Carissimi Gets a Spotlight in Schola Opener

Oct 24, 2017

From the German College in Rome, Giacomo Carissimi spent his life producing some of the most beloved choral compositions of the 17th century. While much of his original music has been lost, he is considered the foundation of Baroque choral music. This master of the oratorio--a large-scale narrative piece for orchestra and voices--is the centerpiece in a fall concert for the University of Arkansas's choral group of  Schola Cantorum

Schola conductor Stephen Caldwell talks to Of Note's Katy Henriksen about all things Carissimi and describes the the joys and challenges of performing the work of someone he calls an "interesting bird." 

"He set up all of the music that came after him," says Caldwell. "Without Carissimi, we don't get Handel's Messiah." 

Jonah and the Whale Fresco, Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas Anapausas Meteora, Thessaly Greece. The Schola Cantorum will perform Carissimi's "Jonas" as their season opener this week.

For Caldwell, performing the Carissimi has been an experimental process. In one rehearsal he had the students read the entire translated oratorio as a dramatic play.

"This includes the emotions of the choir screaming as towns people of Nineveh, this includes the sailors being terrified of the oceans... and we did that as an exercise so that the students could understand what's going on in the music."

Schola Cantorum performs Carissimi's "Jonas" (Jonah and the Whale) at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the Faulkner Performing Arts Center, with a repeat performance at the National Collegiate Choral Organization's biennial conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this November. 

Click the link above to listen to the full conversation.