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Finding the source: Sacred musical treasures from Gaule to Solesmes

Post date: Saturday 18 Sep 2021

This exhibition showcases music and books from CCI’s Old Library and Historical Archives collections that illustrate the story of a particular type of religious music called plainchant.

This exhibition showcases music and books from CCI’s Old Library and Historical Archives collections that illustrate the story of a particular type of religious music called plainchant.Singing and music have been an integral part of Christian worship from the earliest days of the Church. Over the centuries, a body of chant called plainchant was composed to accompany the liturgy – sung in unison, unaccompanied, and without a fixed rhythm, it became known as Gregorian chant in the Roman church. Throughout the Renaissance, it was gradually eclipsed by elaborate polyphonic compositions. However a renewed surge of interest in plainchant developed from the 19th century, first in Germany within the Cecilian movement and then encouraged by the publications of the influential Benedictine monks of Solesmes.

Scientific direction:
Dr Mary Louise O’Donnell, Musicologist and musician, Fulbright Scholar 2019/20, Research Fellow at the CCI in 2019.
French translation by Virginie Trachsler

This fascinating story of decline and revival is complemented by a number of original recordings by contemporary musicians who have been invited to adapt or reinterpret some of the scores in the exhibition: Sam Comerford, Rioghnach Connolly, Garth Knox, Oscar Mascarenas, Nick Roth & Olesya Zdorovetska, Catherine Sikora Mingus & Eric Mingus.

Garth Knox

D’Amore Vespers, multi-track viola d’amore, 5'24"

The title refers to the memory contained in the vesper manuscripts and the corresponding memory of the viola d’amore and its sympathetic strings. The recording was made in the CCI Chapel.Garth Knox is a pioneer of the viola d’amore, exploring its possibilities in new music, with and without electronics, and is in the process of creating a new repertoire for this instrument. He has been a member of several ensembles in the past and also collaborates regularly in theatre and dance projects.

Olesya Zdorovetska & Nick Roth
I Vespers for Feast of Saint Patrick, Voice, piano, soprano saxophone + electronics

“When setting the Vespers we were inspired by the sense of historical weave that permeates the chapel of the Centre Culturel Irlandais; nestled below the haven of the Old Library, this is a space in which a wealth of music now touches the past while reaching towards the future. It was a great honour to take part in this exhibition, and add our voices to the choir of the present in its lilting dance with the past.”Nick Roth is a saxophonist, composer, producer and teacher. His work explores the liberation of improvisation from composition, the impact of natural form on technology and the contemporary interpretation of traditional music.Olesya Zdorovetska is a vocalist and composer. She crosses the fields of improvised, jazz, Afro-Caribbean, contemporary classical and experimental music.Both Nick and Olesya are experienced improvisers who have worked in a range of styles.

Ríoghnach Connolly is a flautist and vocalist involved in multiple bands and projects. She was voted the BBC2 Folk Singer of the Year 2020. She is particularly skilled at reinterpreting traditional song.

Sam Comerford
Vespers for St. Patrick, 5'34" Bb clarinet, piano, tenor saxophone, bass saxophone

This setting of the "Vespers for St. Patrick" was composed and recorded during the longest, darkest lockdown in Comerford's basement studio in Brussels. The melody is played directly from the manuscript found in CCI's archives on clarinet, with a new setting composed and performed by Comerford on piano, clarinet and saxophones.A graduate in Jazz Saxophone from the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, Sam Comerford is an award-winning improviser and composer from Dublin. He works with numerous projects and is interested in creating new music and exploring the history and sound of the saxophone.

Catherine Sikora Mingus & Eric Mingus

Tenor and soprano saxophonist, improviser and composer, Catherine Sikora Mingus has devoted her life to researching the magic of that sound with her saxophones.Eric Mingus is a renowned jazz musician, singer and composer. His music shows influences from many forms: blues, jazz, electronics…Catherine and Eric have worked together frequently and released the album “Chrysalis” in 2018.

Óscar Mascareñas
Midday Vespers(St. Patrick’s), 4’20”

A sonic response to the manuscript collection of the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris. For voices and ambient sounds. The piece was devised using the vesper chant Ecce sacerdos for the Feast of St. Patrick, turning the score upside down and reading the melodies backwards. This provided a soundscape that was then set against a vocal drone. Incidental ambient sounds captured during a midday walk in the town of Sixmilebridge, in Co. Clare, dialogue with the vocalised melody, reflecting my current approach and understanding of spirituality as that which is rooted in the experience of everyday life.Óscar Mascareñas is a composer, poet, voice artist, filmmaker, performer and musicologist. Lecturer in Chant in University of Limerick, Óscar's research interests cover a wide range of subjects and disciplines and include poetry, music and dance performance.