On FaceBook the other day, several of my friends passed around “11 Things You Should Know About Your Musician Friends” and I didn’t think most of them would apply to church musicians. Orenda Fink opens with: Musicians can be a lot of fun to hang out with, but sometimes we can make for challenging friends. Here’s a list of ten things you should know about your musician friends – because, hey, we need all the friends we can get!
But the second slide said “Our workday never ends.” You could say that about Carl Crosier, who was in the hospital last week following emergency surgery for a gastric perforation. Yes, he asked for all his CDs of Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-c.1677), a composer, singer and Benedictine nun whose music will be featured in an Early Music Hawaii concert on September 19 at St. Theresa’s Co-Cathedral. This will be a concert of music by all-women composers and all-women singers with an all-woman orchestra. God willing, Carl will be conducting, the token man in a sea of females. Of course, there will also be music by Hildegard of Bingen, as well as other early women composers.
In 2010, Carl attended a concert at the Berkeley Early Music Festival by the group, Magnificat, which gave him the idea for this upcoming program. Under the direction of Warren Stewart, the group has embarked on “The Cozzolani Project,” with the aim of recording the complete works of Cozzolani. Here’s what I found on their website:
Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602-c.1677) was a sister at the musically famous convent of Santa Radegonda, located in the seventeenth century across the street from Milan Cathedral. Santa Radegonda was famous for its sisters’ music-making on such feast-days, as visitors from all over Europe crowded into the half of its church open to the public (the chiesa esteriore), where they could hear the voices of the nuns while the monastic singers remained invisible in their half of the church (chiesa interiore), separated by a three-quarters-high wall. For the celebration of Mass, which unlike the services of the Divine Office, requires the participation of a priest, the celebrant and any attending clergy would likewise have remained in the exterior church.
Like her sister, aunt, and nieces, Cozzolani took her vows at the house in 1620, while in her late teens. She had been born into a well-off family in Milan, and might have received her early musical training from members of the well-known Rognoni family, instrumental and vocal teachers in the city. She entered a foundation, however, whose nun musicians had already been praised for a generation, and whose population (around 100 sisters) provided a large pool of young women who could be trained as singers and instrumentalists.
The fame of Cozzolani and her house is evident in a passage from her contemporary Filippo Picinelli’s urban panegyric, the Ateneo dei letterati milanesi (Milan, 1670):
“The nuns of Santa Radegonda of Milan are gifted with such rare and exquisite talents in music that they are acknowledged to be the best singers of Italy. They wear the Cassinese habits of [the order of] St. Benedict, but (under their black garb) they seem to any listener to be white and melodious swans, who fill hearts with wonder, and enrapture tongues in their praise. Among these sisters, Donna Chiara Margarita Cozzolani merits the highest praise, Chiara [literally, ‘clear’, Cozzolani’s religious name] in name but even more so in merit, and Margarita [literally, ‘a pearl’] for her unusual and excellent nobility of [musical] invention…”
She was, of course, only one of over a dozen nuns in seventeenth-century Italy who published their music, but the ongoing tributes to her and to the musical culture of her house are remarkable on any count.
To listen to some samples of Cozzolani’s music, click here.