Published : Monday, June 19, 2017 | 2:56 PM
Escolania de Montserrat, Spain’s premier boy choir founded in the Catalonia region in the 13th century, will be making its highly anticipated Southern California debut in a free concert on Saturday, July 8, 2017, 7:00 p.m., at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church.
Presented by the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (LACC), 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 800-year-old choir is on a return tour in the United States after having performed here in 2014. For the first time, Escolania is touring both the east and the west coasts, with concerts in New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and California. The choir went on the U.S. tour after being invited to take part in the festival commemorating the 100th birth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy.
The Pasadena appearance is the final stop of this second U.S. tour.
Led by Llorenço Castelló, the Escolania is affiliated with the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat, located in Monistrol de Montserrat, and is “unique even among boy choirs for its richer and darker red wine type of sound,” says the Washington Post.
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. The performance will also featured Guinovart’s “Bestiolari” and two works by Civil: “La gata i el belitre” and “La Mare de Déu.”
Escolania’s unique history evolved in conjunction with the Benedictine abbey Santa Maria de Montserrat near Barcelona, Spain. The abbey was founded in the 10th century on a mountain precipice more than 4,000 feet above the valley floor. By the 13th century, a boys’ choir of sopranos and altos were already serving in the abbey and Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montserrat, singing and playing musical instruments for communal prayers.
Throughout the centuries, a number of remarkable composers and performers have been spawned from the Montserrat Music School. From 1953 to 1997, under the direction of Fr. Ireneu Segarra, the Escolania gained increased international recognition through CD recordings, appearances at music festivals throughout Catalonia, and international tours to the U.S. and throughout Europe.
The choir has collaborated with 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 the 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 accepts both boarding and day students and is currently comprised of more than 50 boys, ranging from nine to 14 years old, who come from across Catalonia.
The boys also receive primary and secondary school education. The members – called escolans in Catalan – are required to plays two instruments – the piano and another instrument of their choice – take part in the orchestra and sing in the choir.
Most of the members go on to continue their musical education, many of them developing into highly regarded singers, instrumentalists and conductors. As in the past, choristers today perform during religious ceremonies and participate in daily prayer in the sanctuary, singing for pilgrims who visit the Benedictine abbey from around the world.
The conductor 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 has a degree in Musical Theory, Composition and Professional Piano from 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.
The Los Angeles Children’s Chorus performs with leading organizations like LA Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Pasadena Symphony and POPS, Calder Quartet and Jacaranda.
Tickets to the performance on July 8 are free. For tickets and additional information, visit www.lachildrenschorus.org or call (626) 793-4231.
The Pasadena Presbyterian Church is located at 585 East Colorado Blvd.