The Sacred Music Programme is dedicated to the research and rediscovery of Florentine choral music from the time of the Medici rulers. Examining the vast archival collections of Florence and further afield, the programme aims to rediscover the choral music of Renaissance Florence and revive it, transcribing forgotten manuscripts of sacred polyphony and bringing them to live professional performance.
In addition, the programme’s advanced choral course for aspiring professional singers provides students a unique opportunity to come to Florence for an intensive programme of study, rehearsals, masterclasses and performances, as well as historical lectures and tours in the heart of the most important city of Renaissance.
Florence of the 15th and 16th centuries is widely celebrated as the epicentre of humanistic thought and artistic flourishing which produced some of the greatest artists in European history. In music, the establishment of the Florentine Camerata di Bardi (a group of scholars, poets and musicians), would go on to invent opera and lay the groundwork for the Baroque style that dominated the art form in the following century.
Considering the great choral traditions of Venice and Rome at this time, it would seem highly unlikely that Florence had no such equivalent. Archival evidence suggests that Florence did indeed have a rich tradition of sacred music. Our research so far has uncovered over 150 motets, as well as several mass settings, magnificats, psalm settings, cantatas and laude, which have in all likelihood not been heard for centuries.
Starting life at the Medici Archive Project in 2018, a small dedicated team has worked to research, scrutinise and map musical manuscripts housed in the Florentine State Archive in the National Library in Florence, the Archive of the Duomo of Florence and other public and private archives both in Florence and further afield, including cities all over Europe. The most relevant findings are then examined in depth, edited and transcribed into modern music form, giving us a clear idea as to the musical quality and importance of the work. Further historical research is carried out to help contextualise a piece of music’s origin and historical provenance. Eventually, it is prepared for publication according to the modern parameters of musical scholarship.
A key part of the programme is performance. A new professional vocal ensemble Vox Medicea, directed by the programme’s director Mark Spyropoulos, is dedicated to the performance and recording of these newly-discovered works. Comprising some of the finest specialist performers of this repertoire, the choir has given performances in London, been featured on the flagship CBS ‘Sunday Morning’ programme and most recently has performed in Florence’s historic Palazzo Vecchio a special concert on behalf of the Commune of Florence.
The programme's aim is to improve the understanding of this choral repertoire and most importantly, to bring it back to life. Concerts by Vox Medicea provide a platform to showcase the research of the Sacred Music Programme and an opportunity for listeners to hear beautiful, rare and forgotten sacred works of Renaissance Florence. Smaller concerts focus on smaller-scale specialist repertoire, while larger concerts with more singers incorporate period instrumentalists and give us the opportunity to showcase the majestic polychoral works which became the hallmarks of the Medici Grand Dukes.
The Florence Choral Course as an annual summer course, which thanks to our supporters is made entirely free for participants and dedicated to the study, performance and promotion of Italian choral music. Up to 25 singers from all over the world have the unique opportunity to come to Florence for in immersive period of daily rehearsals, choral technique workshops, individual singing lessons, archival tours, history lectures and masterclasses with world famous practitioners, including soprano Dame Emma Kirkby and director of Milan Cathedral Choir Maestro Massimo Palombella. The week culminates in concert and ecclesiastical performances in some of Florence’s most iconic buildings, including Palazzo Tornabuoni, Santissima Annunciata and Santa Maria Novella, as well as a sung mass in the great cathedral of Milan.