OF ILLUMINATED CHOIR BOOKS
Exhibition Includes Recent Acquisitions
Music for the Masses: Illuminated Choir Books
At the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, August 14-October 28, 2007
June 21, 2007
LOS ANGELES—Some of the largest and most beautiful manuscripts that survive from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance are books containing the music of Christian church ceremonies. Music for the Masses: Illuminated Choir Books, at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, August 14-October 28, 2007, is an exhibition of over 40 manuscripts and leaves from the Getty Museum's collection that explores the various types of choir books and their characteristic illumination.
Music for the Masses surveys the types of books that contained music, the scenes that appear in choir books and the famous artists who painted them, the individuals who used these books, and the various forms of musical notation used to transcribe melodies. Accompanying the exhibition are recorded versions of selected chants from the manuscripts on display.
In early medieval Europe, music was generally transmitted from generation to generation orally until the 800s, when monks began to transcribe their melodies in choir books. Music manuscripts eventually grew to a large size so that the multiple members of a choir could sing from them, and the beginning letters of each chant in the most lavish books were enlarged and filled with scenes related to the hymns they introduced. Choir books were often used to perform musical chants during two main types of Christian liturgical ceremonies: the mass, the public ceremony in which the bread and wine are blessed and consumed; and the divine office, prayers said primarily by monks and nuns throughout the day at monasteries.
The splendid decoration of these manuscripts underscores the great significance of music in medieval life. The elaborate decoration at the beginning of each chant acted as a bookmark for the singers, a visual reminder of the feast being celebrated, and an inspiration for their singing. In The Elevation of the Host (from an Italian missal), several monks gather around a lectern and sing from a choir book during the celebration of the mass. This scene offers a rare glimpse into how these manuscripts were used in their church and monastic contexts in the Middle Ages.
Choir books are one of the strengths of the Getty Museum’s collection and a part of the collection that has grown dramatically in the past three years. This exhibition will present for the first time at the Getty six recent acquisitions to the collection that have been made since 2005.
Music for the Masses: Illuminated Choir Books is curated by Christine Sciacca, assistant curator of manuscripts, the J. Paul Getty Museum.
# # #
Getty Communications Dept.
About the Getty:
The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.
Sign up for e-Getty at www.getty.edu/subscribe/ to receive free monthly highlights of events at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa via e-mail, or visit our event calendar for a complete calendar of public programs.
Visiting the Getty Center: The Getty Center is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Monday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Center is always free. Parking is $15 per car, but free after 5pm on Saturdays and for evening events throughout the week. No reservation is required for parking or general admission. Reservations are required for event seating and groups of 15 or more. Please call 310-440-7300 (English or Spanish) for reservations and information. The TTY line for callers who are deaf or hearing impaired is 310-440-7305. The Getty Center is at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California.