On Sunday March 16th at 3:00 pm, at the Music Center at Strathmore, Washington-area residents and visitors will be able to enjoy a concert by one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe, the Escolania de Montserrat.
Founded in the 13th century at the mountaintop Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat outside of Barcelona, the Escolania consists of over 50 boys, aged 9-14, who sing soprano or alto. After a rigorous selection process, each chorister is chosen to live and attend school at the Abbey, study music, play in the orchestra, and sing for pilgrims at Mass and daily prayers. The Escolania has performed and recorded with many luminaries of the classical music world, including Mstislav Rostropovich, Sir Neville Marriner, and Jordi Savall, among others, and they have toured a number of countries.
For Catalans (or half-Catalans like myself), the Escolania is one of those institutions that speak of ancient tradition in Catalonia: its deep love of music in general but of singing in particular, which is native to all Catalans. Just as Our Lady of Montserrat is the patroness of Catalonia, so too these boys, who serve God by singing His praises at the Abbey, are collectively the voices of the children of Catalonia. At the same time, as is the case with all great artists, their outreach goes well-beyond the land that they come from. They remind the listener of the virtues of peace, love, and hope, in an age which so desperately needs all three in far greater measure.
This is the choir’s first tour of the United States, beginning in New York at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Midtown Manhattan on March 13th, followed by their performance here in the DC area on March 16th at 3:00 pm at Strathmore. The concert will last just under two hours, with an intermission. Tickets range from $25.00-$35.00, and can be purchased directly from the Strathmore website. I hope to see many of you there!
For a sample of the superb voices that make up the choir, check out the video below. This is a truly unique, hauntingly beautiful adaptation of the famous Schubert “Ave Maria”, arranged in a minor key by the Escolania’s present Choirmaster, Bernat Vivancos. It features the choristers themselves in concert, as well as scenes of the magnificent Montserrat Abbey: