This blog has to do with my class “Music History of the Christian Church”
I had waited in line for hours upon hours, the water from the nearby lagoon sloshing around my feet as it tried to take me back into the receding waters with it. Tilting my head far back I looked up at the towering structure that I waited in front of just to be rushed through and out the other side. The hours of waiting were worth it. That was until I walked up to the entrance and the guard pointed to my bag and said in Italian, ‘you cant have that, you have to put that in storage.’ So I walked out of line and walked around the building to a small ally that was the storage facility that the guard told me to go to.
So I got back in line and waited another hour. I walked past the guard and into the inner layer of this fortress of Holiness. I walked through a tremendous 11th Century doorway and there it was. Saint Marks Basilica, Venice, Italy, that’s where I stood at the present moment. Within a gorgeous gold covered building. There was not a single inch of the inside of that roof that wasn’t covered in gold! Decorated with mosaics older then the entire country that I call home. To think of the stories, the music that was heard inside these walls, it was mind blowing.
But the ceiling was not the reason why I was here. I came here for the choir lofts and the organ. Those lofts I had studied about and understood their purpose. It was for them that I waited hours in line to see. I stepped out of the moving line that was walking around the outer edge of the transept crossing, and sat down on the floor and just gazed at the Organ and imagined the sounds that would be called forth from that wondrous slumbering beast.
I had just learned about the development of Oratorio, that is, the dramatic interpretations of biblical stories and texts in Latin music for the Masses and such. This was something that was popular, but came into its element while St. Marks was being constructed. The first Composer to write music for the Basilica was Adrian Willaert, he used the lofts and a new huge wooden structure called pulpitum magnum cantorum (great pulpit of the singers). Together with these elements and the large vast caverns of the church where music could echo and cause what we would now call delay. With this Willaert created unique patterns of musical compositions and texts, that would give the music a call-and-response effect, while the choir would only be singing one line. Due to the echos and the positions that the instruments and singers were placed, the music sounded as though hundreds were singing and playing inside the church. This was achieved by creating layers upon layers of text and notation. Then came the man whose music I had listened to in preparing and listened to imagine what would be sung here, Giovanni Gabrieli. Gabrieli wrote the music to exemplify the structure of the church and would place the singers across from one another, so as to surround the audience below with blended harmonies. As I sat on the floor and imagined what it would have been like to listen to tenors and altos calling back and forth with the basses laying down solid beats and adding into the mixture, I was brought into that time period and was able to truly imagine what a marvelous era it would have been to hear such beautiful melodies and sounds praising God.
It was a beautiful and humbling experience and brought the lessons of music and history together. It was an opportunity that I am grateful to have experienced.