The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. This was a custom that originated around 1660 and flourished until the advent of large-scale rail transport in the 1840s. In the final decades of the fashion, European tourists were often accompanied by well-to-do Americans sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to join them. Around the time that the Grand Tour was almost entirely out of fashion, Mark Twain’s book The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress was published and remains one of the funniest accounts of the practice (along with an extension of the trip into the Holy Land).
San Francisco Renaissance Voices (SFRV) has decided to structure their eleventh season around the concept of the Grand Tour. However, rather than requiring members of the audience to leave the Bay Area, the concerts of the season will bring distant lands to them through the music of those regions. There will also be an “added bonus” with the inclusion of Colonial America as part of the tour. The dates of the San Francisco concerts, along with their associated visits, will be as follows:
October 17, 7:30 p.m., Autumn in Italy – Viva Italia!: Given the name of the group, it is appropriate to begin in Italy, which is considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance. The major work on the program will be a six-part setting of the Mass text by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. The setting is known as the Missa Nasce la gioia mia because it is named after a madrigal by Giovan Leonardo Primavera, from which Palestrina appropriated thematic material. The program will also include rarely-performed madrigals by Giammateo Asola, Orazui Vecchi, Maddalena Casulana, Vittoria Aleotti, Giovanni Croce, Alessandro Striggio, and Luca Marenzio.
November 13, 7 p.m., An Evening of EMAgic with the music of Broceliande: This will be a special benefit concert of music, magic, and morsels in support of Early Music America. The former will be provided by the Celtic/Early Music band Broceliande, which has entitled its program Music of the Harvest. This will be held in the more informal second-story setting of the Seventh Avenue Center for the Arts and Spirituality (SACAS), rather than in the usual venue of the sanctuary of Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church.
December 12, 7:30 p.m., Christmas in Cambridge – A Festival of Lessons & Carols: This will be the fourth annual free family event for the Christmas holiday. The program is modeled after the Festival of Lessons & Carols first performed at King’s College in Cambridge in 1918. However, the performance will also include a new composition especially written for the occasion.
January 9, 7:30 p.m., Twelfth Night in London – The Boar’s Head Festival: This will be SFRV’s sixth annual celebration of the end of the Christmas holidays, based on a 650-year-old tradition. Music will again be provided by Broceliande, joined by guest percussionist Geneva Harrison. The San Francisco Renaissance Dancers will also perform. As in the past, the ceremony will be hosted by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth I, who has invited Master Will Shakespeare to her court to assist in the revelries.
February 20, 7:30 p.m., Promenade Across the Continent – Music for Multiple Choirs: The tour will conclude with a musical sampler from across Europe including Scotland, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the Low Countries. The earliest use of extended multiple resources will be Quit habitat a motet for 24 voices composed by Josquin des Prez. The program will also include Orlande du Lassus’ “O la, o che bon eccho,” as well as works by Jacobus Handl, Hans Leo Hassler, Michael Praetorius, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Sebastián Raval, and Francisco Guerrero. There will also be a piece performed by SFRV: The Next Generation, a newly formed choir of students aged twelve through seventeen, led by Director of Educational Programs, Derek Tam.
All performances will take place at the Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church, located at 1329 Seventh Avenue, just south of Golden Gate Park and near the Muni N Line stop at the corner of Irving Street and Seventh Avenue. Different events have different prices. However, the 2015–16 Season Web page at the SFRV Web site has links to Brown Paper Tickets event pages for all performances that require tickets.