Not well known music to be sung at Christmas concerts

The Renaissance Choir will be singing some music from the Renaissance that is probably not well known at its two Christmas concerts on 11 December and 12 December.

One piece is Philippe Verdelot’s “Beata es, Virgo Maria“. Verdelot (1480 to 1485 – c. 1530 to 1532?) was a French composer of the Renaissance, who spent most of his life in Italy. He is commonly considered to be the father of the madrigal.

Beata es, Virgo Maria,
quae Dominum portasti creatorem mundi:
Genuisti eum, qui te fecit,
et in aeternum permanes virgo.
Alleluia.
Ave Maria gratia plena, Dominus tecum

Blessed are you, O virgin Mary,
Who bore the Lord, the Creator of the Universe.
You brought forth him who made you,
and remain forever a virgin.
Alleluia.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.

Peter, our MD, found the Verdelot piece in a dusty corner (metaphorically) of the Choral Domain Public Library, which is a treasure trove of unpublished choral works. Mostly, the people who put their arrangements on the site (for free public use), aren’t musicians. Instead, they simply love sequencing (arranging music for computer).

What is intriguiung is that Beata es Virgo Maria is significantly dissimilar to the style of his other sacred pieces, showing a much more advanced harmonic style. He’s therefore fairly sure it’s misattributed and think it’s more likely to be from a later period, probably by Palestrina.

Another fairly obscure piece is “Inviolata, integra es Maria“. Inviolata is one of the most beautiful pieces from the late mediaeval Flemish school. Full of vitality, it is a Gregorian chant which has been added to by the compositional tool known as Organum. This technique was the first form of harmony, and adds decoration to the otherwise gentle movement of plainchant.

The music comes from the Beguine school in the Low Countries and is found in its original state in a beautiful illustrated manuscript in at the Begijnghofmuseum Turnhout in Belgium (pictured).

Although we don’t think that there is a published edition of this work, Peter our MD knew of an “aide-memoire” (musical equivalent of shorthand) transcription made by Dr Andrew Beard from Denver Master Ensemble (a high-calibre American ensemble), for which he obtained permission for us to use.