Renaissance horns enhance Rose Ensemble’s Spanish requiem

| Melenie Soucheray for The Catholic Spirit | February 20, 2015 | 0 Comments
The Rose Ensemble and Dark Horse Consort will perform “The Requiem of Pedro de Escobar” Feb. 26-28 in Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis, with shows at St. Bernard and the Basilica of St. Mary. Courtesy The Rose Ensemble

The Rose Ensemble and Dark Horse Consort will perform “The Requiem of Pedro de Escobar” Feb. 26-28 in Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis, with shows at St. Bernard and the Basilica of St. Mary. Courtesy The Rose Ensemble

Lent is a time of prayer, penance and sacrifice in preparation for the resurrection of Christ on Easter. The Rose Ensemble, an award-winning vocal group, will provide the season’s soundtrack.

With special guest Dark Horse Consort, the North American premiere of “The Requiem of Pedro de Escobar” will be performed Feb. 27 at the Church of St. Bernard, St. Paul, and Feb. 28 at the Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis. It will also be staged Feb. 26 at the Sacred Heart Music Center, Duluth.

Jordan Sramek, founder and artistic director of The Rose Ensemble, planned this candlelight production to fill what he believes is his audience’s need to be in a beautiful church, in contemplation, immersed in gorgeous music.

“We’re about the Old World,” explained Sramek. “[This program] brings us straight to the heart of the kingdom of Castile and Lyon, and this incredible time in the late 15th century in Spain. This is when the so-called ‘Catholic kings’ were in a huge position of power. They were using language and the printed word as a means by which to demonstrate the sheer musical forces of their courts and their chapels.”

Pedro de Escobar was born in Portugal in 1465 and made his way into the court of Queen Isabella I of Castile in 1489. The 15th century was a busy time in Spanish secular and religious history. The Inquisition began in 1481. Christopher Columbus set sail for India and dropped anchor in the Caribbean Sea. The Renaissance was at its mid-point. St. Ignatius of Loyola was evolving from a wealthy young soldier to the founder of the Society of Jesus — The Jesuits.

Sramek said Escobar was a prolific composer, but little of his work survives.  Among the exceptions is this requiem Mass, a liturgy for the dead that could have been part of a funeral. The Latin word “requiem” is related to the words “rest” and “repose.”

The original source material has been transcribed into this new edition in Madrid.

“The magnitude of this Mass in and of itself is remarkable; but, to have a new edition is important,” Sramek said. “This is the modern day North American premiere of this work, as far as we know.”

The performance will include musical parts for the entire Mass, but it will not be an actual liturgy.

“We’ve been joking in the Ensemble there will be everything but genuflecting in this performance — genuflecting and the sermon,” Sramek said with a chuckle. “We’re doing all of the chants. The Gospel and Epistle will be chanted. You don’t hear something like this every day, because to re-create an entire Mass is a fairly involved process.”

North American premiere

  • Sacred Heart Music Center, Duluth, Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.
  • St. Bernard, St. Paul, Feb. 27, 8 p.m.
  • The Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis, Feb. 28, 8 p.m.

Ticket prices vary.
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Creative collaboration

For this program, the Rose Ensemble is working with Dark Horse Consort, which is based in San Francisco.

“I have been lucky enough to play with the Rose Ensemble twice previously,” said Greg Ingles, the consort leader. The group is comprised of early music artists who play a repertoire of late Renaissance and early baroque music for brass.

“Jordan thought adding early brass to his Escobar Requiem program would add aural interest and an essence of authenticity,” said Ingles.

That authenticity includes a sackbut, an instrument also known as a Renaissance trombone.

“Greg is, in my humble opinion, North America’s finest sackbut player. Let me tell you something, the sackbut is very difficult to play,” Sramek said. “He makes that instrument sound so serene.”

Ingles’ group also features a cornetto, an instrument made of animal horn.

“It’s going to be sounding the highest notes and used with women,” Sramek said. “The cornetto has no modern equivalent. The instrument was made to sound like human voice. I don’t know how to describe it because there’s nothing like it.”

He predicted that when the sounds of the sackbut and cornetto are “interpolated and embedded into the texture of our voices, that’s when the magic is really going to happen.”

Educational outreach

A few days before the Duluth and Twin Cities performances, Dark Horse Consort will join the Rose Ensemble for rehearsals as well as public master classes and education outreach appearances.

On Feb. 23 at 7 p.m., the collaborators will be at the St. Anthony Park Branch Library, 2245 Como Ave., St. Paul, to talk about the Escobar Mass and the instruments.

An hour prior to each performance of the Mass, the audience is invited to join Sramek and others for a pre-concert discussion.

“These are pretty hard-core contextual lectures,” said Sramek. “In the period of 40 minutes, we are giving the audience as much information as we can.”

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