In this week that began with many in America looking up to see the solar eclipse, the a cappella ensemble called Gaude will continue looking skyward for Old First Concerts this Sunday afternoon with Heaven Full of Stars. The repertoire on the program spans eight hundred years of choral music inspired by the night sky.
The inspiration for the programming came several months ago when city-dweller Jace Wittig was on a camping trip for the first time in years. ” It was just kind of one of those picture-perfect nights where it was pitch black, and there was no fog, and the entire Milky Way was just kind of painted above me, and it was miraculous. And for whatever reason in that moment, it just really touched me.” He first thought of the piece by Ēriks Ešenvalds called Stars, the most recent work on the program, and then did some hunting for appropriate material. It’s a subject that many composers have returned to, whether they want to write in religious or philosophical terms, or even scientific. “The majesty or the enormity of the heavens kind of make it a sounding board for a lot of emotions, you know, whether it’s the lovesick man screaming his heart out into the night sky, or whether it’s a place of comfort or mystery or reverence, there were so many impulses to be found as I was looking through texts for this.” The earliest work is from the 13th Century, an Italian devotional, and they have madrigals by Monteverdi and Gesualdo, Renaissance works by Tallis, Byrd and Victoria, and more, including pieces by Brahms, Vaughan Williams, and Arvo Part.