One Night in Beijing: A French-Chinese Baroque Christmas, c. 1700-1760 A.D.
The Jesuit-run Roman Catholic cathedral in Ming and Ch’ing (Qing) dynasty Peking (Beijing) was a place not only where the Europeans showed off their musical abilities both as a matter of soft diplomacy and as a tool of evangelization, but also where a cultural encounter between European and Chinese civilisations took place.
What would have been heard at Christmas Midnight Mass during the K’ang-hsi (Kangxi) Emperor’s reign? French Baroque church music in Latin, accompanied by baroque instruments, as well as Catholic hymns in Classical Chinese, written by late Ming and early Ch’ing composers in a distinctly Chinese idiom, accompanied by Chinese instruments.
We present a selection of splendid music for Christmas by French baroque composers: the Messe de minuit by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, as well as motets by François Couperin and Henri Du Mont, sung in the context of liturgically appropriate chants taken from the Neo-Gallican chant books as used in 17th and 18th c. French churches.
These will be interspersed with hymns in Classical Chinese sung during mass in Chinese churches of the period and instrumental pieces of Ch’ing court music – both as notated and preserved in the manuscripts of the French missionary priest Fr Jean Joseph Marie Amiot during the reign of the Ch’ien-lung (Qianlong) Emperor. Here is a clip of us singing the 天主經 (Our Father orLord’s Prayer) as it is found in Amiot’s Musique Sacrée, at the Asian Civilisations Museum during their 2016 exhibition ‘Christianity in Asia’ .
Bonus: a Catholic hymn written by the K’ang-hsi Emperor himself!
The singers of Cappella Martialis will be accompanied by bowed and plucked strings, winds, and organ – all instruments of the period and played in a historically-informed style.
Programme booklets (both printed and electronic) with all sung texts and full translations will be available.
Admission, as always as free, with a retiring collection that goes toward defraying costs and toward upkeep of the host venue. Tickets not required, but please register to help us plan ushering arrangements and programme printing. Follow us on Facebook for more updates!