Our contribution to the Nordic Choir Festival "The Nordic Choir Expedition": "Sunt Lacrimae Rerum"
Our concert title is a famous phrase from Virgil's Aeneid. In Carthage Aeneas visits a temple to Juno and gazes on a mural which depicts key figures from the Trojan war—the war that has driven him to this alien shore as a refugee. He perceives how mortal things touch the spirit, and that 'there are tears at the heart of things.' And it is here that he first dares to hope for safety and to have more confidence in his wrecked fortunes.
The music we sing in the first part of the concert includes three laments: King David mourning the death of his son Absolon in battle; Dufay's lament for the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453; and Rachel's lament for her dead child, one of many killed by Herod's men in the slaughter of the innocents. These are set between two Marian motets by the Franco-Flemish composer Jean Mouton, which express the precious beauty and hope engendered by the birth of a child.
These references to strife between people of different religions and the plight of the refugee are placed here deliberately to echo some of the themes that occur in Line Tjørnhøj's extended 'report' on the state of civilisation at the beginning of our new millennium.
The composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, with whom Ars Nova enjoyed a particularly close association, died earlier this summer. To commemorate Pelle and pay tribute to his marvellous music, we conclude our concert with one of the finest pieces he wrote for us: Three Stages. This is a work in three sections which began life as a musical tapestry of Copenhagen street cries (quoting Berio's Cries of London in passing,) but then interweaves a sonnet by Shakespeare, Janequin's Chant des Oiseaux, and various other local references as well.