in excelcis Deo"
11. Lobo - "Versa est in luctum"

Many of you have been asking me what I have been up to over the past few months. As most of you know, I have been away in the United States since the end of October last year and during this time I have been singing with Trinity Cathedral Choir, Cleveland, and also with the Chamber Singers.

Before Christmas I was singing with an ensemble, Quire Cleveland, and also with a small Quartet/Quintet, Acappella Vox. Early in 2014 I was involved in the formation of a new choir, Contrapunctus. This has become our sister choir in the States and we had our first concert on March 2nd in Trinity Cathedral.

It was a partial re-run of the 2008 concert Counterpoint gave in Buckfast Abbey entitled The Life & Times of Mary, Queen of Scots. It was critically acclaimed and the next concert, in the Catholic Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Cleveland, is scheduled for June 6th. Entitled ‘Angel Voices Ever Singing’ the concert traces the development of music for high voices – sopranos, altos and countertenors – and covers sacred music from the 10th century through to modern times, culminating with a glorious piece, Versa est in luctum, written for the choir by one of our tenors. 

The things that I have missed the most in my travels away from England and the West Country were Buckfast Abbey and Counterpoint. I was brought to this hallowed place by my grandparents in the 1950s, two years before I joined the cathedral choir at Exeter. It had an immediate effect on me and I wanted to return as often as possible. Over the years there have been many changes but the church, the grounds, the community and the congregation stay with me, wherever I find myself. If times get tough, I only need to think of this glorious place and things just don’t seem quite so bad! Counterpoint and its choir members have been my rock over the past twenty-five years. Its members have supported me in all my endeavours and have helped me to expand and enlighten my musical horizons.

Also, I would like to publically thank Father Abbot, Geoff Pring and Trevor Jarvis for their unswerving help, kindness and friendship over the past years; without this, Counterpoint would not be the choir that it is today.

David Acres May 2014

1. O Quam gloriosum - Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

Tomás Luis de Victoria
1548 - 1611
Victoria was born in 1548 in Ávila, Castile and León, where he had his early musical training as a cathedral chorister. He studied further in Rome, continuing in the service of the Jesuit Collegio Germanico before joining the newly formed order of Oratorians. He returned to Spain to a convent chaplaincy in the service of the Dowager Empress Maria, sister of King Philip II, retaining the chaplaincy until his death in Madrid in 1611.

Victoria is considered the most significant composer of the Counter-Reformation in Spain, and one of the best-regarded composers of sacred music in the late Renaissance, a genre to which he devoted himself exclusively. Victoria’s music reflected his intricate personality. In his music, the passion of Spanish mysticism and religion is expressed. Victoria was praised by Padre Martini for his melodic phrases and his joyful inventions. His works have undergone a revival in the 20th century, with numerous recent recordings. Many commentators hear in his music a mystical intensity and direct emotional appeal, qualities considered by some to be lacking in the arguably more rhythmically and harmonically placid music of Palestrina. O quam gloriosum was the first Latin motet I remember hearing as a boy in my first week in Exeter Cathedral Choir when I was 7 years old. Its power, beauty and glorious word-painting stays with me to this day.

O quam gloriosum est regnum,
in quo cum Christo gaudent omnes Sancti!
Amicti stolis albis,
sequuntur Agnum, quocumque ierit

O how glorious is the kingdom
in which all the saints rejoice with Christ,
clad in robes of white
they follow the Lamb wherever he goes

2. Officium defunctorum a 6 - Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

Victoria's 'Requiem' Mass (as we now call it) has for many decades and for many people typified Spanish Renaissance music. Its mystical intensity of expression, achieved by the simplest musical means, obviously sets it apart from contemporary English and Italian music, and has led to comparisons with the equally intense religious paintings of Velazquez and El Greco. There is no doubt that this masterpiece conveys much of the highly individual Spanish view of religion and death, all the more valuable since their vision is largely unfamiliar outside Spain herself.

Giovanni Pierluigi
da Palestrina
(1525 - 1594)
In fact Victoria was just one of a very substantial school of Spanish Renaissance composers, and one of the least prolific amongst them. Many of these deserve to be considered along with Victoria, though none wrote a mass quite as mature as this. One possible reason for their collective lack of fame is that they travelled very little, unless it were to the New World, unlike their Netherlandish contemporaries.

Victoria was lucky in this respect. Having been born in Avila in 1548 and brought up there in the tradition of Morales, Espinar and Ribera, he went to Rome probably in 1565 to study at the Jesuit Collegio Germanico. Once there he must surely have met Palestrina, and was possibly taught by him. The subtleties of Palestrina's polyphonic idiom are regularly to be found in Victoria's music, unlike that of his Spanish contemporaries, and it gave him an extra dimension of technique when it suited him.

In fact in this Requiem there is very little imitative polyphony and the lack of it allows its Spanish flavour to speak all the more strongly. Victoria stayed in Rome until 1587 at the latest, by which time he had been ordained priest (by Bishop Thomas Goldwell, the last surviving member of the pre-Reformation English Catholic hierarchy in Rome), and published several anthologies of his work. By the end of his life he had succeeded in publishing just about his entire output in eleven sets, most in luxurious format, which was a great deal more than Palestrina ever did. This 6-part Requiem appeared by itself in 1605, and was the last of the series.

Maria of Austria
died 1603
Monasterio de las
Descalzas Reales
From 1587 until his death in 1611 Victoria was employed in Madrid, initially as chaplain to the sister of Philip II: the Dowager Empress Maria, daughter of Charles V, wife of Maximilian II and mother of two emperors. It was for her funeral in 1603 that this Requiem was written. After her death Victoria became organist to the convent where the Empress had lived. Since he was by profession almost as much a priest as a musician, it will be understood why Victoria only wrote sacred music, though it should not be assumed that it is all somber.

Different composers through the centuries approach setting music to the words of the Requiem in varying ways. Mozart’s fiery and tempestuous setting is at great variance with that of Victoria’s. Here, one is left with a feeling of great serenity and hope, rather than sorrow, at the end of the performance. Written in 1603 for the ceremonies following the death of the Empress Maria, the Requiem for six voices interpolates polyphony with Gregorian Chant, which serves as a cantus firmus. In performance the work is some 40 minutes long, so I had to make the decision that we would perform only four of the movements. I have chosen the following movements to illustrate the beauty and character of the composition, together with the Victoria’s unique word-painting.

a. Taedet
Taedet animam meam vitae meae; dimittam adversum me eloquium meum, loquar in amaritudine animae meae.
Dicam Deo: Noli me condemnare; indica mihi cur me ita judices.
Numquid bonum tibi videtur, si calumnieris me, et opprimas me opus manuum tuarum,
et consilium impiorum adjuves?
Numquid oculi carnei tibi sunt? aut sicut videt homo, et tu videbis?
Numquid sicut dies hominis dies tui, et anni tui sicut humana sunt tempora,
ut quaeras iniquitatem meam, et peccatum meum scruteris,
et scias quia nihil impium fecerim, cum sit nemo qui de manu tua possit eruerer.

My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
I will say unto God, do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.
Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress, that thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands,  and shine upon the counsel of the wicked?
Hast thou eyes of flesh? or seest thou as man seeth?
Are thy days as the days of man? are thy years as man's days,
That thou enquirest after mine iniquity, and searchest after my sin?
Thou knowest that I am not wicked; and there is none that can deliver out of thine hand.

b. Graduale

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Verse: In memoria aeterna erit iustus:
ab auditione mala non timebit.

Give them eternal rest, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine on them.
The just man shall be remembered everlastingly,
he will not fear an evil hearing.

c. Versa est in luctum

Versa est in luctum cithara mea,
et organum meum in vocem flentium.
Parce mihi Domine, 
nihil enim sunt dies mei.

My harp is tuned for mourning,
and my music to the voice of those who weep. 
Spare me, O Lord,
for my days are as nothing.

d. Libera me

Libera me, Domine,
de morte aeterna
in die illa tremenda
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra
dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.

Deliver me, O Lord, 
from eternal death, 
on that fearful day 
when the heavens are moved and the earth 
when you will come to judge the world through fire.

Tremens factus sum ego et timeo,
dum discussio venerit
atque ventura ira.

I am made to tremble, and I fear, 
when the desolation shall come, 
and also the coming wrath.

Dies irae, dies illa,
calamitatis et miseriae,
dies magna et amara valde.

That day, the day of wrath, 
calamity, and misery, 
that terrible and exceedingly bitter day.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Rest eternal grant them, O Lord, 
and let perpetual light shine on them.

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

3. Peccantem me quotidie - Cristóbal de Morales (1500-1553)

Cristóbal de Morales
(1500 - 1553)
'No Spanish composer of the sixteenth century was more lauded during his lifetime and for two hundred years after his death than Morales.'

So writes the leading modern expert on the subject (Robert Stevenson, in his critically acclaimed book, ‘Spanish Cathedral Music in the Golden Age – Greenwood Press 1961) - a remarkable claim when one considers the talent and number of Spanish composers in the High Renaissance, not least Victoria.

Morales has been lauded again in the recent revival of interest in Renaissance music, but it is not clear that his particular cast of mind has been properly understood. For someone as culturally Spanish as Morales, writing music meant more than just borrowing from the prevailing Franco-Flemish or Italian styles. Morales, like Victoria, never lost that mystical intensity of expression which found its roots in Spanish Catholicism.

"The Last Judgement"
Michaelangelo di Lodovico
Buonarroti Simoni
Cristóbal de Morales (c.1500-1553) spent the beginning and end of his career in Spain, with a crucial ten years in the middle singing with the Sistine Chapel Choir in Rome. He was appointed to the Papal Choir on 1 September 1535 by Pope Paul III, the same day that the Pope commissioned Michelangelo to paint The Last Judgement.

Since Morales did not return to Spain until 1545, and Michelangelo finished his great work in 1541, the composer would have had the privilege of watching The Last Judgement come into existence, more or less day by day. In fact there was little chance of his being influenced by Michelangelo's almost- baroque Italian style: Morales was sufficiently proud of his origins, especially of Seville where he was born, to follow his own muse.

Peccantem me quotidie
et non penitentem,
Timor mortis conturbat me.
Quia in inferno nulla est redemptio. 
Miserere mei, Deus, et salva me.

I who sin every day
and am not penitent
the fear of death troubles me:
For in hell there is no redemption.
Have mercy upon me, O God, and save me.

4. Virgen Santa Maria – Alfonso X ‘el Sabio’ (1221-1284)

Alfonso X el Sabio
(1221 - 1284)
Alfonso X, King of Castile and León, began his reign in a highly characteristic manner, by bringing together the staff of the University of Salamanca and explicitly demanding que aya un maestro en organo (that there should be an organ teacher). He wanted academic studies to be complemented by artistic study. As a politician and a general he could look back on no great achievements, since the progress of the reconquista had proved troublesome during his reign and court intrigues eventually cost him his throne, yet as a patron of the sciences and arts he won the title el Sabio (the Wise), by which he is remembered in history.

In the thirteenth century on the Iberian peninsula there was hostility between Muslims and Christians in warfare, but in everyday life there was a great deal of religious tolerance and lively exchange between the two opposing cultures. At the court of Alfonso there were learned Arab, Jewish and Christian scholars, who, under his direction, wrote comprehensive works such as the General estoria (General History), a monumental history of the world (fragmentary) and the Siete partidas (Seven Parts), a collection of laws.

Libros del Saber
de Astonomico
Special subjects were treated in the Libros del saber de astronomia (Books on the Science of Astronomy), El lapidario (The Book of Stones, Materials and Metals) and the Libros de ajedrez, damas y tablas (The Book of Chess, Draughts and Backgammon). These books today are seen as the foundation of Castilian prose-writing. In addition to his other scholarly interests, Alfonso also concerned himself with the arts, especially with music; as a young man he had himself composed love-songs. Provençal and Italian troubadours

were frequent visitors to the Castilian court and Alfonso served as their patron and provided protection from the Inquisition during the suppression of the Albigensians. The German Minnesang may also have found a place there through Alfonso's mother, Beatrix of Swabia. The monophonic and polyphonic repertoire of Notre Dame was cultivated in the same way as the popular Cantigas de amigo, secular love-songs in Galician-Portuguese, the poetic language of the time. Music at court was not only performed by Christian musicians but also by Arab players with oriental dancers.

In this varied musical life there appeared, with the cooperation and under the direction of Alfonso, the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a collection of more than four hundred monophonic songs. The musicologist Higinio Angles noted in the preface to his edition of the Cantigas (1943-1964) that even if no other Spanish music of the period survived, this would have been enough to put Spanish music on a par with the music of the other cultured countries of medieval Europe.

The Cantigas have come down to us in four splendid manuscripts, three of them with notation. One of these is in the Spanish National Library in Madrid (No.10069), a second in the National Library in Florence (Banco rari 20) and two in the Escorial (B.j.2 and T.j.1). They are distinguished by the beauty of their miniatures and by the special care taken with the notation, of material assistance in the reading of other medieval notation.

The miniatures include representations of the king surrounded by scholars and of musicians from all countries and cultures. There are more than forty instruments depicted, fiddle, rebec, gittern, mandola, lute, psaltery, zither, harp, shawm, transverse and straight flute, trumpet, horn, bagpipe, portative organ, drums, castanets, cymbals, glockenspiel and symphonia - a unique compendium of medieval instruments.

NB – I apologise profusely but I have been unable to find a translation for this wonderful early work. I am still searching and, if you are interested, I will be very happy to send on the translation when I track it down!

«  «  «  INTERVAL   «  «  «

5. Riu, riu, chiu – Mateo Flecha ‘el Viejo’ (1481-1553)
Soloist: Julian Rippon

Mateo Flecha directed the music at the cathedral of Lleida (September 1523 – October 1525). From there he moved to Guadalajara, in the service for six years of the Duke, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza. From there he went to Valencia where he assumed direction of the chapel choir of the Duke of Calabria. While thus employed, three of his works were included in songbooks associated with that chapel, including the Cancionero de Uppsala.

In 1537 Flecha moved to Sigüenza where he served as maestro di cappella for two years. From 1544 to 1548 he lived in the castle at Arévalo as teacher of the Infantas Maria and Joanna, daughters of Philip II of Spain (1527-1598). Toward the end of his life Mateo Flecha became a monk of the Cistercian Order, living in the Monastery at Poblet, where he died in 1553.

Monasterio de Poblet

Mateo Flecha's music was published in part by Fuenllana in his Orphenica Lira. The majority of his works can be found in the Cancionero of the Duke of Calabria (Venice, 1556), also known as the “Cancionero de Uppsala.” Flecha is best known as composer of the "ensalada" (literally "salad"), a work for four or five voices written for the diversion of courtiers in the palace. The ensalada frequently mixed languages: Spanish, Catalan, Italian, French, and Latin. In addition to the ensalada, Flecha is also well-known for his Christmas carols, including Riu riu chiu.

Riu riu chiu, la guarda ribera;
Dios guardo el lobo de nuestra cordera,
Dios guardo el lobo de neustra cordera.

El lobo rabioso la quiso morder,
Mas Dios poderoso la supo defender;
Quisola hazer que no pudiese pecar,
Ni aun original esta Virgen no tuviera.

Riu riu chiu…..

Este qu'es nacido es el gran monarca,
Christo patriarca, de carne vestido;
hanos redimido con se hacer chiquito,
a un qu'era infinito, finito se hiziera.

Riu riu chiu…...

Muchas profecias lo han profetizado,
Ya un nuestros dias lo hemos al consado
Adios humanado vemos en el suelo,
Yal hombre nelcielo porquel le quistera

Riu riu chiu……

Yo vi mil garzones que andaban cantando,
por aquí volando, haciendo mil sones,
diciendo a gascones: "Gloria sea en el cielo
y paz en el suelo", pues de sus nasciera.

Riu riu chiu……

Riu, riu, chiu
The river bank protects it,
As God kept the wolf from our lamb

The rabid wolf tried to bite her
But God Almighty knew how to defend her
He wished to create her impervious to sin
Nor was this maid to embody original sin

Riu, riu, chiu……

He who's now begotten is our mighty Monarch
Christ, our Holy Father, in human flesh embodied
He has brought atonement by being born so humble
Though He is immortal, as mortal was created

Riu, riu, chiu……

Many prophecies told of his coming,
And now in our days have we seen them fulfilled.
God became man, on earth we behold him,
And see man in heaven because he so willed.

Riu, riu, chiu……

A thousand singing angels I saw passing,
Flying overhead, sounding a thousand voices,
Exulting, "Glory be in the heavens,
And peace on Earth, for Jesus has been born."

Riu, riu, chiu……

6. Ave virgo sanctissima – Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599)

Francisco Guerrero
(1528 - 1599)
It has proved difficult to find just the right place for Francisco Guerrero amongst the composers of his time. A contemporary of Palestrina, although they are not known to have met, he was the pre-eminent Spanish composer of the generation between Morales and Victoria. Like Victoria he was a church musician, yet wrote as much secular music as he did sacred. And although he made his career entirely in Spain, he owed more to Palestrina's methods and ideals than either Morales or Victoria, both of whom lived in Rome for many years.

Guerrero lived a colourful life, the details of which were relatively well documented at the time. After studying with Morales he began his life-long association with Seville Cathedral in 1542, initially being appointed as a ‘contralto' (apparently he was an exceptionally gifted contra alto, or high tenor). Both the cathedral chapters in Jaen and Malaga tried to entice him away, but he always found his way back to Seville where, in 1551, the authorities offered him the right to succeed the ageing maestro, Pedro Fernandez.

Catedral de Sevilla

Unfortunately for Guerrero, Fernandez lived another twenty-three years, and it was only in 1574 that he finally took over. By then he was internationally renowned as a composer, having had his works published not only in Seville, but also in Paris, Venice and Louvain; and outside Europe, in the Spanish-American empire, his works were far better known than those of any of his contemporaries.

While seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italian composers, under orders from the Catholic authorities, tried to perpetuate the style of Palestrina, in the New World Guerrero's music continued to be sung as if it were new, helped by its proto-Baroque harmonic clarity. Indeed his Magnificat secundi toni, when published in 1974 from an anonymous eighteenth-century copy in Lima Cathedral, was taken to be an eighteenth-century work.

Ave virgo sanctissima became so popular in Guerrero's lifetime that it was regarded as the quintessentially perfect Marian motet and used as a parody model by a host of composers, many of them Flemish. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this masterpiece is that the intense emotion is generated within the confines of a canonic structure: the two soprano parts echo each other throughout at an eight-beat interval, yet they move so smoothly and effortlessly that it would be easy to assume that there was no complexity involved. The phrase at ‘margarita preciosa' (‘precious pearl') is one of the loveliest in all renaissance music.

Ave virgo sanctissima
Dei mater piisima
Maris stella clarissima
Salve semper gloriosa
Margarita pretiosa
Sicut lilium formosa
Nitens olens velut rosa

Hail, Holy Virgin,
most blessed Mother of God,
bright star of the sea.
Hail, ever glorious,
precious pearl,
lovely as the lily,
beautiful and perfumed as the rose.

7. Ave Maria à 8 - Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)

Stylistically, Victoria’s music shuns the elaborate counterpoint of many of his contemporaries, preferring simple line and homophonic textures, yet seeking rhythmic variety and sometimes including intense and surprising contrasts. His melodic writing and use of dissonance is more free than that of Palestrina; occasionally he uses intervals which are prohibited in the strict application of 16th century counterpoint, such as ascending major sixths, or even occasional diminished fourths. 

Victoria sometimes uses dramatic word-painting, of a kind usually found only in madrigals. Some of his sacred music uses instruments (a practice which is not uncommon in Spanish sacred music of the 16th century), and he also wrote polychoral works for more than one spatially separated group of singers, in the style of the composers of the Venetian school who were working at St. Mark's in Venice.

Basilica di San Marco Venezia

His two-choir Ave Maria is a beautiful, reflective motet with answering phrases between the two groups of singers that is most enchanting.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
ut cum electis te videamus

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
that with the elect we may gaze upon thee.

8. O Domine Iesu Christe - Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599)

In 1588 Guerrero undertook a journey which truly sets him apart from every notable composer of the period: he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Leaving Venice on 14 August and travelling via the island of Zante (now Zakinthos), he visited Jaffa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Damascus before returning to Venice on 9 January 1589. On the way back his ship was twice boarded by pirates, who threatened his life and exacted a ransom.

When he finally resumed his duties at Seville Cathedral, the cost of publishing his music and the depredations of the pirates had placed him in such serious financial difficulties that in 1591 he was committed to a debtors' prison. The cathedral chapter secured his release by paying off his creditors, and they also engaged Alonso Lobo to act as his assistant.

In 1590 he published what proved to be a popular book about his journey to the Holy Land (El viaje de Hierusalem, which surely would benefit from a modern edition), during the course of which he wrote that he longed to return there. On 11 January 1599 he obtained another year's leave in order to go, but delayed in starting out and died from the plague that struck Seville in the late summer.

O Domine Jesu Christe is an extra-liturgical text in which the wounded Saviour is adored upon the Cross. Guerrero treats it with tragic expression. It has become one of his best loved pieces. He set the text twice; the present version is that of 1570, later reprinted. A quite different setting was published in 1589.

O Domine Jesu Christe,
adoro te in cruce vulneratum
felle et aceto potatum:
deprecor te ut tua vulnera
sint remedium animae meae

Lord Jesus Christ,
I worship you, who was wounded on the cross
and given gall and vinegar to drink:
I pray that your wounds

may be a remedy for my soul.

9. O quam suavis - Sebastián de Vivanco (c.1551-1622)

Sebastián de Vivanco stands, without doubt, as one of the most neglected composers of the Spanish Golden Age. Ironically, the greatest contribution to this neglect is the accident of his having been born in Ávila at about the same time as that other colossus of Spanish music from Ávila, Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). Blinded, perhaps, by the stunning brilliance of Victoria, scholars and performers alike have been slow to discern an equally wonderful talent.

Despite important studies by a small group of scholars, most notably Dámaso García Fraile and Dean I. Nuernberger, research into the life and works of Vivanco is still in its infancy. We cannot even be sure of his date of birth. If Montague Cantor’s reasoning that Vivanco must have been 70 when he retired as catedrático de prima [morning professor] at Salamanca on January 9, 1621, is correct, then we may place his birth date at about 1551.

Of his childhood we know nothing, though it is reasonable to assume that he served, perhaps alongside Victoria, as a member of the so-called seises, or boy choristers, of Ávila’s cathedral. As a boy, Vivanco would have come under the decisive influence of the composer Bernardino de Ribera (1520-1572?), maestro de capilla from 1559 to 1571/1572, and his successor Juan Navarro (c.1530-1580), who served in the same post from 1564 until 1566.

By his mid twenties, Vivanco had left his native Castile for Catalonia, where in 1573, as a cleric still in subdeacon’s orders, he was appointed maestro de capilla at Seo de Urgel in Lérida. Here, Vivanco was initiated into the profession he would practice for the rest of his life. As chapelmaster, he took charge of all the polyphonic music performed in the cathedral, and was also responsible for the musical training and education of the seises. On 4 July 1576, Vivanco’s tenure at Lérida came to an abrupt and unexplained end.

In mid-1587, by then probably approaching his late thirties, Vivanco received an invitation from the elderly and eminent Guerrero to come to Seville to work as his assistant there, and in particular to take over the training of the seises. At around the same time, however, Vivanco was also invited to take up the chapelmastership of the cathedral of Ávila. For the next eight months, he was courted by the cathedral chapters in both places.

A welter of documentary references reflects his indecision. Though he had accepted the Ávila post by the end of July, he was soon using a counter offer from Seville to bargain for better terms and conditions. Since they could not match the salary offer from Seville, the Ávila authorities responded by granting Vivanco a more senior prebend than that usually assigned to the chapelmaster, with rights and privileges similar to those of a cathedral canon.

Despite this, Vivanco elected to make the journey south to Seville early in 1588 in order to spend a trial period in the post there. For a week or two he gave every appearance of wanting to settle. However, on 17 March he petitioned the Seville Chapter for payment to cover his expenses for returning to Ávila for good.

We cannot be sure about Vivanco’s compositional activity in Ávila, but it does seem likely that a significant proportion of the three large collections of compositions he published between 1607 and 1610 was composed there. Certainly a number of hymns, possibly composed during these years, do still exist in a very late copy (dated 1796) at Ávila.

Virtually unknown here in England, more and more of Vivanco’s lush and vivid motets and masses are gradually being published.

O quam suavis est, Domine, spiritus tuus, 
qui ut dulcedinem tuam in filios demonstrares
pane suavissimo de caelo praestito,
esurientes reples bonis, 
fastidiosos divites dimittens inanes.

O how sweet is thy spirit, Lord, 
thou who, in order to demonstrate thy sweetness to thy children, 
send down from heaven the sweetest bread unsurpassed,
filling the hungry with good things, 
sending away empty the disdainful rich!

10. Gloria in excelcis Deo – Juan Esquivel Barahona (c.1560-1625)

Juan Esquivel Barahona
(c.1560 - 1625)
Juan de Esquivel was born in or near Ciudad Rodrigo, an ancient cathedral city southwest of Salamanca. He began service as a choirboy in the cathedral in 1568 and, according to choir chaplain Antonio Sánchez Cabañas, he was a student of Juan Navarro, the cathedral's choirmaster during Esquivel's youth. Esquivel's first position as maestro de capilla came in 1581, when he was named to the post in Oviedo, the capital of the province of Asturias in Northern Spain. He left that position in 1585 and took a similar position in the Riojan city of Calahorra. In 1591 he returned to Ciudad Rodrigo as choirmaster, where he remained until his death.

Esquivel composed only sacred music. His output survives in three publications, printed in Salamanca during the early seventeenth century; a fourth book (Salamanca, 1623) of motets and instrumental music was reported by Sanchez-Cabañas in his manuscript history of Ciudad Rodrigo, but no copies of this have been found. Since he began his career during a time when Spanish churches were adopting the Roman liturgy as prescribed by the Council of Trent, his music reveals an attempt to reconcile Spanish polyphonic traditions of the sixteenth century with Tridentine preferences for clarity of text and brevity of statement. This is especially true in his motets, which are among the shortest in the repertoire.

His principal influences were Cristóbal de Morales and Francisco Guerrero, although some influence of his teacher, Navarro, is sometimes evident. Esquivel's appreciation of Guerrero is apparent in his use the older master's motets as sources for parody masses. Esquivel, however, was never reluctant to set a text for which a previous composer had gained some fame.

Esquivel's polyphonic style is characterized by succinctness in his melodic subjects, an occasional use of noncadential chromaticism and parallel motion between voices. His music has some similarity to Portuguese polyphony of his time.

Esquivel is another sadly neglected Spanish composer but, thanks to Mapi Mundi and other similar small publishers, new works are surfacing all the time.

Gloria in excelsis Deo.
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

Glory be to God on high,
and on earth peace, good will towards men.

11. Versa est in luctum  -  Alonso Lobo (1555-1617)

Alonso Lobo
(1555 - 1617)
The Spanish school of renaissance composers, eventually to become one of the most splendid in Europe, was something of a late developer. Although there were significant figures working in Spain in the first half of the 16th century, it was really only with the ebbing of the tide of Franco-Flemish musicians at court that the astonishing depth of talent being trained in the local choir schools came to the fore. Amongst the most impressive of these men were Francisco Guerrero (1528-99) and Alonso Lobo (1555-1617), almost certainly master and pupil. Lobo, who should not be confused with his Portuguese namesake and near-contemporary Duarte Lôbo, is perhaps best known now for his consummate motet Versa est in luctum.

Lobo's musical language is detectably of a later generation than that of Victoria, even though Lobo was only seven years younger. The difference between them was probably the training Victoria received in Rome, where he studied Palestrina's compositional method, learning how to control long spans of music without relying on constant changes of texture and harmonic speed. The rhapsodic calmness of this style has led many commentators to attribute an intensity and mysticism to Victoria's music which is equated with the essence of Spanish Catholicism.

In fact Lobo also had a style which it is possible to say was typically Spanish, since the compositions of several of his contemporaries, including Vivanco and Esquivel, resembled his; yet it relies on different ingredients. Beauty of contrapuntal line is certainly there (Versa est in luctum is pre-eminent in this respect), but sometimes, where expressiveness seems to require it, it is coupled to quite angular lines. And the relative lack of Palestrinian smoothness carries through to the separate sections in Lobo's music, which are often built on contrast, fast then slow, not usually to paint the superficial meaning of each word but rather to induce in the listener's mind the conflicting emotions behind them. Lobo's style was never purely madrigalian, but a halfway point between it and the calm order of strictly imitative counterpoint.

I have been told by many Counterpoint audience members, here and abroad, that Lobo’s Versa est in luctum is the one motet that they find synonymous with the choir. The passion and pathos; the crescendos and diminuendos; the light and shade; the sympathetic understanding of each singer’s line by the entire ensemble and the glorious word-painting, these are what Counterpoint has excelled at over the years. The first time we sang the work was in Locmaria, Quimper and I can still remember the audience reaction. There are versions by Victoria, Padilla, Byrd, Vivanco and de Torres but, for me, none come close to the power and emotion to be found in Lobo’s interpretation.

Versa est in luctum cithara mea,
et organum meum in vocem flentium.
Parce mihi Domine, 
nihil enim sunt dies mei.

My harp is tuned for mourning,
and my music to the voice of those who weep. 
Spare me, O Lord,
for my days are as nothing.

«     «     «     «     «

Visit our sister choir’s pages
in the United States -
and see how busy David’s been
since Counterpoint’s last concert in Buckfast Abbey in October 2013.
There is a Facebook page and also a Twitter account to explore -
Twitter: @ContrapunctusEM
At Counterpoint we also run a regularly
updated Facebook page:
Twitter account: @counterpointvox
Keep in touch and interact with
both choirs!