Concert venue

Church of St. Stephen

ul. Henryka Sienkiewicza 19, Kraków

Concert date

October 3, 2020; 8pm

Admission free

Beatitudines – The Old Polish Recipe for Happiness

The Polish Church Is Singing
In the face of a church-music crisis (concerning both repertoire and performance) appearing in the 19th century, the phenomenon of church singing made our nation stand out in Europe. In 1963, someone wrote in an anonymous questionnaire on Przewodnik Katolicki (the oldest weekly magazine in Poland, dedicated to social and religious issues): “Singing is the main way of participating in the Holy Mass today”. In the 21st century, we can still find places where people sing in churches, although, unfortunately, you can find more and more proves that “people ALREADY do not sing here”. However, the engaged singing, the bringing people together during the catholic service, remains within the reach of our memory. The genesis of the Polish church singing tradition is a very interesting subject. The codification of sacred songs, which happened in the middle of 19th century, is a proof of a diversion of repertoire, and shows its “layers”: from the “ancient” songs to the newer ones, in which we can see the influence of musical tendencies (e.g. the melodies and rhythms of the popular dances of certain time). There are several sources of the Polish sacred songs, and those are: the syllabic Gregorian chant singing, the late-medieval Latin monodic singing, Laudes Creaturarum of St. Francis, as well as the songs of Polish Protestants.
During this concert, the ensemble will present mostly music codified in the 16th century in the Protestant cantionals. One can notice the diverse indications of the repertoire’s vitality in the native language, as well as – quite unexpectedly – a whole network of connections with the catholic singing tradition. However, it should be pointed out that the songs of the Polish “reformed Christians” did not occur in an aesthetic void. Singing in the native language was the inseparable element of our church ceremonies starting from the Middle Ages. Much of the singing contained in the cantionals are the Polish translations of the popular Latin singing. The outstanding composers, like Wacław of Szamotuły or Cyprian Bazylik, who gained their musical education at the catholic institutions, played an important role in the process of shaping the music of Polish Protestants. The versatility of this repertoire is proved by the fact that a significant part of it has been later on taken over by the Counter-Reformation (Jesuits) and it survived further on in the catholic tradition, predominating quantitatively in Poland.
In the following centuries, Protestant music, just as the catholic one, was infected by the widely understood “modernism”. However, the catholic community cherished for a long time the idea of “tradition”, while the followers of the Counter-Reformation believed in the idea of “Sola Scriptura”, which was also reflected in the music. The codification of the Protestant songs (called “chorales”), and the strict following of the written notation, led to some kind of a rigidity of the repertoire.
The concert will reach to the times when the repertoire was still young and vivid. The new texts were still being written: both the original ones and the translations from Latin and German. Music was created ad hoc, or adapted from existing pieces. The cantionals very often indicated just the title of a melody supposed to be used for certain singing, or – at most – a tenor part of a multiphonic piece. Today, when there is a possibility to find all the parts of such composition, we have a chance to combine those elements into one whole. We will present in such way a number of pieces that have not been performed until now. The programme will be completed by the songs passed down from generation to generation, as well as the well-known 16th century compositions.
In terms of performance practice Jerycho refers to the vocal practice, which Bartosz Izbicki, the leader of the group, calls “not too objective”: it is based on an oral tradition, but at the same time confirmed also by the research sources (Peter Jeffrey mentions two types of singing at the Protestant congregations: “an old one” and “a new one”; the first being based on singing in long tones with the use of ornamentation), and the ethnomusicology research (e.g. the North American tradition of Sacred Harp singing).
However, a concert is neither a lecture, nor a compositional-reconstructive experiment. A focal point of tonight’s performance are the Beatitudes. The texts of the selected pieces will tell about the ones who are blessed (that is, happy), but also about who can become one. The ensemble will show how our ancestors used to ask for a blessing. We will hear about Whom, when, and how we should praise (that is, bless). Jerycho delivers the universal recipe for happiness, brought to us by the old Polish texts. Virtuoso instrumental parts performed by the members of Morgaine Ensemble will complete the performance.