Convent Music in the Jubilee Years of the Seicento

Music in the convents, as a vehicle for both solace and artistic expression, was of great importance not only to the nuns. It was also a source of prestige for their communities, both civic and ecclesiastic. This was particularly true in the four Jubilee Years of the 17th century: 1600, 1625, 1650 and 1675.
In an effort to combat the role of musical convents as popular tourist attractions, in 1665 Pope Alexander VII emanated an extremely restrictive edict which prohibited polyphony and musical instruction in the convents. Yet a mere 10 years later these rules were practically ignored and the nuns were permitted to participate in the celebrations for the Jubilee, organized for the purpose of awing and entertaining the hoards of pilgrims who descended on Rome. Music could be heard in all the convents of the city, executed by both professional male musicians and the nuns themselves.

This year, in honor of the “Jubilee of Mercy” declared by Pope Francis, Cappella Artemisia will celebrate its own 25th anniversary with a program of convent music composed both by and for cloistered nuns and printed in the Jubilee years of the Seicento. It will include a sacred contrafactum of a madrigal by Giovanni Nanino contained in a collection of Nova Metamorfosi and dedicated to Suor Ottavia Virginia Cattanea, organist at the convent of S. Orsola in Milan (1600); a Magnificat by the composer Leandro Gallerano dedicated to Signora D. Agnesina Dandolo at the Monasterio d’Ogni Santi in Padua (1625); two wonderful motets by the prolific Milanese composer, Suor Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1650); a delightful “sacred concerto” by Suor Maria Xaveria Perucona, “excellent teacher of Music as well as admirable singer” (1675), and more.
This program is available with 5-8 singers and continuo. It will be premiered at the Modena Cathedral on September 28, 2016 with an ensemble of 6 singers, organ, viola da gamba and baroque harp.