Solemn Hymn to the Black Madonna
In 1943, the Spanish composer Pablo Casals (1876–1973) wrote “Nigra Sum,” one of his best-known choral works and, one could argue, one of the most beautiful choral works ever written.
Like many of Casals’ compositions, the piece was designed to be sung at the famed Montserrat Monastery in Catalonia, the ancient Spanish city which was also the place of Casals’ birth. This sumptuous-sounding devotional was written by the composer as a six-part chorus with an organ or piano accompaniment.
And rather fittingly, I think, I found a performance of his masterpiece done by the Georgia Boy Choir, and actually recorded on-site at Spain’s majestic Benedictine abbey on June 14, 2016. The performance comes from the annual Spain/Portugal International Concert Tour in which the American choir proudly participated.
Some of the kids actually looked a bit overwhelmed by it all, but the sound of their performance is achingly beautiful.
The video recording itself is also quite beautiful, offering watchers establishing views of the picturesque mountains where the Monsterrat Cathedral sits. And quite surprisingly, the vid also offers views of the choir members standing in the presence of La Moreneta (The little dark one), the wooden Black Virgin statue whose legendary existence in Catalonia can be traced to the 12th century.