Your very own Cappella Romana has had a very good 25th Anniversary year: three European tours (including visits to the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany), a week-long residency at Stanford University in the Bay Area with recording sessions of medieval chant from Hagia Sophia, the Arvo Pärt Festival, and the group’s most ambitious Northwest concert series to date, just to name a few highlights.
A highlight for me this year had to have been during our Arvo Pärt Festival. You may not know that I wrote my master’s thesis many years ago on Pärt’s Kanon Pokajanen, and it was the “Prayer after the Kanon” that still somehow caught me completely off-guard. As Cappella Romana sang the final two “Amens,” it was difficult to imagine in that moment any art more piercing to the heart, more perceptive of the human condition. This unspeakably beautiful music ringing out in the cathedral seemed as if it were only for me.
I’m sure you also could share your own Cappella Romana highlight, whether from a recording or live in concert, and I hope you’ll tell us your stories.
Cappella Romana’s work is not an end in itself, but rather serves a higher purpose: to create beautiful, historically informed, transcendent experiences for you through the music of the Christian East and West. And all of this wouldn’t be possible without your support.
Would you make a new gift to the annual fund by June 30th?
With your giving several years ago, Cappella Romana was able to reach more audiences than ever before, providing free access through singing liturgical services, local festivals, radio broadcasts, and other outreach. Your giving now provides the base of support that is critical for taking new risks, making new recordings, and accepting invitations to perform all over the world.
Please make your contribution to our annual fund by June 30th and be part of our next chapter, too. You can make your gift by going online to cappellaromana.org/give or by mailing in the reply card enclosed, or by phone (503-236-8202). Monthly giving is also easy to set up. Thank you.
Mark Powell Executive Director
P.S. Make a gift today to your Cappella Romana. Please also let us know your favorite memory of Cappella Romana when you make your gift. Thank you for your support.
Icelandic artist Björk Guðmundsdóttir (also known simply as Björk) interviewed Arvo Pärt for a 1997 BBC documentary about musical minimalists.
“In art, all things are possible, but not all things are necessary” –Arvo Pärt
I can’t help but think about St. Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthians when it comes to why Pärt’s music is the way it is: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” (I Cor. 10.13).
It’s also worth noting that Björk has worked extensively on a number of recordings and projects with Arvo’s son, Michael Pärt, who is also a musician. A film composer and producer, he has worked on both independent and blockbuster films. He and his wife (also from Iceland) live in Estonia, where he is chairman of the board of the Arvo Pärt Centre.
The first-ever festival in North America dedicated to the music of Estonian Orthodox composer Arvo Pärt will take place February 5 – 12, 2017 in Portland, Oregon, presented by the Northwest’s leading professional chamber choir, Cappella Romana. Arvo Pärt is the most performed living composer in the world. Full information.
The Arvo Pärt Festival features eight (8) live performances of music by Arvo Pärt with chamber music (including Spiegel im Spiegel), the complete organ works, a cappella choral works (including selections of the Kanon Pokajanen), a late-night performance of the Passio by candlelight, the Missa Syllabica sung in a Latin mass, and a festival finale featuring Pärt’s Te Deum for three choirs, strings, and prepared piano, Da Pacem Domine (commissioned by Jordi Savall in memory of the victims of the Madrid terrorist bombings in 2004), and the US premiere of Alleluia-Tropus celebrating St. Nicholas.
The live events of the festival will be preceded with a screening of the new film “Arvo Pärt: Even if I lose everything” at Whitsell Auditorium, NW Film Center.
The Arvo Pärt Festival also features two free public lectures, including “The Words Write My Music,” by Peter Bouteneff, professor of theology at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York and author of the new book Arvo Pärt: Out of Silence.
Produced since 2004 by GRAMMY Award-winning producer Steve Barnett, Cappella Romana performs “music of purity and radiance” (Gramophone) in concerts of “luminous beauty” (Washington Post). Appearances in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Athens, Utrecht, Regensburg, and in the US Northwest all demonstrate how Cappella Romana “continues its ascent” (Wall Street Journal).
With Cyprus: Between Greek East & Latin West, Alexander Lingas leads Cappella Romana in an intrepid exploration of Cypriot music in both Byzantine and Western styles, including refined ars subtilior music composed for the Royal Court of Cyprus (c. 1308-1432) from the manuscript J.II.9 housed at the University of Turin.
“Cappella Romana is at its sterling best, well-disciplined and highly focused readings of authority, clarity, and, most importantly, genuine empathy and feeling. Couple that with ingratiating sound and you have a highly desirable disc.” —Steven Ritter, Audiophile Audition
Extensive scholarly article by founding artistic director Dr. Alexander Lingas (City University London, University of Oxford), with full texts in Greek and Latin, and translations in English. See the article in the liner notes
Stelios Kontakiotis is protopsaltis (first chanter) of the Holy Temple of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary on the sacred island of Tinos, Greece, one of the most prominent pilgrimage sites in Greece.
Mr. Kontakiotis was born in Athens and grew up on the island of Amorgos (Cyclades-Greece). He began his studies in Byzantine Music at the Conservatory of Athens with Mr. Lazarus Kouzinopoulos and the late Spyros Peristeris as his teachers, on a scholarship from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Greece. In 1994 he took his first degree in Chanting from the Conservatory of Athens, and in 2000 his Diploma in Byzantine Music from the National Conservatory of Greece.
He has served as a professional chanter since 1992 in the churches of Saint George (Palaio Iraklio), Nativity of Christ (Paiania) and Holy Trinity (Ambelokipoi) in Greater Athens. He also founded and conducted the Byzantine Music Choir, consisting of young adults, which performed in many concerts and services throughout the greater Athens area.
During the years 1990-2000, he took classical voice lessons and he joined the National Radio Choir (ERT) as a tenor. With the ERT Choir he took part in numerous operas, oratorios, and concerts throughout Greece and Europe. He also participated in other choirs and vocal ensembles such as the choir of The Athens Megaron concert hall in Athens, Emmeleia choir of Athens, the vocal ensemble Polyfonia of Athens, and the choir of Leivadeia.
In 2000, he was appointed to the position of Protopsaltis (first chanter) and Choir Director at Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington, DC, where he served until 2008 when he auditioned for and was awarded his current post at Tinos. During his stay in the USA he gave lectures, master-classes and performed at concerts with the Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral Choir as well as chanting at Eastern Orthodox religious services and concerts in the Washington-Metro area, in churches and at venues such as Catholic University, the US Capitol, the Smithsonian Institution and the Greek Embassy. He also gave the first Byzantine music concert at Duke University Chapel in 2004.
From 2000 to 2006 he collaborated with the Romeiko Ensemble chanting in religious services, concerts, and CD recordings. Mr. Kontakiotis founded and still leads the Byzantine Choir of the Metropolis of Syros on the island of Tinos. He is also a member of the ensemble “MELIDRON” performing a varied repertory ranging from East to West, balanced between traditional and modern, old folk music and new.
His voice can be heard in songs in animated films translated into Greek from the English original, such as The Prince of Egypt (DreamWorks), Pinocchio, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Pocahontas (Disney). He also recorded the male voice for the Rosetta Stone Greek Language Learning Software.
Since 2006 he has collaborated with Cappella Romana as principal soloist in concerts throughout the United States and Europe, appearing also as principal soloist on Cappella Romana’s recording of medieval Byzantine chant from St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mt. Sinai.
Today, for Holy Friday, sung in the original medieval melody
Antiphon 15. Tone 6
Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon a Tree, (x3) He who is King of the Angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns. He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in mocking purple. He who freed Adam in the Jordan receives a blow on the face. The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails. The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a lance,. We worship your Sufferings, O Christ (x3) Show us also your glorious Resurrection.
Program Notes for Venetian Baroque: Galuppi + Vivaldi + Bortniansky
Galuppi further exceeded his contractual duties by teaching composition to some of the Cappella singers. One such singer was the Ukrainian Dmitro (or more commonly Dmitry) Bortniansky.
When Galuppi left St. Petersburg in 1769, he took the 18-year-old Bortniansky with him back to Venice, where he continued to teach him. Bortniansky eventually returned to St. Petersburg where he won his teacher’s post as the director of the Imperial Court Cappella, the first director not to have been imported from abroad. There he thrived, writing hundreds of compositions for the Cappella, inspired by his Venetian teacher and forebear.
The two works by Bortniansky on the program are paired as Galuppi’s: the first a short motet from the Divine Liturgy and the second an expansive composition sung for special occasions. Bortniansky’s setting of the short Marian hymn “It is truly right” is characterized by its directness of expression, particularly through contrasts of loud and soft (dynamics) and an extended melisma on the final word “magnify.” The larger work, the Te Deum, commonly sung for services of thanksgiving, overtly displays the influences of his teacher’s Venetian style: a Baroque concerto in three movements of contrasting tempos and time signatures (with a slow middle movement in the relative minor key), ending with an emphatic and driving finale.
Bortniansky’s teacher, upon his return south to Venice, didn’t only work for San Marco; Galuppi also returned to work for a number of the Ospedali, in particular the Ospedale degl’Incurabili, for which he wrote in 1772 the setting of the Nunc dimittis heard tonight. Services in the Ospedali chapels were often sung in plainchant, yet for festal occasions, new music would have been the order of the day. Such an occasion is depicted in the picture by Gabriel Bella on display in the present exhibition, Orphan Girls Singing for the Dukes of the North.
Characteristic of the “galant style,” composers of this time often wrote out precisely the ornamentation they desired the singers and instrumentalists to perform. One such example is the Nunc’s second movement “Lumen ad revelationem” featuring firework vocalism by a soprano soloist. Galuppi’s manuscript (nearly illegible since he suffered from a Parkinson’s-like illness near the end of his life) notes the solo was for Serafina Teresia Miller, one of the residents of the Incurabili for whom a number of other composers wrote virtuosic arias. Miss Miller and her fellow performers would have never been visible, as all the women (singers and players) would have made their music behind a screen, something we have opted not to recreate for tonight’s performance.
For the second half of our program we open with a short concerto for strings by one of the city’s now most famous musical sons, Antonio Vivaldi. Its robust, processional opening invokes the Venetian penchant for ceremonial pomp. A cadential two-bar violin solo after the first moment leads into a jaunty set of variations on a repeated bass line.
The largest work on the program, Galuppi’s setting of Psalm 50 (51), was probably intended for use at the Holy Week service of Tenebrae prior to Easter, likely composed between 1740 and 1751 for the Ospedale dei Mendicanti, before Galuppi went to St. Petersburg. The scoring is for Soprano and Alto soloists as well as full chorus: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass. But how could it be that a work for mixed choir could be performed by an all-female ensemble? Musicologists have wrestled with this issue for some time, but current scholarship (and creative experimentation with living female singers) seems to indicate that there were indeed women in the Ospedali who could sing as low as the written bass part in these works. The bass part in the Miserere never goes below A, and usually stays in a higher range. Similar conclusions have been reached about Antonio Vivaldi’s famous Gloria, which was written for the all-female choir and orchestra of the Ospedale della Pietà, and presented convincingly by an all-female ensemble in a recent BBC documentary. For tonight’s performance we shall use a modern egalitarian component of the women and men.
Galuppi’s setting of Psalm 50 is divided into separate movements of contrasting tempos and scoring. Each movement, in good Baroque style, aims to depict a single affect or emotional state, often with colorful word painting through musical effects, throughout with “beauty, clarity, and good modulation.” The movements designated for soloists are particularly stirring in their harmonic tension and flourish, pushing the voices to the far limits of virtuosity to match that of their instrumental counterparts, an impressive artistic achievement among many that makes us even today want to keep up with Venetians.
CAPPELLA ROMANA, PORTLAND BAROQUE ORCHESTRA at the PORTLAND ART MUSEUM, conducted by Mark Bailey.
Program Notes for Venetian Baroque: Galuppi + Vivaldi + Bortniansky
The islands in the Venetian lagoon, which by the 8th century had banded together to ally themselves with the Empire of the Romans governed from Constantinople (Byzantium), quickly became one of the inhabited world’s great centers of power and wealth. Venice’s unusual geopolitical position as an independent, wealthy republic—which some now aim to restore by way of a public referendum to secede from Italy—still gives it a special place in the European imagination.
The powers of Europe envied Venice not least for the music that accompanied the city’s public rituals, many of which are still enacted today. These include its annual “Marriage to the Sea” on Ascension Day, depicted in the 1745 painting by Canaletto, on display in the present exhibition. Music went with the Venetian Carnival, with opera, and with the rituals of the Church in its confraternities, convents and ospedali, and imposing church edifices.
The most impressive Venetian church remains the 11th-century Basilica of San Marco, originally the Doge’s private chapel. Its Byzantine cross-in-square floorplan, under five domes encrusted with gold-ground mosaics, is thought to be modeled after the imperial mausoleum of Constantinople—the Church of the Apostles—and features numerous opposing galleries that span its live, resonant acoustical space. Composers of various ages took advantage of the long time-delays, with choirs of singers and instrumentalists performing antiphonally from the galleries.
The capacity of the basilica for dramatic musical effects was increased with the advent of the Baroque styles championed by Claudio Monteverdi and his successors. Bold and often dissonant harmonies and highly ornamented melodies created new levels of tension and emotional and spiritual effect, stunning listeners from all over Europe.
A century and a half after Monteverdi, composers continued to respond to the demand for music that followed the Baroque principles worked out in Venice. Tonight’s program presents music sometimes called “late Baroque,” “Roccoco,” or “Galante,” terms that betray a competition of attitudes towards music in the late 18th century. For music of this period to be great, it needed “beauty, clarity, and good modulation” (“vaghezza, chiarezza, e buona modulazione”), at least according to the Venetian composer featured most on tonight’s program, Baldassare Galuppi.
Trained by fellow Venetian Antonio Lotti (whose manuscript for a four-part Mass is on display in the present exhibition), Galuppi’s entire career was firmly rooted in Venice, where he was born in 1706. While credited as the father of comic opera (dramma giocoso), and known for his work in the ospedali (the famous orphanage-music schools for girls and women), his most important post—held from 1748 to his death in 1785—was head of music at San Marco.
The first verse-and-respond of Psalm 69 (70 in the Masoretic numbering) opens Vespers and every subsequent Hour in the Latin rite, and on ordinary days would be sung only in chant. On more festive occasions, especially at places like San Marco, the respond received more elaborate treatment with settings for larger forces. Galuppi’s 1778 setting of the latter type contrasts a soprano-alto duet with outbursts from the full ensemble.
Galuppi, unlike his older colleague, Antonio Vivaldi, is not now a household name. In his time, though, he was famous in Venice and beyond, even garnering attention as far away as St. Petersburg.
Russian culture in the 18th century continued looking firmly West for its sources of inspiration. In 1764, after hearing in St. Petersburg a series of Galuppi’s operas (attending incognito), Catherine the Great decided to invite Galuppi for a three-year contract, which he accepted.
During his sojourn in St. Petersburg, Galuppi composed operas, ballets, and music for banquets in exquisite Venetian style that charmed his patron and her court. Yet his activities in St. Petersburg went well beyond his contractual obligations. Upon hearing the Imperial Court Cappella (the Chapel Choir), he exclaimed “Un si magnifico cor, mai non sentito in Italia” (“I have never heard such a magnificent choir in Italy”). This encounter apparently inspired him to compose church music for his new favorite Cappella.
As the Orthodox Church proscribes the use of instruments in services, Galuppi faced both the challenge to find full musical expression using voices alone as well as to set Church Slavonic, the ancient liturgical language of the Russian Church, in way that was both true to his own Venetian voice and to the Church’s established traditions.
The hymn “Only-Begotten Son” by the Byzantine emperor Justinian (d. 565) is still sung in the Orthodox church today. Galuppi’s treatment contrasts traditional homophonic sections with those in counterpoint, closing with modulating repetitions on the words “save us.”
The complete Psalm 19 (20) appears in Orthodox morning prayer as part of the “Royal Office,” in which the church prays for the sovereign. Galuppi’s choral concerto setting of the psalm utilizes only some of the verses, indicating its possible use at other occasions, either at court (perhaps at one of the banquets stipulated in his contract) or at communion in a Divine Liturgy, a common practice at the time. Its form is similar to that of comparable instrumental concertos, with a series of sections contrasting in tempo, scoring (full ensemble vs. soloists), and formal treatment. The work ends with antiphonal acclamations on “Lord, save the King” followed by a fugue on “Hear us on the day we call upon you.”