‘Sacred Music of Monticello’ Shares World Premieres and Surprises | The music

Many people know that Thomas Jefferson physically took apart and rearranged several Bibles to create a New Testament that rang true for him. Few know that some well-known compositions from the Third President’s cherished music library also sound different than expected.

Audience members attending the Early Music Access Project’s “Sacred Music of Monticello” concert on Sunday evening at Christ’s Episcopal Church will hear a version of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s famous “Stabat Mater” from the Jefferson Music Collection which replaces the traditional Latin text by lines of an English poem. – “The Christian dying to his soul” by Alexander Pope.

“We may give a modern premiere of the English version,” said violinist David McCormick, artistic director of the Early Music Access Project. “I’ve only ever seen one here. It has the theme of death, but it omits the Virgin Mary entirely.

“I think this English version looks like it’s meant for the living room. This is certainly the kind of thing that is doable in the Monticello salon. You wouldn’t have played that version in church.

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Instrumentalists from the Early Music Access Project will team up with soprano Brianna Robinson, countertenor Patrick Dailey and baritone James Dargan to present Sunday’s concert.

Dargan has penned several witty new arrangements that will make their world premieres here, giving audiences the opportunity to hear the fruits of musical detective work.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the spirituals were sung at Monticello, but no one wrote them down,” said McCormick, who has researched Monticello violin music and musicians. “There is no trace of a [specific] spiritual sung at Monticello. I researched what was traditionally popular here, and it was interesting to do a bit of reverse engineering.

McCormick began by researching sung and loved spirituals in the Charlottesville area sometime later in the 19th century. The Mount Zion Baptist Church records offered some clues to popular choices, and a memoir by Philena Carkin, a Boston teacher who came to Charlottesville in 1866 to teach black students at the Jefferson School, specifically mentions “Roll, Jordan, Roll and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” as local favorites.

Some early Jefferson School students later attended Fisk University and sang with the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers, who toured extensively and performed spirituals for Queen Victoria, McCormick said.

“As a native of Charlottesville, it’s been really cool to put some of these pieces together,” McCormick said. “What is interesting here is that the composer created modern arrangements of these spirituals, and [listeners] let’s hear them through a modern lens using older instruments and ancient techniques.

The arrangements will sound fresh to listeners accustomed to hearing a formal approach, often using more of a bel canto delivery. The spirituals “passed through an almost lyrical filter at one point” that influenced how we hear them now, McCormick said.

He’s thrilled to finally be able to share a program that was originally scheduled for May 2020 – and to offer a choice of live performance or live streaming to accommodate different comfort levels during the lingering pandemic.

“A two-year hiatus from performing gave me a break from research that I normally wouldn’t have had,” McCormick said. “I really want people to know that we’re trying to lower the barriers to entry, so we have live and live streams. We are really excited, two years later, to really put it in place.

To help reduce another hurdle, members of the public are encouraged to purchase $10 tickets to the concert if the general admission price of $25 is too high.

Jane Dunlap Sathe is the editor of The Daily Progress. Contact her at [email protected]