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.