A musical bridge of Jewish and Christian traditions in Renaissance Italy

By STAFF     2/2/2016

On Saturday, Mar. 12, at the Christ Cathedral Cultural Center, the de Angelis Vocal Ensemble will take its audience back in time to the court of Mantua in Renaissance Italy to experience an extraordinary moment in musical history when virtuoso and composer Salamone Rossi Hebreo bridged the Jewish and Christian communities of Mantua with music, both sacred and secular. de Angelis will lead the audience across this bridge of shared Jewish and Christian cultures and traditions with sacred songs by Salamone Rossi and his contemporary at the Mantua court, Claudio Monteverdi. The program will also include madrigals written by the two composers for the ‘avant-garde’ rulers of Mantua and fashionable courtiers of the ducal court.

The choral ensemble and soloists of de Angelis will sing in Hebrew and Latin, the language of sacred texts and music, and in Italian, the language of the worldly Renaissance. The program will reveal to the audience the significant historical and cultural span of this allegorical bridge with sacred works such as the haunting psalm of exile Al Naharot Bavel (By the rivers of Babylon…) by Rossi, and the sorrowful hymn Stabat Virgo Maria (Stood the Virgin Mary…) by Monteverdi. de Angelis will complete the journey with lighthearted madrigals that sing of love requited and more often not, such as the tender Dolcemente Dormiva (Sweetly Sleeping) by Rossi and the wistful Crudel, Perche Mi Fuggi (Cruel One, Why Do You Run From Me) by Monteverdi.

Salamone Rossi Hebreo (circa 1570-1630) is one of the greatest figures in the music of Italy, bridging the Renaissance and Baroque eras. One of the biggest-selling composers of his time, he was the primary instrumentalist at the Gonzaga court in Mantua, even more famous than his fellow composer, the great Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). Rossi who was proud of his Jewish heritage, was the first to compose polyphonic music to Hebrew texts. This was an unprecedented development in synagogue music, as until recently polyphonic music in the synagogue had been forbidden.

The venue for the concert, the Cultural Center on the campus of Christ Cathedral was designed by the renowned architect Richard Meier and provides the audience an embracing atmosphere of visual beauty of circular lines, interior terraces and balconies, and luminous materials.

Maestro Matthew Gray says, “This program is a unique opportunity for concert goers to step back in time to an era when music, painting and architecture flourished and artistic exchange marked the beginnings of humanism.”

Maestro Gray also says, “One of the more interesting musical conundrums, one of a technical nature that Rossi had to solve, was writing a left to right musical score to Hebrew text written from right to left.”

The Sacred Bridge concert was made possible through the work of the Catholic Jewish Dialogue, an interfaith program of the Orange County Jewish community and the Catholic Diocese of Orange, with the participation of the Orange County Jewish Community Scholar Program.

“It is wonderful to have the Catholic Church invite the Jewish community to join in this unique event,” said Rabbi Larry Seidman. “It links our current interfaith activity with a musical interfaith bridge that occurred four hundred years ago.”

Father Al Baca, Episcopal Vicar Interreligious Affairs for the Diocese of Orange, states, “In so many ways the Catholic and Jewish communities are discovering new ways to strengthen the bonds that are uniquely ours. This concert represents a moment in history when the beauty and power of music serves to bring us together. One can only marvel at the courage and vision of Rossi who could build a bridge between the Jewish and Catholic communities that unfortunately was rare for his time.”

Lesa Truxaw, Director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Orange and de Angelis Board of Directors says, “I am excited and honored to be a part of the effort to bring this unique music program to Christ Cathedral. This is a unique way of approaching interreligious dialogue and furthers our understanding of Catholic and Jewish relationships based on history involving professional collaboration as well as the arts.”

de Angelis was founded in 2005 and is a small group performing an eclectic repertoire of sacred and secular music, showcasing local artists and talent. Part of the ensemble’s mission is musical education of young audiences and promotion of the study of local and international musical history with an understanding of the cultural impact of music on the history of the Southern California community.

For ticket purchase and information, visit www.deangelisensemble.org. Also find us on Facebook and YouTube. The Christ Cathedral Cultural Center is located at 13280 Chapman Ave, Garden Grove, CA 92840