Venice. The name itself conjures up images of luxury, of refinement, and of extravagant splendour. As the Most Serene Republic of Venice, for over a thousand years it was one of the most powerful entities in the world, and a leading European economic and trading power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
In addition to being an economic and trading power, the Venetians were a formidable cultural force - nowhere in Europe was church music as showy, and Venice was the place where music books were printed for export all over Europe.
The centre of musical attention was undoubtedly San Marco (St Mark's Basilica), which was not Venice's cathedral but the private chapel of the doges (dukes) of Venice. Nevertheless, the other major churches and chapels of the city also had splendid musical foundations, notably Santa Maria della Salute (St Mary of Health), Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (St Mary the Glorious of the Friars), Santissimo Redentore (Most Holy Redeemer), San Giorgio Maggiore (St George the Greater), and the orphanage-home Pio Ospedale della Piet'a (Devout Hospital of Mercy) where Vivaldi worked. Polychoral (multiple choirs) writing was a mark of the Venetian style.
As a sampler of the delights of Venetian sacred music, we present a selection of splendid music for Christmas by composers associated with Venice: Claudio Monteverdi, Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, Alessandro Grandi, and Giovanni Croce, and of course, Antonio Vivaldi.
These will be performed with liturgically appropriate chants in the context of a reconstructed Christmas eve Vespers as might have been heard at the church of San Giorgio Maggiore between 1600 and 1710 A.D.
The singers of Cappella Martialis will be accompanied by bowed and plucked strings, winds, and organ - all reproductions or copies of instruments from the period and played in a historically-informed style. Come see and hear a Venetian Baroque Christmas.
As usual, admission is free, and a retiring collection will be taken towards the upkeep of the concert venue.