Cristóbal de Morales at the Burns Library

His Missarum liber primus comes to life in Boston, and in Toledo, Spain

The Funeral Mass for El Greco – Performed as it might have been soon after the artist’s death on April 7, 1614

 

MIchael Noone conducts the musicians at today’s funeral commemoration of El Greco’s death.

Michael Noone conducts the musicians at today’s funeral commemoration of El Greco’s death. Photo  courtesy of Real Fundación Toledo.

(Toledo, Castilla–La Mancha, April 7, 2014) Today at noon, commemorating the 400th anniversary of El Greco’s death, thousands of people gathered at Spain’s Primatial Cathedral in Toledo to celebrate a Requiem Mass as it might have been performed in the early 17th century. Here to perform the music of Cristóbal de Morales—one of the Cathedral’s greatest composers—were more than twenty musicians including the Ensemble Plus Ultra and Spain’s Schola Antiqua. Under the direction of Michael Noone, Chair of the Music Department at Boston College, they sang from a copy of Morales’s Missarum liber primus (1546), an original volume acquired by Boston College’s Burns Library in 2011.

Toledo's historic Cathedral de Santa María.

Toledo’s historic Cathedral de Santa María.

The Ensemble Plus Ultra rehearses in the Cathedral's Capilla Mozárabe.

Ensemble Plus Ultra rehearses music from the Burns Library volume in the Cathedral’s Mozarabic Chapel.

The walls of the Capilla Mozárabe tell tales of conquests, adventure, and devotion.

The walls of the Capilla Mozárabe tell tales of conquest, adventure, and devotion.

Schola Antiqua's dress rehearsal, the night before the mass.

Schola Antiqua’s dress rehearsal, the night before the mass.

Michael Noone confers with Juan Carlos Asensio, Director of Schola Antiqua

Michael Noone confers with Juan Carlos Asensio, Director of Schola Antiqua.

Everyone has been pleased with the results of this week's rehearsals

Everyone is pleased with the results of this week’s rehearsals.

Toledo reminds us how brief 400 years of human history can be. At its zenith, the city was home to both El Greco and Morales, among many other luminaries. The map El Greco places in the hands of his son Jorge in his View and Plan of Toledo (c. 1610) is so accurate that it is still used as a reference by contemporary cartographers. And the mitre worn by Auxiliary Bishop (and Toledo Cathedral archivist) Ángel Fernández Collado in today’s funeral mass is the very same mitre that El Greco placed on the head of St Augustine in his spectacular Burial of the Count of Orgaz (c. 1588).

It's easy to find the inspiration for El Greco's landscape paintings.

It’s easy to find the inspiration for El Greco’s landscape paintings.

Music, religion, and history will always be at the heart of Toledo.

Archbishop Braulio Rodríguez Plaza is flanked on the left by the Dean of Toledo Cathedral Juan Sánchez, and Michael Noone; and on the right by Don Gregorio Marañón y Bertrán de Lis, and Auxiliary Bishop and cathedral archivist Ángel Fernández Collado. The group stands in front of El Greco’s newly-restored Expolio. Photo courtesy of Real Fundación Toledo.

 

The Music of 16th Century Toledo is Unveiled at Boston College

The Ensemble Plus Ultra performs in the Burns Library Tower, November 17, 2013.

The Ensemble Plus Ultra performs in the Burns Library Tower, November 17, 2013.

In the autumn of 2011, Boston College’s Burns Library acquired Cristóbal de Morales’s Missarum liber primus (1544). Two years later, Ensemble Plus Ultra, a group of British early music singers founded in 2001 by Michael Noone, Chair of the BC Music Department, came to the Burns Library to perform Morales’s music directly from his Missarum itself, just as it was originally sung in 16th-Century Toledo. Transforming the works of this great Spanish composer from archived print to live music demonstrates what a library can do to unlock the treasures that are held in its collections.

A behind-the-camera look at their groundbreaking performance

A behind-the-camera look at their groundbreaking performance.

The Burns Library Entrance became a concert hall for one magical afternoon.

The Burns Library Entrance became a concert hall for one magical afternoon.

John Burns's portrait presides over this unique performance of Morales's

John Burns’s portrait presides over this unique performance of Morales’s Missarum.

Michael Noone and the Ensemble prepare for the next selection.

Michael Noone and the Ensemble prepare for the next selection.

Recording Engineer Jim Donahue sets up his studio in the library's Fine Print Room.

Recording Engineer Jim Donahue sets up his studio in the library’s Fine Print Room.

Theatrical lighting also brings out the best in a Renaissance tapestry.

Theatrical lighting also brings out the best in a Renaissance tapestry.

Microphones are raised to capture every note.

Microphones are raised to capture every note.

Michael Noone and Bridget Burke spend an afternoon with an old friend.

Michael Noone and Bridget Burke enjoy an afternoon with an old friend.

Five-hundred-year-old music requires careful study.

Five-hundred-year-old music requires careful study.

Director of Photography Ken Willinger confirms all the cameras are in position.

Director of Photography Ken Willinger confirms all the cameras are in position.

Michael Noone and Cameron Kirkpatrick of K&M Productions review the music behind the afternoon's performance.

Michael Noone and Cameron Kirkpatrick of K&M Productions review the music behind the afternoon’s performance.

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