Spain’s premier boychoir, Escolania de Montserrat, founded in the Catalonia region in the 13th century and considered one of Europe’s oldest continuously operating boychoirs and music schools, makes its Southern California debut in a free concert presented by the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (LACC) on Saturday, July 8, at 7 pm, at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church.
The 800-year-old chorus, led by Llorenç Castelló, is affiliated with the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat, located in Monistrol de Montserrat, and is “unique even among boychoirs…(for its) richer and darker…red wine…type of sound,” wrote the Washington Post. The choir’s repertoire will span the ages – from Gregorian chant and the music of Victoria and Schubert to works by contemporary Spanish-Catalan composers such as Albert Guinovart, Francesc Civil and Bernat Vivancos, the latter two being Escolania de Montserrat graduates.
The LACC’s Concert Choir, led by Artistic Director Anne Tomlinson, will perform a selection of classical works and folk songs on the program as well. Escolania de Montserrat’s LA appearance, featuring 29 boys, is the final stop on its second U.S. tour, which also included performances in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
For the concert, Castelló will conduct the Gregorian Chant Germinans germinabit; Duo Seraphim by 16th Century Spanish composer T.L. Victoria; Vivancos’ Salve Regina; and Ave Maria by Schubert/Vivancos. Also featured will be Guinovart’s Bestiolari and two works by Civil – La gata i el belitre and La Mare de Déu.
Escolania de Montserrat’s unique history evolved in conjunction with the Benedictine abbey, which was founded in the 10th century on a mountain precipice more than 4,000 feet above the valley floor. By the 13th century, a small group of boys were already serving in the abbey and Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montserrat, singing and playing musical instruments for communal prayers. The abbey’s tradition of providing musical training for boys subsequently became formalized into a school – the Escolania de Montserrat. Throughout the centuries, a number of remarkable composers and performers have been spawned from the so-called Montserrat Music School.
The Escolania, which accepts both boarding and day students, is currently comprised of more than 50 boys, ranging from 9- to 14-years-old, who come from across Catalonia. While undertaking intensive music studies at Montserrat, the boys also receive primary and secondary school educations. The choristers (called escolans in Catalan) are required to plays two instruments – the piano and another instrument of their choice – participate in the orchestra and sing in the choir. The majority of the choristers, when they leave Montserrat, continue their musical studies, many developing into highly regarded singers, instrumentalists and conductors. Today, as in the past, choristers perform during religious ceremonies and participate in daily prayer in the sanctuary, singing for pilgrims who visit the Benedictine abbey from around the world. In addition to providing fundamental musical training to its choristers and using music to promote peace, one of the other objectives of the Escolania is to champion the sacred music of composers both renowned and lesser known, including the composers of Montserrat.
Tickets for this performance are free. For more information, you can visit lachildrenschorus.org or call (626) 793-4231. The Pasadena Presbyterian Church is located at 585 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101
Photo: Escolania de Montserrat outside Montserrat / Credit Escolania de Montserrat / used with permission
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