The Schola Cantorum Amsterdam (SCA) is an independent Gregorian choir that was founded by Wim van Gerven in 1959.
The schola, consisting of about eight men, and since 2007, a women’s schola (SCA Choeur de Femmes), sing the Gregorian vespers in the Basilica of St Nicolas in Amsterdam from September till June on every Sunday at 17:00 hrs. On important holy days the Matins are also sung. In addition, concerts are given by the Schola in the Netherlands and abroad. Performances of the singers include the Old Music Festival in Utrecht, the Musica Sacra Festival in Maastricht, the concert halls of Haarlem (Philharmonic), Utrecht (Vredenburg), Rotterdam (De Doelen), and Amsterdam (Royal Concertgebouw), and at Gregorian festivals in Ravenstein, Watou (B), Vienna, Italy, and Budapest.
The SCA’s functioning is very closely related to the work of its founder Wim van Gerven (1929-2008). He applied himself to the study of ancient handwritings, mainly of those from the tenth century. In these handwritings, the melodic course of the singing is indicated with small marks: the Neumes. These belong to the oldest form of western musical notation, from even before the introduction of the five-line staff notation. SCA tries as much as possible to realise the rhythmic flexible interpretation of these neume marks to achieve a historically justified performance. The present director of the men’s schola of SCA, Marcel Zijlstra, cherishes this tradition and manner of approach as much as his predecessors, Jerry Korsmit, Eugeen Liven d’Abelardo, and Wim van Gerven.
In this workshop you will learn how to sing centuries old Gregorian melodies. With the help of some ten examples, everyone can experience for themselves how the spirituality of the texts is expressed in its music. The unique accent of Gregorian, emphasizing important words through melismata (the singing of a single syllable while moving between several different notes in succession) and the characteristic medieval key (modus) contribute to the heavenly feeling brought about by Gregorian chant. The one-hour workshop teaches you an elementary understanding of the Gregorian musical notation and insight is given in the historical background of this primeval music.
Workshop leader Marcel Zijlstra (1960) started as a singer at the Schola Cantorum Amsterdam and took courses in Gregorian chant interpretation at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen-Werden with scholars such as Godehardt Joppich, Luigi Augustoni, and Johannes Berchmans Goeschl. Since 1984, he has been the choir leader of Gregorian scholas (Quem Quaeritis, Ecclesiae Tuae). He gives lectures, courses, and workshops at home and abroad, among other places at the Folkwang Universität der Künste in Essen (D). He teaches Gregorian chant at the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague and teaches music and cultural history at Codarts Conservatory of Music in Rotterdam. He is the artistic leader of the Dutch Gregorian Festival in Ravenstein and organist of the abbey of Egmond.
The Schola Cantorum Amsterdam and I have accepted the invitation from Inspire because we would like to make people feel the power of Gregorian chant. We regularly sing before a very small audience. We would like our music to reach a much larger group so we can all experience how Gregorian chant in all its apparent simplicity gives us an intense sensation of great spiritual richness.