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The Folger Spotlight

ENCORES: Palestrina's Perfect Art with Stile Antico and Folger Consort (2020)

Folger Public Programs is pleased to present ENCORES, an online series highlighting past performances and recalling the rich history of programming on the historic Folger stage. These ENCORES provide a way to connect and revisit the breadth of Folger offerings with a wider audience.

ENCORES presents

Folger Consort
“Exaudi Deus orationem meam” & “Veni sponsa Christi”
Performed as part of Palestrina’s Perfect Art
February 2020

Performed by Stile Antico:

  • Rebecca Hickey, Helen Ashby, Kate Ashby, sopranos
  • Emma Ashby, Katie Schofield, Luthien Brackett, altos
  • Andrew Griffiths, Benedict Hymas, Jonathan Hanley,  tenors
  • James Arthur, Will Dawes, Nathan Harrison, basses

Read the introduction by soprano Helen Ashby:

Hello and welcome to Folger Encores. I’m Helen Ashby and I’m happy to be able to speak with you today. The Folger has been sharing selections from their plays, music, and readings with you in this Encores series. Today we’re sharing two pieces from a concert that took place in early 2020 at Washington National Cathedral. The vocal ensemble I’m a part of, Stile Antico, performed there with the Folger Consort in a program of Italian music from the Renaissance era with a special focus on music composed by women.

The first piece you’ll hear is by Raffaella Aleotti. Aleotti lived in Ferrara, Italy, where she was well known in her day as a skilled composer, performer, and director of music at the Convent of San Vito. In 1593, she published a book of motets, the first sacred music to be published by a woman. “Exaudi orationem meam” is a motet written for five voices and the text comes from the Book of Psalms. The psalmist implores God to hear my prayer and listen to my voice. Perhaps an appropriate sentiment for a female composer trying to make her voice heard in a man’s world.

The next piece, “Veni sponsa Christi” is an exquisite miniature, which comes from a collection published anonymously in 1543. Convincing recent research by the British academic Laurie Stras convincingly argues that this piece of music was by Leonora d’Este. d’Este was the daughter of the infamous Lucrezia Borgia. She was sent to a convent at the tender age of four and was well schooled in music. The narrow range of the parts in the motets in this collection means that it’s possible to perform them with just female voices giving us an insight into how music would have sounded in the Renaissance convents. This particular motet sets the text Come Bride of Christ intended for the service of dedication of new members of the convent.

I hope you enjoy these early examples of music composed by women Please join us again for these biweekly episodes of Encores, highlighting all that Folger has to offer. Thank you.

Folger ENCORES, red theater seats fading into darknessCheck back every other Friday for a new “from the archives” performance, introduced by some of our favorite artists, showcasing the best of Folger TheatreFolger ConsortO.B. Hardison Poetry, and lectures.