The Renaissance polyphony Weekend under the direction of Dr. William Mahrt celebrated its twentieth anniversary on February 18-20th.
Each year, lovers of great polyphony gather together in Dallas for a full weekend of singing music of the great European polyphonic masters. This year, in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Vespers of 1610 by the Venetian master Claudio Monteverdi, director William Mahrt chose late a mass setting of Monteverdi, a motet by his forerunner Luca Marenzio, motets by other less-know but fine composers including, Sebastian de Vivanco (1550-1622), Jacobo Gallus (1550 – 1591), and the proper chants for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary time.
The value of such a weekend intensive lies in the opportunity to learn and know the music of the great polyphonic masters from the inside out. To understand this music, to experience it fully, it music be sung. This, year, we were able to experience a mass by a master of both the prima prattica and the seconda prattica, terms as Dr. Mahrt pointed out, were coined by Monteverdi himself. The mass is a fascinating amalgamation of the two styles, both the ‘old’ polyphonic species counterpoint, and the ‘new’ homophonic/basso continuo style where text painting was key. Although the Nuove Musiche originated in the development of the solo song and madrigal, by such composers as Caccini and Marenzio (represented this weekend by his motet “O Sacrum Convivium”), It is clear that Monteverdi was the most important representative of this style, and truly innovative in bringing it into church music.
Fr. Ralph March, O.Cist, chant scholar and long-time professor of music at the University of Dallas, celebrated the Novus Ordo in Latin at Holy Trinity Seminary, on the campus of the University of Dallas. Fr. March presented a thought provoking homily of the nature of God reflected in beauty and music for the liturgy, and our response and participation in this mystery.
The choir, from all over Texas and the Southern United States, numbered about 50. Thanks go to the organizers of the weekend, and especially the seminarians of Holy Trinity Seminary.
Dr. Gregory Hamilton
Holy Trinity Seminary, Diocese of Dallas.