OXFORD, Mississippi – When art lovers consider the visual art of the Renaissance, they may think of elevated expression, vibrant color, innovation, and perspective. When they consider the music of the time, however, it can be a very different story, said famed choir director and scholar Dennis Shrock.
“The Renaissance music we hear today, composed alongside painting, sculpture and imagery, is flat, dull and restrained,” Shrock said. “It’s as if the music has been coated in centuries of dust and grime that hides its vibrant colors.”
But taking the time to understand how the music was meant to be played and sung will bring new life to performances and encourage conductors to revisit Renaissance repertoire, both familiar and new, said Donald Trott, director of activities. choirs at the University of Mississippi.
“Performing Renaissance Music: A Virtual Symposium on Historical Performance” is an upcoming online symposium presented by the university’s music department, hosted by Trott and featuring Shrock, that will delve into the practical aspects of performing the Renaissance music, drawing on historical sources from the same period.
“By interpreting music in new and historically informed ways, we are able to clean away the dirt and grime of past misunderstandings and restore music to its natural beauty,” Shrock said. “And, as a result, we can enjoy music better and create the desire to play more of it with greater frequency.”
The symposium was originally planned as an on-campus event in the summer of 2020. Deciding to make the proceedings virtual was not just an accommodation to the pandemic; this helped make the material much more widely available, Trott said.
“A student or teacher anywhere can access these videos, pause and rewind to better study the musical samples and come away with a very good understanding of how to work with Renaissance music with a level of confidence higher,” he said.
Content from the symposium will be released as one video per night during the week of June 28 on the UM Choirs YouTube channel and will remain there for everyone to enjoy, free of charge.
Although the content will be practical enough to be of great value to a conductor or singer, it will also be fascinating to anyone interested in music or in other Renaissance art forms, Trott said.
“It’s an accessible insider’s look at the music of this period, but also at how music is made,” he said. “The music used in the videos is beautiful and will be of interest to anyone who loves the Renaissance – or music in general.”
A strong tradition of performer-focused exploration of early music exists, often conducted in collaboration with musicologists who specialize in the time period, said musicologist Thomas Peattie, UM associate professor of music.
“Historically informed early music performance grew in the second half of the 20th century and helps artists and audiences engage with music on a greater level,” he said.
The symposium will be an important choral resource and an especially meaningful experience for Ole Miss choral students, many of whom read Shrock’s recent book on the subject for the class during the 2020-21 academic year. The book is also titled “Performing Renaissance Music”.
The symposium includes lectures in which Shrock explores five essential aspects of performing Renaissance music; each lecture also features professional singers performing pieces that illustrate and illuminate Shrock’s points.
“We have the opportunity to experience music as we do Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings and Michelangelo’s sculptures, as well as all the other expressive images of the time,” Shrock said. But to make performances “comparable and as exciting as works of art,” musicians must consider five areas of performance: sources and forces, sound and pitch, meter and tempo, phrasing and text underlay, and ornamentation and expression, he said. .
A renowned choral scholar and author of several books on historical performance and repertoire, Shrock has held professorships at Boston University, Westminster Choir College, University of Oklahoma, and Texas Christian University. . He has had residencies at numerous universities and is a frequent guest conductor and lecturer.
Most recently, he appeared on Ole Miss in the fall of 2018, when he served as a guest conductor and speaker at events celebrating what would have been the 100th birthday of famed composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. .
The introductory video to the symposium is already available on YouTube. In it, Shrock outlines his approach to performing Renaissance music and illustrates it with musical samples.
Follow the Ole Miss Choral Symposium on Facebook and fill out this interest form to receive broadcast updates and reminders.