The Rose Ensemble. Photo by Michael Haug Photography.
Winter weather may be here (hello, hail on Monday!), but the Rose Ensemble is still keeping things growing in these northern climates with a concert program entitled The Rose in Winter. This program, which will be presented December 15-18 in the Twin Cities and Duluth, includes 23 pieces of music. Here’s some trivia about the pieces on the program:
- Christe, qui lux es et dies Robert White (d. 1574)
Twenty-five years after Robert White’s death, Thomas Morley named him as one of the seven best composers of the Tudor period, listing him before the still-living William Byrd.
- Ysayas cecinit Anon. 12th-century French
The title refers to the Rod of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-10). Jesse’s son David became the famous shepherd, psalmist, and king; the “Rod of Jesse” refers both to his descendants and, in Christian iconography, to Jesus and his work.
- Quant repaire la verdor / Flos de spina rumpitur Anon. 13th-century French
The second set of lyrics are about flower picking. In medieval fashion, it all comes back to God and Mary somehow.
- Vidi civitatem sanctam Jan Tollius (ca. 1550 – post 1603)
Despite being a cathedral music master and court composer to the king of Denmark, Tollius was for much of the last several hundred years remembered for having some of his music borrowed by Claudio Monteverdi.
- Prudentes virgines Francisco Guerrero (1528 – 1599)
A musical setting of the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).
- Mediae noctis tempus est plainchant
A very popular Ambrosian hymn text set as a chant. Sung by monks at the night vigil.
- O lux beata Trinitas Michael Prætorius (1571 – 1621)
Born Michael Schultz, this son of a Lutheran pastor improved his marketability as a musician by adopting the Latin form of his family name.
- Of a rose sing we (instrumental) Anon. 15th -century English carol
A medieval Christmas carol. Some of its wordplay is lost in Modern English, e.g., “This rose, of flourys she is flour.”
- Flos florum Guillaume Dufay (1400 – 1474)
Although Dufay was one of the most celebrated composers of his age, changes in notation practice made his music unreadable and inaccessible to most musicians until modern editions became available in the 20th century.
- Fulgebunt iusti sicut lilium Orlando di Lasso (1532 – 1594)
In a shocking indiscretion, the Rose Ensemble cheats on its namesake flower by singing a piece whose title translates as “The just shall shine like lilies.”
- O Virga ac diadema Hildegard von Bingen (1098 – 1179)
This piece, part of Hildegard’s Symphony of the Harmony of Heavenly Revelations, is one of her compositions that led her to be tried for (and, fortunately acquired of) heresy.
- Virga Jesse (instrumental) Anon. 12th -century, arr. Bill McJohn
A well-placed instrumental break is a convenient to rest your voice and rehydrate.
- A Brighter Ray Victor Zupanc (b. 1959)
The world premiere of a piece commissioned for the Rose Ensemble by Roger and Virginia Wilson.
- A solis ortus cardine plainchant
This chant is a setting of a 5th-century Christmas poem by Coelius Sedulius. The verses form an acrostic: the first starts with the letter “a,” the second with a “b,” etc.
- Ecce, quod natura Anon. 15th-century English carol
This carol’s title translates loosely as “Behold, nature changes.” Like many carols it discusses the sinful nature of humanity in relation to the Virgin Mary.
- O frondens virga Hildegard von Bingen (1098 – 1179)
Listen for the sterling musical treatment of the word “liberare” (“free”).
- Sicut rosa inter spinas Orlando di Lasso (c. 1532-1594)
Lasso was appointed the master of music at St. John the Lateran Basilica in Rome at the age of 21, only to vacate the post after only one year.
- Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525 – 1594)
Palestrina got the Lateran Basilica job a year after Lasso left it.
- Ther is no rose of swych vertu Anon. (ca. 1420) English carol
The following line of lyrics, “As is the rose that bare Jhesù,” has amused choristers for centuries– in part because contemporary spelling practices meant that “bare” could be read as meaning naked or a large furry animal, in addition to the meaning “bore” (as in a child).
- Es ist ein Ros entsprungen Michael Prætorius (1571 – 1621)
A German rendition of what English singers usually know as “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming.”
- Hail, Mary, full of grace Anon. 15th-century English carol
By the time this carol was written, caroling had morphed from its original practice of singing and dancing in a circle – often in churches, sometimes in church services (to the consternation of ministers) – to an outdoor activity.
- Ave Maria – virgo serena (prima pars) Jean Mouton (1459 – 1522)
One of the master composers of his day, Mouton was so skilled that his music was frequently attributed to Josquin des Prez by later scribes who assumed that any such masterful music could have been written by no one else.
- Benedicite omnia opera Orazio Vecchi (1550 – 1605)
Vecchi is best known today for his numerous madrigal comedies – sets of comedic partsongs that collectively told a narrative.
The Rose Ensemble performs “The Rose in Winter” in Duluth, MN on Thursday, Dec. 15; in St. Paul, MN on Friday, Dec. 16; in Minneapolis, MN on Saturday, Dec. 17; and in Bloomington, MN on Sunday, Dec. 18.
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