The Jesuit-run Roman Catholic cathedral in Peking was a place not only where the Europeans showed off their musical abilities both as a matter of soft diplomacy and as a tool of evangelization, but also where a cultural encounter between European and Chinese civilisations took place.
What would have been heard at Christmas Midnight Mass during the K'ang-hsi Emperor's reign? French baroque church music in Latin, accompanied by baroque instruments, as well as Catholic hymns in Classical Chinese, written by late Ming and early Ch'ing composers in a distinctly Chinese idiom, accompanied by Chinese instruments.
We present a selection of splendid music for Christmas by French baroque composers: the Messe de minuit by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, as well as motets by François Couperin 'Le Grand' and Henri Du Mont, sung in the context of liturgically appropriate chants taken from the Neo-Gallican chant books as used in 17th and 18th c. French churches.
These will be interspersed with hymns in Classical Chinese sung during mass in Chinese churches of the period and instrumental pieces of Ch'ing court music - both as notated and preserved in the manuscripts of the French missionary priest Fr Jean Joseph Marie Amiot during the reign of the Ch'ien-lung Emperor. Bonus: a Catholic hymn written by the K'ang-hsi Emperor himself!
The singers of Cappella Martialis will be accompanied by bowed and plucked strings, winds, and organ - all instruments of the period and played in a historically-informed style.
Admission is free, with a retiring collection for the upkeep of the host venue. Full texts and translations of the pieces sung will be provided.