Keeping Your Head:
The Peril and Power of Sacred Choral Music in the English Renaissance

Friday, June 1
St. Mary's Church
15 Clark St., Auburn

Saturday, June 2
8:00 PM
St. Anne Church
1600 Mt. Hope Ave., Rochester

 British musicians of the age associated with Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and their immediate successors often wrote music in the preferred style of the monarchs by whom they were employed.  Failing to make this adaptation to the tastes of the ruler then in power put a composer literally at risk of “losing his head”.  As changing monarchs alternated their loyalties between Roman Catholicism and support for the Church of England, composers skillfully adapted the music to remain in the ruling monarch’s favor. None was more able than William Byrd, who enjoyed the exclusive royal patent for printing music from the protestant Queen
Elizabeth I in spite of his known Roman Catholic sympathies.

In this concert presented by Musica Spei -- a Rochester-based choral group dedicated to bringing early music to life for modern audiences -- listeners will experience samplings of choral pieces from the early English Renaissance, representing composers such as Dunstable and Fayrfax, as well as examples of plainchant and early music for multiple voice parts.  The second half of the performance will feature composers Tye, Taverner, Tallis, and, of course, Byrd: music closely associated with the reign of Elizabeth I.

Receptions to follow both performances.

My Chosen Vineyard:


Friday, march 30
7:30 PM
St. Anne Church
1600 Mt. Hope avenue
rochester, NY

    On Good Friday, Musica Spei and Oliver Brett, St. Anne's Director of Music, will perform a reflective concert featuring sacred Renaissance choral works, a double piano work by Schubert and a piano/French horn duet by Schumann. The audience will experience the pensive sounds of Lheritier’s Miserere mei, domine, which features a cantus firmus sung in canon. A kaleidoscope of harmonic tensions dominate works such as Monteverdi’s Adoramus te and de Lasso’s Timor et tremor, which captures the passion of the season. Gesualdo’s Vinea mea evinces the betrayal and despair depicted in the Good Friday story.

    Interspersed between sets of sacred Renaissance music, Oliver Brett and Thomas Gaymor will perform Schubert’s Fantasia in F minor, which has been characterized as one of Schubert’s greatest compositions for piano duet. In addition, Mr. Brett and French hornist, Dan Hively, will perform Schumann’s Drei Fantasiestücke Op. 73, a passionate work with contrasting moments of deep introspection followed by bursts of euphoria.

    The concert will close with Tomas Luis de Victoria’s somber Tenebrae factae sunt as the sanctuary lights are gradually dimmed to total darkness.

Dedication concert: St. Pius X

Friday, March 23
7:30 PM
St. Pius x church
3110 Chili Avenue
Rochester, NY


On March 25, 1436, Pope Eugene IV processed to the High altar while
hearing the soaring sounds of Guillaume Dufay’s newly commissioned
work, Nuper rosarum flores:

In spite of the terrible winter, rose flowers,
A gift of the Pope, now decorate this church
Forever dedicated to you, heavenly virgin,
Pious and holy:
This church with its great dome.

Almost 600 years later, Musica Spei brings to life Dufay’s master work to
help celebrate St. Pius X Church’s rebirth. It is said that Dufay
incorporated the mathematical proportions of the new cathedral’s dome
in this composition.  Like the stout beams of this new church’s ceiling, in
Nuper rosarum flores, the two tenor voices, singing a traditional
Gregorian chant, provide a structure that supports the other four vocal

The program also features several other Renaissance works composed
for the Lenten season, including Victoria’s reflective Tenebrae factae
sunt and Monteverdi’s passionate Adoramus te. When David Heard, by
Weelkes, captures the devastating loss of David’s son, Absalom, while
Lassus’ Dextera Domini sheds rays of light during the darkest hours of
the Easter Vigil. In addition, the joyous anonymous medieval carol
Angelus ad virginem is performed in celebration of the upcoming feast of
the Annunciation on March 25. These rarely performed works inspire
reflection, evoke beauty and summon hope for our world.  

During the course of the program, members of Musica Spei will
comment on the pieces and provide insight into their collaborative
rehearsal and performance practices.

Natus est nobis: A Renaissance Christmas

Friday, December 15
St. Mary Church
15 Clark St., Auburn

Saturday, December 16
8:00 PM
St. Anne Church
1600 Mt. Hope Ave., Rochester


Musica Spei presents a collection of musical gems exploring the mystery and wonder of the holiday season.  The audience will be captivated by the sounds of jubilation and contemplation from a variety of Renaissance composers such as Lassus, Marenzio, Palestrina, Weelkes, and Willaert.  The music will feature English and Latin texts from St. Nicholas Day and Christmas and will weave 4, 5, and 6 voice parts into intricate harmonies throughout.  Take a break from the mad rush of the holiday season, and treat yourself to this unique event that will rejuvenate your spirit!