Out of the Shadows: Celebrating the Diverse Composers of the Renaissance

on June 2, 2023 at St. Mary's Church, Auburn

Out of the Shadows: Celebrating the Diverse Composers of the Renaissance

Out of the Shadows celebrates the prolific work of a diverse and under-represented group of composers from the Renaissance. Women, LGTBQ+ individuals, and people of color struggled to find their place in white European society, dominated by men and heterosexual norms. Musica Spei is proud to present a collection of works from composers who broke societal norms and were pioneers in their compositional craft.

     Since its inception, Musica Spei has been a collaborative and inclusive organization that brings rarely performed choral music from the middle ages and the Renaissance to our modern audiences. In the spirit of that inclusivity, Musica Spei is proud to present a collection of works from an under-represented group of composers who broke societal norms of the time and were true pioneers in their compositional craft. 

     For a woman in the Renaissance, working as a composer for a wealthy patron or the church was considered off-limits. Although wealthy women were often educated in Latin and music, their role was primarily set in the home, with a focus on motherhood and domestic duties. To step outside of this role was contentious in Renaissance society. In this concert, Musica Spei features two Renaissance women composers, Maddalena Casulana and Vittoria/Raffaella Aleotti, who defied conventions by performing and publishing their own music. 

    For a person in the LGBTQ+ community living in the Renaissance, openness almost certainly led to punishment by hefty fines and potentially imprisonment or execution. Anti “sodomy” laws and enforcement ministries were established in major cities, like Florence, where men of all social classes were frequently fined and convicted of the crime. Due to the harsh punishments, there are no known records of gay composers in the Renaissance, except for Dominique Phinot, whose music is featured in this performance. We know Phinot was gay because he was convicted in Lyon, France for “homosexual practices” and subsequently beheaded. This performance will feature Phinot’s music, which is known for its pervasive imitation with all voices being equal. His polychoral writing directly influenced music by Palestrina and Lassus. In the spirit of the LGBTQ+ community, Musica Spei will also perform two settings of verses from 2nd Samuel by Pierre de la Rue and Thomas Weelkes, in which a grieving King David describes his love for the slain warrior Jonathan as “[sur]passing the love of women.” 

     Composers of color in the Renaissance had great difficulty obtaining work within the church due to barriers created by white church leaders. Vicente Lusitano, a black Portuguese composer, was a prolific composer and music theory writer, but he was never able to obtain employment in the church. He moved to Rome as a priest and a tutor for a wealthy family, but he could not find gainful employment as a church or court composer and musician. Unfortunately, by 41 years old, Lusitano disappeared from history when he moved to Germany. This performance features several works by Lusitano, showcasing his complex harmonies and counterpoint. 

   We hope that this music inspires members of our audience to celebrate the diverse composers throughout history. These composers created music that transcends our human experience and encourages us to embrace and accept those who are different from ourselves.

Ticket Information

Free Will Offering: Suggested Donation $10
Musica Spei

An a cappella choral group that specializes in the sacred choral music of the Renaissance.