When the Arizona Early Music Society started thinking a couple years ago about ways to mark its 35th season, it thought about doing something that has rarely been done in Tucson.
So it turned to True Concord Voices & Orchestra, which has made a career of doing things that have rarely if ever been done in Tucson, with a proposition: What about teaming up and doing Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 with a celebrated early music ensemble?
That sounded good to True Concord’s founder and conductor Eric Holtan.
This weekend, True Concord’s choir joins with the Los Angeles Tesserae Early Music Ensemble to present Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 in three concerts between Friday, Feb. 24, and Sunday, Feb. 26. Tesserea will bring along period instruments including early wind instruments such as the sackbut.
So what are vespers and what the heck is a sackbut?
Glad you asked.
Period instruments vs. modern: The 7-year-old Tesserae specializes in period or Baroque instruments going back to the 16th and 17th centuries. These were the precursors to the wind and string instruments performed today and they created softer, gentler and oftentimes sweeter sounds than their descendants such as a coronet, the precursor to the trumpet that looks more like a clarinet; flute’s forefather the recorder; and the sackbut, the trombone’s quieter and far less sophisticated predecessor.
Praying the night away: Vespers are the evening prayers said by the Catholic Church going back 1,500 years or more. Monteverdi’s Vespers don’t go back quite as far, but when the Italian composer who was a crucial figure in the transition between the Renaissance and Baroque periods set the prayers to music in 1610, it was monumental. This was a seminal piece — the most ambitious religious work in its day, foreshadowing Bach’s Passions and Handel’s “Messiah.” It’s been 15 or 20 years since the UA student group Collegium mounted the work, which has never been done professionally in Tucson before this weekend.
So how big is monumental?: Vespers clocks in at 90 minutes.
Solos for everyone: Twenty-one of the 23 True Concord choristers will perform solos, ranging from big duo and trio moments to single vocalists performing 10 to 20 bars.