A historic day was experienced today in the Basilica of Montserrat with the performance of the first choirs in more than 700 years of history of the Escolanía. The mixed choir Schola Cantorum, made up of 29 voices of young people between 17 and 24 years old, of which fourteen are female, sounded for the first time.
From now on, it will do so one weekend every month, replacing the traditional children’s choir, whose members, children aged 9 to 14, will rest and thus be able to spend more weekends at home with their families. This was precisely one of the demands of the parents of these children, who until now had only six free weekends each school year. Now there will be ten.
One weekend a month
They will perform one weekend a month to replace the traditional children’s choir, made up of children between 9 and 14 years old, who will be able to spend more weekends with their parents
The creation of this mixed choir, which as Father Abbot Manel Gasch recalled this afternoon at the vesting ceremony of the new choirs, was a decision “thought about, worked on and voted for by the monks,” was also a social demand.
“To the extent that this social need has existed, Montserrat has known how to respond, we have not had the feeling that a grievance was being committed, but rather we have followed the social sensitivity of each moment,” explained, shortly before the debut, the choir director Pau Jorquera, who is also deputy musical director of the Escolanía.
“We have been able to respond to a social need,” explains the choir director, Pau Jorquera.
One of the young people who was looking forward to that moment is Mireia González Espelt, 18 years old and a resident of Barcelona, who is currently studying a piano degree at Esmuc.
With two brothers who were schoolboys and another currently active, he admits that he lived with “a certain envy” of his formative stays in the monastic enclosure. “I saw it as luck and a privilege because of the spiritual, human and musical training they received there, it is something very beautiful that I also wanted to be a part of,” he acknowledges.
I was a little envious of my brothers; It is fortunate and a privilege, I always saw it as something very beautiful that I also wanted to be part of.
Unlike the 44 children who will make up the children’s choir this year, who mostly live in the facilities of the Benedictine facility, the members of the non-professional mixed choir will meet only one weekend a month to rehearse and sing.
In total there are about thirty members of the Schola Cantorum, which will begin its regular service on the weekend of September 23 and 24. All, except one of the male singers in the choir, had been escolanes.
The mixed formation will sing the Hail Regina and the Virolai , in the vespers service on Saturday and in the conventual mass on Sunday. Today, before a full basilica, they premiered with the interpretation of Magnificat written by the Montserrat monk Manuel Guzmán in 1882, performed by two soloists and the choir.
A choice that was a declaration of intentions of the line that this new formation will follow. “We have not chosen to sing Brahms, Bach, Mendelssohn or Schubert, our work will also be to recover that musical heritage that we have in Catalonia and in the Montserrat Library, to make it known and make it available to everyone,” said Jorquera.
The director, who together with the Father Abbot of Montserrat, described today’s day as “historic”, recalled that there is a lot of music written by teachers from the Montserrat school for mixed choirs that until now the traditional choir could not perform alone.
Although the objective of the new choir is not to offer concerts, Jorquera recognizes that they have already had an opportunity to sing outside of Montserrat and that they have ruled it out for now. “At the moment we sing in the basilica, at the service of pilgrims and all those who come to Montserrat,” she explains.
The date chosen for the debut of the first female voices in Montserrat was the dressing ceremony of the seven new choristers who are joining the children’s choir this year, which this year will be made up of 44 students. The new additions are five children who will start fourth grade and two more who will join sixth grade.
The Abbot of Montserrat has exceptionally presided over the ceremony of imposition of the cassock and roquette, the same clothing that the members of the mixed formation also wear. The event closed with the union of the voices of the two choirs performing the Virolai.
The new academic year
The Escolanía de Montserrat will offer a total of 14 concerts this year, three of which will take place in European destinations. On October 7 he will perform in Rome, on the occasion of the pilgrimage organized by the Abbey to the Vatican to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Brotherhood of the Virgin of Montserrat. The second of the European events will take place on December 14 in Luxembourg, where the children’s choir will close the Spanish presidency of the European Union. Finally, on May 9 they will perform at the Montpelier cathedral, invited by the archbishopric.
In Catalonia they have planned eleven concerts between September 29 and June 21, 2024.