Unusual Guerrero Mass Focus of Spring Singers’ Retreat

The Renaissance Singers’ Retreat will hold its spring session the weekend of April 6–7, 2019, once again in the city of Albany, in the East Bay. The Saturday session will be held at the all-purpose room at Cornell Elementary School, 920 Talbot Avenue (note corrected address), and the Sunday session at the Albany Community Center 1249 Marin Avenue. All good sight singers are welcome.

Following past practice, the Retreat convenes on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. with rehearsals continuing all day Saturday and Sunday morning. After a break for lunch, participants will reassemble for the Sunday afternoon rehearsal and a 4:00 p.m. performance at the Albany Community Center.

The format of the workshop remains the same—alternating between singing and lectures about the music.  This time, Director Bill Mahrt has chosen Francisco Guerrero’s Missa de Beata Virgine (II). This Mass differs from the usual Renaissance Mass in that each of the five movements is based upon different musical material, and the movements vary in mode. It is called a missa choralis (chant Mass), because each movement is based upon a chant melody prescribed for that movement. Thus, the Kyrie will be based upon a Gregorian Kyrie melody, the Gloria on one for a chanted Gloria, and so on. The melodies are those adopted by the Spanish church after the Council of Trent for feasts of the Blessed Virgin. We will read each of these chants before singing the polyphony based upon them. Guerrero published this Mass in 1582. He also published an earlier Missa de Beata Virgine (I) in 1566, based upon the traditional Spanish melodies from before the council. We will read one movement of that Mass just for comparison: We will also sing some of Guerrero’s many beautiful motets.

As always, the retreat features a continuous snack table, conviviality and glorious music. Participants are on their own for meals and overnight accommodations this time (no catered meals are included). Both the Senior Center and Community Center are just one block away from Solano Avenue, which has a good selection of fine restaurants, or attendees may bring their own food. There likely will be an even more generous snack table this time.

The fee for the workshop is $115, which includes all music. Scholarships are available. Please visit the Singers Retreat web page for further information or to register. Or contact Ralph Prince 510-778-3253, reprince@hotmail.com or Susan McRae 360-259-1231, paxpeace0@gmail.com.

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Written by Jonathan Harris
San Francisco Early Music Society