Exulting Madrigal

As a student at Andover, Shannon Canavin ’91 developed her deep passion for music. Over a decade and two college-degrees in music later, she returns to PA this Sunday afternoon with her brand new madrigal-style a capella group, Exsultemus. After attending the New England Conservatory, Cavanin studied early music performance practices in graduate school. She cultivated a keen interest in the musical styling of the 16th and 17th centuries, commonly known as madrigal music. Some of the most famous composers during that period were Palestrina and Monteverdi, whose four-six part vocal harmonies were considered very progressive and innovative for their time. Canavin searched for a group in the greater Boston area that sang this specialized style of music but came up short. She then decided during the winter of last year to form her own group, thus finding a way to sing the music that she loved. She brought in interested singers with whom she had previously worked and held auditions for other seasoned singers. She called the final product, “a nice mix of early music stalwarts and people who are just getting into it.” The group, whose members are predominantly younger singers, held its first official concert this past July. Last Monday night, Canavin and a colleague from Exsultemus visited the Cochran Chapel and held a master class with the current members of the Fidelio Society. The two madrigal music veterans shared their extensive musical and historical knowledge with Fidelio, whose current repertoire includes a piece by Palestrina and one by Robert Jones, both composers from the mid-late 16th century. Upon returning to PA, the place where she spent so many nights at rehearsals, Canavin reflected, “It’s great to remember all of the great things you get to do here.” She emphasized that Andover offered her fantastic opportunities as a singer and that she sang more often at Andover than in any point in her career since that time. While an Andover student, she was the quintessential overcommitted PA singer; she was a member of “pretty much all singing groups,” including Fidelio. Canavin’s past experiences as a member of the Andover singing community make Sunday’s Exsultemus concert even more special for the group as well as for the current Andover community. Six singers will be performing (though the core group consists of eight members). However, the madrigal style of music is very flexible and allows for less or more than eight singers, depending on Canavin’s interpretation of a particular piece or the availability of singers on a given day. Sunday’s music program will present a very specific aspect of the madrigal style, namely “Italian Madrigals of the end of the 16th and the end of the 17th centuries.” This type of repertoire is known among musical crowds as “mannerist,” which consists of chromatic and stylized sounds. Typically, pieces of this style begin “normally” and “sing-songy” and then quickly become disjointed as the songs progress. One of the notable pieces that Exsultemus plans to perform is “Moro, lasso!” by Gesualdo. The piece demonstrates chromatics, or small intervals between notes, associated with mannerist music. The group is also extremely excited to present a three-piece set by Monteverdi, named “Ch’io t’ami.” The Exsultemus concert on Sunday begins at 3:00 p.m. in the Chapel and is open to the public: no tickets are necessary, and all members of the community are welcome to join in what promises to be a very special experience. Musical knowledge is truly not needed for one to appreciate the timeless beauty of the madrigal style.