Musicking & Saint Cecilia

“Cultural Considerations”

Since John Butt renamed musical practice of the “early music revival” that has developed from the 1960s on as Historically Informed Performance (HIP) now almost of couple of decades ago, many have also used such terms as Historically Inspired Performance, Historical Performance Practice (HPP), and other variations upon the same theme. However, the more this discipline has settled within academia, the more the adverb historically seems to impose some sort of limitation. Answers to questions about performance practices are often found outside the score to be sure, even outside the strictly musical context. Nevertheless, they cannot always be found in their historical context only, but also in their literary, sociological, economic, artistic, ethnic, gender, … in short, in their general cultural context. Ethnomusicology has taught us that an awareness of the full cultural context of music making is key to its specific understanding. Performance practice studies are beginning to take the same approach, where cultural understanding provides more comprehensive answers to performance questions of music of both the past and the present.

– Marc Vanscheeuwijck, Artistic Director

Saint Cecilia in EcstasySantaCecilia_2

This 17th-century depiction of Saint Cecilia playing the violin is attributed to an anonymous late 17th-century Italian painter who worked in the style of Bolognese artist Guido Reni. The painting belongs to the Neville Collection in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus.  

Saint Cecilia is the patron saint of music and musicians. A Roman Christian martyr of the late 2nd and early 3rd century, she probably became the patroness of music sometime in the late Middle Ages, though nobody exactly knows why. It may be that she became assimilated with music, singing, and musical instruments because of a misinterpretation of the meaning of the antiphon text to the introit of the second vespers for her feast day (22 November). The text is Cantantibus organis, Cecilia virgo in corde suo soli Domino decantabat dicens: fiat Domine cor meum et corpus meum inmaculatum ut non confundar. One of the problems was the erroneous translation of “organis” (instruments) as “organ.” Indeed, starting in the late 14th century, she began to appear in iconography carrying a small portative organ, though later she was also represented playing the viola da gamba (Domenichino), the theorbo (Saraceni), or the violin, as in the present painting. She is often depicted with one or more angels who sing or play an instrument. 

In our 2019 season, we bring Saint Cecilia center stage with our culminating concert featuring Quirino Colombani’s Roman oratorio, Santa Cecilia  (c. 1700-30), performed on Friday, May 17th at 7:30 p.m. in Central Lutheran Church, Eugene. As was common in Italian oratorios of this period, Colombani’s Santa Cecilia is a dramatic telling of the saint’s martyrdom – one which does not focus on narrative events, but that instead dives deep into Cecilia’s inner devotionality and gushes with heartfelt (and at times erotic) expressions of divine love. Join us for our pre-concert lecture, held in Central Lutheran Church at 6:45 p.m., where we’ll explore Colombani’s musical depictions of divine rapture, followed by a musical evening of celestial love, ecstasy, and death.

 

 Marc Vanscheeuwijck, Artistic Director and Holly Roberts, Executive Director

* The Musicking conference is free and open to the public. Click HERE to donate to the conference and keep Musicking  free for our community.

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