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ISSUE 118 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/29/2005

Early music singers reinvigorate Renaissance music

By Ben Mlodzik
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 29, 2005

The music of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries rang out from Urness Recital Hall Friday night as St. Olaf’s Early Music Singers and Collegium Musicum performed their spring concert.

The concert included both sacred Latin mass music (a Vespers psalm) and secular music (medieval folk songs and passages from Virgil’s Aeneid set to music by Renaissance composers).

Gerald Hoekstra, St. Olaf music professor and director of both the Singers and the instrumental Collegium, said that this concert’s non-thematic structure allowed him to choose some of his favorite music, such as the work of Josquin des Prez.

The Early Music Singers took the stage first, performing songs they had sung earlier in the year for a mass at St. Agnes Catholic Church in St. Paul and for a Lent service in Boe Chapel. These were followed by the Aeneid pieces, after which the Collegium performed.

The Collegium plays replicas of Renaissance instruments such as the viol, recorder and sackbut, to recreate the authentic sound of the music from the period.

After a variety of lively songs, the two groups performed the finale, which included the Vespers psalm “Dixit Dominus” set by Giovanni Antonio Rigatti, a rich and stirring piece from the 17th century.

Hoekstra incorporates his own scholarly research in giving the groups an historically accurate sound. With the Singers, this means, among other things, using a medieval tuning system.

For the Collegium, he uses only instruments that were used in the Renaissance period. Thus, the groups are able to replicate the sounds of an era which preceded sound recording.

For Hoekstra, who also teaches music history, performing Renaissance music with the two ensembles is exciting both because it gives “a richer picture of what the period was like” and because he can share his own love for “early” music.

“Some students develop a lifelong love for this music,” Hoekstra said.

Any St. Olaf student, regardless of his or her major, can join the Early Music Singers or the Collegium Musicum, although most singers study voice privately and most members of the Collegium play a modern instrument similar to their historic instrument.

Auditions for membership the following year are held in the spring.

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