800-Year-Old Spanish Boychoir Escolania de Montserrat Makes LA Debut
Spain’s Premier Boychoir, Escolania De Montserrat, Founded in 13th Century and Considered One of Europe’s Oldest Boychoirs and Music Schools, Makes Southern California Debut in Free Concert Presented by Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (LACC)
Concert Marks 800-Year-Old Choir’s Final Stop on U.S. Tour, which also Includes Appearances in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, and Features Works that Span the Ages by
Victoria, Schubert, Civil, Albert Guinovart, Bernat Vivancos and Others
Spain’s premier boychoir, Escolania de Montserrat, founded in the Catalonia region in the 13th century and considered one of Europe’s oldest continuously operating boychoirs and music schools, makes its highly anticipated Southern California debut in a free concert presented by the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (LACC) on Saturday, July 8, 2017, 7 pm, at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. The 800-year-old chorus, led by Llorenç Castelló and the subject of a 2014 New York Times vídeo, is affiliated with the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat, located in Monistrol de Montserrat, and is “unique even among boychoirs…(for its) richer and darker…red wine…type of sound” (Washington Post). The choir’s repertoire spans the ages, from Gregorian chant and the music of Victoria and Schubert to works by contemporary Spanish-Catalan composers such as Albert Guinovart, Francesc Civil and Bernat Vivancos, the later two Escolania de Montserrat graduates. LACC’s Concert Choir, led by Artistic Director Anne Tomlinson, performs a selection of classical works and folk songs on the program as well. Escolania de Montserrat’s LA appearance, featuring 29 boys, is the final stop on its second U.S. tour, which also includes performances in New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
For the concert, Castelló conducts the Gregorian Chant Germinans germinabit; Duo Seraphim by 16th Century Spanish composer T.L. Victoria; Vivancos’ Salve Regina; and Ave Maria by Schubert/Vivancos. Also featured are Guinovart’s Bestiolari and two works by Civil – La gata i el belitre and La Mare de Déu.
Escolania de Montserrat’s unique history evolved in conjunction with the Benedictine abbey, which was founded in the 10th century on a mountain precipice more than 4,000 feet above the valley floor. By the 13th century, a small group of boys were already serving in the abbey and Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montserrat, singing and playing musical instruments for communal prayers. The abbey’s tradition of providing musical training for boys subsequently became formalized into a school – the Escolania de Montserrat. Throughout the centuries, a number of remarkable composers and performers have been spawned from the so-called Montserrat Music School. Under the direction of Fr. Ireneu Segarra (1953-1997), the Escolania gained increased international recognition through CD recordings, appearances at music festivals and throughout Catalonia, and international tours to the U.S., Russia, Holland, Puerto Rico, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy and Poland. The choir has performed under such conductors as Mstislav Rostropovitch, Sir Neville Marriner, Salvador Mas, Michael Boder, Harry Bicket, Kirill Petrenko and Jordi Savall. Escolania de Montserrat has also collaborated such ensembles as Orquestra de Cadaqués, Musica Ducis Brabantiae from Holland, the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya, Le Concert des Nations and Capella Reial de Catalunya, Orquestra de l’Acadèmia del Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Orquestra Nacional de Cambra d’Andorra. In addition, the Escolania has appeared in several operas at the Gran Teatre del Liceu de Barcelona.
The Escolania, which accepts both boarding and day students, is currently comprised of more than 50 boys, ranging from 9- to 14-years-old, who come from across Catalonia. While undertaking intensive music studies at Montserrat, the boys also receive primary and secondary school educations. The choristers (called escolans in Catalan) are required to plays two instruments – the piano and another instrument of their choice – participate in the orchestra and sing in the choir. The majority of the choristers, when they leave Montserrat, continue their musical studies, many developing into highly regarded singers, instrumentalists and conductors. Today, as in the past, choristers perform during religious ceremonies and participate in daily prayer in the sanctuary, singing for pilgrims who visit the Benedictine abbey from around the world. In addition to providing fundamental musical training to its choristers and using music to promote peace, one of the other objectives of the Escolania is to champion the sacred music of composers both renowned and lesser known, including the composers of Montserrat.
Llorenço Castelló, born in Barcelona in 1976, began his musical studies in the Montserrat choir as a student of Fr. Segarra from 1986 to 1990. He earned a degree in Musical Theory, Composition and Professional Piano at the Music Conservatory of Liceu, in Barcelona. In addition to serving as the director of the Escolania de Montserrat, Castelló is a professor of Music Education at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, founded in 1986 and widely recognized for its artistic excellence, performs with such leading organizations as LA Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Pasadena Symphony and POPS, Calder Quartet and Jacaranda. LACC, recipient of Chorus America’s 2014 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, the nation’s highest choral honor, shares its artistry around the globe, touring to North and South America, Africa, China, Cuba, Australia, Japan, and Europe. Renowned for its exceptional bel canto sound and wide-ranging repertoire, the chorus is the subject of a trilogy of documentaries by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, has performed with John Mayer on NBC's “The Tonight Show,” and was featured on PBS’s “Great Performances,” BBC Radio and Public Radio International, among other credits.
Tickets to the performance are free. For tickets and information, visit www.lachildrenschorus.org or call (626) 793-4231. Pasadena Presbyterian Church is located at 585 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101.