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Music for the mystic Lamb

Practical Information

Performed by:

Mixed a cappella choir (24 singers), narrator: Peter Schmidt

Length

1h 30' without a break

Venue – light – sound

– Performance space with a good acoustic, preferably a church

– A free space of minimum 6m broad, 5m high and 2m deep is required for the setting up of the retable.

– A minimum of 2 helpers for our technicians with regards the assembling and dissembling of the retable.

– 1 microphone (preferably cordless)

Theme – period

The Mystic Lamb can be performed at any time of year

Language

Latin – English – Dutch

What?

In order to reflect twelve important themes from 'The Mystic Lamb', painted by the Van Eyck brothers, Bible expert, Professor Dr. Peter Schmidt, chose beautiful choral works from throughout our European musical history: from Gregorian Chant to Gorecki.

How the project came into being

The early years of AQUARIUS – before AQUARIUS was called by that name – are linked with the former  episcopal seminary in Ghent, that was housed in charming premises, close to the centre and to the episcopal palace. The seminary had the use of a very beautiful, warm chapel that had an exceptional acoustic. For many years, AQUARIUS gave a concert series there, performing an international choral repertoire for a Flemish public. That seminary was managed at that time by Peter Schmidt, Bible expert, canon, renowned authority on the Mystic Lamb, and fervent music lover. AQUARIUS shared with him his love of Norbert Rosseau's music (190-1975) and more particularly for Rosseau's unsurpassed Matthew Passion. AQUARIUS has promoted this work for ten years, during which time Peter Schmidt has sometimes written programme notes or given a short introduction.

It was only when AQUARIUS had to leave the seminary that the idea to create a project concerning the Van Eyck brothers' retable, the Mystic Lamb, was born; the Mystic Lamb, that is displayed only a short distance from the seminary in the St Bavo's Cathedral. It was an obvious decision to involve an expert such as Peter Schmidt. And how! The idea was to illustrate each of the twelve panels with an appropriate a cappella choral work. Peter Schmidt chose all the pieces and performs as narrator during the concert. He has written a brilliant introduction for the programme booklet as well as the commentaries that accompany each panel and musical work.

What music?

A great expert on sacred music, Peter Schmidt surprised us with a soundly structured choice of music: three totally different Agnus Deis (by Palestrina, Brahms and Barber) are the clear pillars (the central panel) and two Ave Marias (by Victoria and Verdi), a Magnificat (Pärt) and a Salve Regina (Poulenc) illustrate the prominent place taken by the Mother of God in the retable.

For the first time, AQUARIUS ventures to offer a programme of music from across European musical history. Peter Schmidt's surprising choices traverse the centuries and allow you to discover many an unknown pearl (by Ord, MacPherson, Rosseau). That Gregorian chant, and Hildegard Von Bingen are represented is, of course, because of the period to in which the painters lived. A daring 'Amen' that represents the retable in its entirety, written by the Polish eccentric Gorecki, brings this musical and pictorial journey to an end.

Looking slowly

AQUARIUS also wants to try an experiment with its audience. The programme booklet has become a work of art, containing extremely beautiful pictures of the panels and of details therefrom. While listening to each musical work, the listener has ample time to give his eyes a treat and discover the inspired heights achieved in these pictures through the skill of the brothers Jan and Hubert Van Eyck. A slowing down, in times when everything must be hip, cool and flashy.

A life-size replica

The legendary retable is on display in the St Bavo's Cathedral (part is being restored). It would be unthinkable to move it. To make the audience's experience more intense, there is a masterful, life-size replica to be seen on the stage, behind and above the choir. It is an example of the art of high-technology reproduction.

Also on CD/DVD: to prolong the experience of this concert, there is a CD containing all the musical compositions and a DVD that is something quite different from a simple filming of the concert: it offers an extremely original montage of the singing choir, the narrator, and close-ups of the sublime paintings.

Program

I. LOWER REGISTER PANELS, CLOSED VIEW: the two donors of this painting and two stone sculptures of John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist.

(1) HILDEGARD VON BINGENO Quam Mirabilis”

(2) Ut queant laxis… (leaves us with loose strings…°, Hymen of Vespers of June 24, the feast of the nativity of John the Baptist. (Liber usualis p. 1504). Very interesting, because this hymn was used to name the tones (ut, re, mi, fa etc.). Approx. 2'30"

(3) Alleluia, Hic est discipulus (Alleluia, this is the student…), Alleluia for the Gospel of 27 December, Feast of the nativity of John the Evangelist. Approx. 2'

II. UPPER FRONT PANEL, CLOSED VIEW: ADAM AND EVE: the origin of sin and of the history of salvation in the theology of the altarpiece.

(4) ORD, Boris, Adam Lay Ybounden (medieval English text) approx. 1'15"

(5) MACPHERSON, Charles, “Psalm 130: De Profundis clamavi at te (Out of the Deep have I called unto thee; sung in English). Setting for the psalm liturgy of St-Pauls Cathedral in London. approx. 3'15".

III. UPPER PANELS, CLOSED VIEW: PROPHETS ANS SIBYLS

(6) KODALY, Soltan, Veni, veni Emmanuel (Come o come Emmanuel). The composer’s own harmonization of a traditional Christmas song that plead for the arrival of Christ. approx. 3'45"

IV. MAIN REGISTER PANELS, CLOSED VIEW: THE ANNUNCIATION

(7) DE VICTORIA, Tomas Luis, “Ave Maria” 8 voci. Approx. 5'

(8) VERDI, Giuseppe, “Ave Maria” (from 4 Pezzi Sacri). Approx. 5

V. CENTRAL UPPER PANEL, OPEN VIEW: CHRIST THE KING

(9) BRUCKNER, Anton, “Christus factus est pro nobis” (Christ was made obedient for us till death; that is why God has raised him high), motet. Approx. 4'15"

VI. LOWER CENTRAL PANEL, OPEN VIEW: THE LAMB OF GOD

(10) DE RORE, Cypriaan, “Agnus Dei” from the “Missa propter rerum seriem”. Approx. 5'30"

VII. LOWER CENTRALPANEL, OPEN VIEW: LAMB SURROUNDED BY ANGELS

(11) ROSSEAU, Norbert: words of institution of the Eucharist from Saint Matthew's passion (IV motet). The Mystic Lamb is in the vision of Van Eyck clearly the Eucharistic Lamb. Approx. 2 45.

VIII. LOWER SIDE PANELS, OPEN VIEW: JUDGES, KNIGHTS, HERMITS AND PILGRIMS.

(12) HILDEGARD VON BINGEN, “De Martiribus”

(13) BRAHMS, Johannes, “Agnus Dei” from the “Missa Canonica” op. posth. Approx. 5'30"

IX. CENTRAL UPPER PANEL LEFT, OPEN VIEW: MARY QUEEN OF HEAVEN

(14) POULENC, Francis, Salve Regina". Approx. 4'15"

X. LOWER CENTRAL REGISTER, OPEN VIEW (or part of it)

(15) BARBER, Samuel, “Agnus Dei”. Approx. 6 30

XI. UPPER SIDE PANELS, OPEN VIEW :ANGELS SING AND MAKE MUSIC (they sing and praise for the salvation):

(16) Arvo Pärt, “Magnificat” (song about the salvation of Israel). Approx. 7'

XII. THREE FIGURES ON THE TRONE OR THE WHOLE OPEN ALTARPIECE

(17) GORECKI, H.M., “Amen”. Approx. 5'45"

 

Some pictures of the concert on 8th november 2011 in the cathedral of Hasselt :

   
© ALLROUNDER