Crux is a gathering of voices on the Atlantic fringe of Europe in the historic city of Dublin.
Inspired by plainchant as the foundation of Western music, the ensemble interprets old music for new audiences. Directed by Paul McGough, Crux has featured in the hit TV series Vikings, movies such as Pilgrimage, Love & Friendship, The Hole in the Ground and various documentaries.

The group varies in number – anything from three to thirteen or more, depending on the event – and is based at the beautiful St. Mary’s Church on Haddington Road, Dublin. There, Crux sings the early mass on the first Sunday of each month, including Medieval, Renaissance and Contemporary choral music and may be viewed live online via this link.

Crux sings at festivals and events around Ireland and abroad (eg Galway Early Music Festival, Throckmorton Literary Festival, UK, Trim Festival of Masks, Dark Dublin) and is a permanent feature at historic centres like King John’s Castle and Clondalkin Round Tower.
– Paul McGough, founder, director.

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Crux Vocal Ensemble

July 22nd, 9:30am. St. Mary's Church, Haddington Road.
9th Sunday after Pentecost/16th in Ordinary Time/the Feast of Mary of Magdalene:

Mass: Missa Brevis (A. Gabrieli, 1532–1585)
Introit: Ecce Deus adiuvat me* (plainchant)
Collection: Maria Magdalene (A. Gabrieli)
Offertory: Justitiae Domine* (A. Scarlatti, 1660–1725)
Communion: Qui Manducat Meam* (C. Merulo, 1533–1604)
Hymn: The King of Love my Shepherd is (Irish tune)
*Propers

Crux focusses on the transition from late Italian Renaissance to early Baroque this week, choosing the examples of Andrea Gabrieli, Claudio Merulo and Alessandro Scarlatti.

To put it simply, the Franco-Flemish contrapuntal style (think Palestrina) had been the mainstay of Western European church music throughout the Renaissance, a polyphonic language that resisted development or change even after the Reformation shook the Roman Catholic Church. The Church's Counter-Reformation took different directions, initially, but in the end voted to inspire awe in worshippers through the use of ornate and dramatic art. Of course, this simply continued the materialistic, expensive and laity-funded policy that had riled Reformers in the first place. Once the Church sanctioned the new Baroque style in architecture at the Council of Trent around 1550, painting, sculpture and music were expected to follow suit.

But while architecture led the charge, the other artforms took time to agree on how this new, awe-inspiring style should appear. The bright thinkers and music academics of the Florentine Camerata were radical in redesigning the sound of music. Eventually their developments would become the Baroque style of music, also laying in place the stepping stones to opera. in Venice, however, a much simpler scenario was to have a profound effect on music.

The multiple choir balconies of St. Mark's Basilica, Venice, posed a problem to organist Adrian Willaert (appointed in 1527). Polyphonic singing was a bit of a mess due to the considerable echo and time delay in the vast basilica, so Willaert experimented with music that called for the independent use of two or three choirs in order to achieve a greater degree of synchronicity and clarity of text.
This technical solution heralded a new expressive, spatial language which was further explored by his many students. These became collectively known as the Venetian School and among the most brilliant of them were Andrea Gabrieli and Claudio Merulo. Working together in the positions of first and second organist (there were two organs in use at St. Mark's) these two men were well known to each other and, in time, throughout Italy. In fact Merulo became so famous that he changed his birthname (Merlotti) to Merulo – the Italian for 'blackbird'. I choose their music to represent this uniquely Venetian breakaway from the Franco-Flemish tradition, this segué from the Renaissance to the Baroque period.

We then skip forward by a century, approximately, where Alessandro Scarlatti represents the point of arrival in our discussion. A 'southerner' from the Kingdom of Sicily, Scarlatti was one of Italy's most prominent Baroque composers, securing work in Naples and Rome (for the notorious Queen Christina of Sweden)
We hear now the fruits of the labours of the Venetian School (among others). Scarlatti confidently employs a range of colourful harmony writing and chromaticism that would never have been used by Merulo or Gabrieli. Cadences are now marked by trills and lively ornamentation rather than prepared, protracted suspensions and bely a growing instrumental influence. The texture of the music is both homophonic and polyphonic in places and rhythmically 'busier' than church music of previous generations. It's more fun, basically.

We hope these differences will be evident on Sunday July 22nd at the 9:30am mass at St. Mary's church.

Coming up: on August 5th we continue this comparison of the two styles with more motets by Scarlatti and a mass by Gabrieli at St. Mary's Church at 9:30am and St. Kevin's Church at 10:30am.
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Some great Early music this morning on @VladSmishkewych’s Vox Nostra, @RTElyricfm

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“Some of the most beautiful singing I have heard from an Irish choir” – Tim Thurston, RTÉ Lyric FM

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Programmes

1. Romance and Reverence

Crux sings of love and commitment in this concert of vocal music from the Ars Antiqua to modern day.

Two lovers navigate the rise and fall of life and love in a fickle world, all doors to which – and from which – are firmly manned by the Church in rituals of music and ceremony.

Duration: 1 hour excluding interval.

2. The Weeping of David

Crux celebrates the rich literature of David’s psalms in settings of select tracts, eg. ‘When David Heard’ (Tomkins), funeral music by Henry Purcell, Tallis’ imitative ‘Miserere Nostri’ and Allegri’s ‘Miserere Mei’. These substantial works are supported by solo and instrumental music; personal, heart-rending laments from the time of the Crusades, songs for the fallen Jerusalem and for fallen loved ones.

Duration: 1 hour excluding interval.

3. The Rosary

Details to follow.

4. Christmas and Winter

Currently, Crux is gathering ideas for a concert program dedicated to the season of Christmas and Winter, a collection of music that reflects the sacred and secular calendar in rich artistry.
Details will appear in time.

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Contact

Phone

086 3817070

Email

info[@]cruxvocalensemble.com

Address

Churchtown, Co. Dublin, Ireland