The Saint Vincent Camerata Scholars have produced a CD of sacred choral music from the early Renaissance period distributed internationally by Jade Music, a division of Milan Entertainment of Paris and Los Angeles. It is entitled, A Blessed Day Has Dawned, Sacred Choral Music: Pasestrina, Laude, Gregorian Chant. The CD includes the English Translation of Palestrina’s Mass for Christmas (Dies Sanctificatus Illuxcit Nobis).
Father Stephen Concordia, O.S.B., director, said that the CD contains 18 works organized around the Mass for Christmas composed by famed Italian composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.
“This project was performed by 14 singers who also sing with the larger Camerata group,” Father Stephen said, “but these works are more appropriate for a smaller choir.”
“We took parts of the Mass from Palestrina’s composition including the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei,” Father Stephen said. “What Palestrina did, which was very common and popular at that time, was to take melodies from other compositions and use them in the Mass. Earlier in his life, he had written a piece for the day of Christmas—a motet—which was very popular all over Europe. At another point in his life he wrote a Mass based on his motet with all of the popular themes that people would recognize. It is one of the ways that composers were connecting with their audience. He wanted the Mass to have a kind of unity with the same melodies throughout.
That was an idea that was very popular during the Renaissance and composers of church music still do that today.
“The Mass is the center of our CD recording. We also added a few works of Gregorian chant including an introit (first song), alleluia, a gospel of the day, a communion antiphon and a hymn. We have also included three laude spirituali for the Christmas season.”
“In a way, we are trying to capture what a Renaissance Mass would have sounded like,” Father Stephen said, “because in the Renaissance it would be common to have the introit sung in Gregorian chant and then the subsequent parts composed by Palestrina.”
The Camerata Scholars have performed the works on the CD previously at both the Saint Vincent Basilica and at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Pittsburgh. The music was recorded in the Saint Vincent Basilica during the summer by Josh Gunther, a baritone singer in the group who also works as a sound engineer for WAOB Radio in Latrobe.
The CD can be purchased for $15.98 from the Saint Vincent College Book Store, Basilica Gift Shop or Gristmill Coffeehouse Gift Shop or online from www.stvincentstore.com, as well as other online venues.