Summertime in Orvieto means lots of music. There are festivals of all sorts—strings, choral, classical, folk. One day a week or so ago, I noticed a poster for a choir coming to the duomo that advertised that they were going to sing some Bach and Palestrina. I’m a big fan of Palestrina, having sung his Sicut Cervus a million times at St. P’s, and I felt like it would be like a taste of home, so this Wednesday, the other 2 American girls and I went up to town for some pizza by the slice at my favorite pizza by the slice place, Il Capriccio.
The concert was nice; the choir was from Greenwich, and they did a Magnificat, a Stabat Mater, some Bach, a Brahms piece, an Ave, and then Harris, Klatzow and Holst. I was pleased to hear the Klatzow, since we had also done a little bit of his work in choir before, but I was disappointed they didn’t actually do any Palestrina.
It’s always nice to see a performance like that in the duomo. Last year we heard Mozart’s Requiem performed very well, making for quite a moving concert. In fact, last summer I wrote a poem about the concert. Here it is, if you’re interested:
the kyrie’s crescendo rolling
dark and steady and long
like the Wyoming thunder
I heard when I was thirteen
in a field of blue and purple.
At twenty-one it is a Christe eleison
sighing like an abandoned lover,
an Ariadne waiting for her Theseus to
come to her. And (Christ, oh have mercy)
it is magical and fitting to end
such a thing with a farewell to the dead.
We dug them up, took them from their
stones, singing. We left our own
trail of dead—a temporary life of dirt
and terra cotta tiles and Etruscan red-figure.
They weren’t the dead we wanted,
but Christe eleison anyway.
We will only lose what we want
on that cold concrete floor of a cathedral
that took four hundred
years to build.
How many generations worked
so that their
children’s children’s children’s children
times almost infinity
could admire the INRI and the C major
chords that descend through the nave
and burst out of the heavy doors
into the piazza, where the four saints
stand guard and witness our lamentation
to our own dead,