Performing the Scholarship: Vespers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

VFIC Poster

Vespers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is an interdisciplinary concertized vespers service that combines new music, jazz, baroque music, Christian liturgy and musicological scholarship. It is scored for a quartet of vocal soloists, string quartet, basso continuo, and jazz piano trio. The composition is being written for the “Performing the Scholarship” recital series, which is sponsored by the Sacred Music Program at the University of Notre Dame.

The premiere performance will take place on December 7th, 2014, the eve of the day that Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This composition is unique in the sense that it’s premiere performance will be ritualized as part of the Christian Prayer for the specific feast. The composition will resemble structurally Claudio Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespro della Beata Vergine.

The middle section of the Vespers Service will be constituted of entirely new music, with the jazz piano trio assuming the role of the basso continuo group. The composition incorporates Baroque scholarship and music from the 17th century, juxtaposing this style with jazz. It examines the traditional role of basso continuo and how it relates musically to the contemporary role of the jazz piano trio.

The composition is bookended by two pieces from the Baroque: “Salve Regina a 3” by Giacomo Carissimi and “Magnificat H.72” by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Modern performing editions of these compositions are not available: I am re-constructing performing editions from facsimiles of the original manuscripts guided by Dr. Alexander Blachly, musicologist and founder/director of the GRAMMY-Award winning vocal group Pomerium; Dr. Mary Frandsen; and Dr. Pierpaolo Polzonetti. 

The resulting work will develop a game of exchanges between two musical universes. Separated by historical time and instrumentation, these universes still continually affect each other, providing timbrical innovations and narrative nuances that can exist only in the liminal space opened through their constant dialogue. It is my aim as a composer to manage these interactions in a way that delivers their own organic logic.