Early Music ensemble Cappella Martialis is set to perform at Christ Church, Jalan Gereja in Melaka on July 23.
The 18-member choir, based in Singapore, will present Media Vita, an evening concert featuring hymns, motets (Renaissance-era polyphonic choral music), and sung texts that were penned in times of great peril and public distress.
This upcoming (ticketed) concert is presented by Melaka Classics, a community-based music project based in the historical city.
"We provide this (platform) as an opportunity for Malaysian and international musicians to perform in Melaka, and most importantly for local audiences to get the chance to listen to classical music of quality," says Cassel Krishnan, Melaka Classics' co-founder and director, who is a music teacher.
Melaka Classics, formed in 2017, also includes Ukraine-based co-founder/violinist Orest Smovzh.
Before the pandemic, it hosted a wide range of performances and educational events periodically throughout the year, including its annual "summer festival", with featured international guest musicians.
Christ Church also opened up its space to classical music events in 2018.
Melaka Classics is slowly restarting its live programming, with the Media Vita show being the first for this year.
Reconnecting through the classics
Cappella Martialis, formed in 2011 in Singapore, has repertoire spanning the lesser-known gems of the choral tradition from the Baroque period and before.
In 2019, the group performed at Christ Church for the Reimagining Melaka festival, making it familiar to the 270-year-old venue and its acoustic surroundings.
Cappella Martialis will also be the first international group to participate in a programme hosted by Melaka Classics series in over three years.
The upcoming Media Vita concert, featuring 10 works, will be presented in a lecture-recital format, where each song will be performed with a brief description of its background and composer, and why it was included in the programme.
"In our own time, looking back on our global pandemic, it is fascinating to see how previous generations responded to pandemics in their own time. That has inspired this concert – music relating to the plague, to mortality, and to healing," says Cassel.
The songs will be performed in original Latin and Old English. Translations will be provided for the Latin texts.
"It may seem strange to perform compositions from so long ago, but the music itself creates a very tangible link across the centuries, like a time machine in sound, helping us realise that in some ways our basic humanity doesn’t change across the centuries," says Edward Yong, Cappella Martialis' creative director.
The most notable sung texts include Stella Caeli Extirpavit (plainsong during time of plague), believed to be written by the Sisters of the Monastery of Santa Carla in Portugal during the Black Death, and the Gregorian chant Media Vita In Morte Sumus (in the midst of life we are in death).
Parce Domine (Have Mercy, Lord) by Jacobus Obrecht (a 15th century Flemish composer of masses, motets and songs, who died of the plague) and two settings of Recordare Domine (Be Mindful, Lord) by Flemish composer Adriano Willaert and French composer Elzéar Genet are also in the live 90-minute programme.
“I believe music has always been a source of comfort, hope and inspiration in times of hardship. My hope is that this concert will bring back the joy of listening to live performances and give locals some respite from everything that's going on out there. It will also remind us all, especially when we go through the worst of times, that this too shall pass,” concludes Cassel.
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