Music resounds at Park Abbey



1 Dec. 2022

Music has always played an important role at Park Abbey.

As early as the twelfth century its residents sang plainchant. This vocal tradition often formed the starting point for polyphony, as voices were added to the monophonic chant, developing into a complex and rich polyphonic fabric of musical lines. In this process, the original plainchant often evolved into more drawn-out melodic lines, which in much Renaissance polyphony served as a constant factor known as cantus firmus.

In a recording by ensemble-in-residence Cappella Pratensis, the responsorium O sanctissime presul Donatiane for the feast of St Donatian is subjected to such a transformation, as if it were a cantus firmus without accompanying voices. This recording is presented in a new sound installation, Silentii, an Alamire Foundation multimedia project developed in cooperation with Park Abbey, PARCUM, and Visit Leuven at the Library of Voices in recent months by media artist-staff member Rudi Knoops as part of the FWO strategic research project The Sound of Music.

The installation will have a place on the Park Abbey site between the mill and the abbey entrance, a spot that offers a splendid view of the ponds. It will consist of five loudspeakers, arranged in an arc. Each speaker will play one of the voices, so that one voice will be more prominent than the others, depending on where you stand. But colour differences in each of the voices are also clearly audible. We can speak of a polyphonic layering within the single-voiced plainchant.

The Alamire Foundation is planning to incorporate other compositions into the installation in the future. The plainchant and polyphony will become part of the site's permanent soundscape, alongside the chiming of the bells and the sounds of nature: chanting voices will thus continue to be part of the abbey's daily rhythm.

As a 'site of silence', Park Abbey also provides the ideal setting for deVespers 2022. In cooperation with the City of Leuven, the Alamire Foundation is bringing two vespers concerts to the Park Abbey church. The first concert by vocal ensemble Gemma at the end of November will be followed by an evocation of the vesper liturgy for Mary Magdalene by Cappella Pratensis on 4 December at 3pm. No reservation is needed for these free moments of quietude (40 minutes of music).