Magdalen College’s “Arts of the Beautiful” Program integrates courses in the arts with on-campus and off-campus experiences of cultural beauty. The Program is also a part of the Fine Arts Concentration.
Magdalen College students immerse themselves in the great tradition of Catholic sacred music by participating in the all-college choir for four years. In response to the prevailing culture of passivity and consumption in relation to the arts, Magdalen College students become active contributors to sounding beauty, even if they have never sung before.
The primary purpose of the choir is to enrich the liturgy through the singing of chant, polyphony, and the best of the Church’s hymnody. Through participation in the choir, students not only immerse themselves in the musical treasures of the Church and experience beauty in new and profound ways, they also become attuned to the rhythms of the liturgical calendar.
The full choir or smaller ensembles have the opportunity to sing at the Cathedral for the annual Red Mass, for the Advent Lessons and Carols Service on the feast of Saint Nicholas, and at other local events and parishes. The highlight for the choir each year is Holy Week and Easter. Over the years the choir has produced five cd’s and has been invited to sing at parishes and events across the Northeast.
The choir of Magdalen College also serves the greater Church by creating a model for liturgical renewal. After experiencing the beauty and reverence of a liturgy enhanced through sacred music, many students take their experiences at the college to their parishes and contribute to beautiful worship for many years after graduation.
The Magdalen College Polyphony Choir is a select group of students who sing more challenging sacred music including motets by Palestrina, Byrd, Tallis, Gabrieli and Victoria. The Polyphony Choir is an extension of the mission of Magdalen College, offering the best of ourselves to God in the liturgy, expressed through music. The Polyphony Choir sings monthly at Mass on campus as well as at special events throughout each semester. The highlight of the group’s musical activities is the Polyphony Choir Tour, a four-day tour throughout New England.
The Magdalen College Chant Schola sings the great chants from the church’s beautiful sacred music tradition. The Chant Schola prepares music for Masses in the ordinary and extraordinary form as well as the Melkite Divine Liturgy. They typically sing the traditional chants for All Souls’ Day, All Saints’ Day, the Presentation of Our Lord, Good Friday and Easter Wednesday. Previous experience singing chant is not required to participate in the Chant Schola.
In this studio course, students learn the fundamentals of Byzantine iconography, being guided through the basic process, art, and language of the icon. Students are led step-by-step through the creation of a simple and beautiful icon of Christ or of our Lady with her son.
Through the studio art courses, students can shed the noise and distraction of the week, spending time drawing and painting while “learning to see again.” The fall drawing course uses a variety of exercises to help students “see what’s really there” and experiment with the challenge of representing three dimensional shape and value on two dimensional paper. Students in the fall course draw faces, landscapes (plein air), natural objects, architectural and perspective exercises using pencil, pastel, and charcoal. They learn how to set up a scene that pleases the eye and how to avoid common mistakes. Value, line, composition, perspective, and proportions are taught.
Building on the semester of Studio Drawing, the spring semester introduces color theory and painting techniques, particularly with watercolor as well as tempera, pastel and acrylic or oil, according to student interest. Advanced students may work on individual projects.
In this course students explore both the philosophy of art, through reflection on how art is made, and aesthetics, through reflection on our experience of art. Students take up writings by a wide variety of authors, including Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, St. Augustine, St. Thomas, Kant, Tolstoy, Benjamin, Sontag, Maritain, Gilson, Hildebrand, and Pope Saint John Paul II.
Music and art play an important role in the Philosophy and Humanities Sequence. Selected classes are devoted to the consideration of both visual and musical works. These sometimes take up a particular artist or composer, or they may focus on stylistic elements in the arts of a given period that can be illustrated across a range of works. Thus, composers and visual artists stand alongside—and in conversation with—the poets, philosophers, theologians, historians, playwrights, and novelists whose works constitute the larger sequence.
Through these integrated studies, students learn to speak the languages of these arts and come to experience them in deep ways that engage their forms, genres, and internal drama. The artists and composers include: Giotto, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, Raphael, Josquin, Palestrina, Bach, Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven. Musical works by authors known primarily for their theological works, philosophical writings, or political roles are also taken up, e.g., the music of Hildegard of Bingen, Abelard, and Henry VIII.
Pairings across centuries also take place in this sequence, for example Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis was taken up centuries later in a musical setting by the young Mozart, and Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex was taken up in the twentieth century by Igor Stravinsky. These pairings allow us to consider how the reception of these ancient works reflect continuities and disruptions across time.
In the course devoted to the theology of Prayer and the Sacraments in the fall of freshman year, students learn the theology of the Office of Compline (night prayer) and learn to sing it in English. They may then choose to sing Compline in their residence each evening with their peers and on Sunday evenings during Adoration.
The St. Genesius Players (Magdalen College’s student thespians) stage productions drawn from the theatrical canon. Students are involved in every aspect, including acting, directing, costumes, lighting, and publicity. These productions are a highlight of the co-curricular year and draw visitors from New England and beyond.
A selection of recent dramatic works Performed by the St. Genesius Players:
|The Jeweler’s Shop||Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II)|
|Scenes from Much Ado About Nothing||Shakespeare|
|Pride and Prejudice (adapted for the stage)||Austen|
|Arsenic and Old Lace||Kesselring|
To honor the memory of Josef Pieper and to contribute directly to the renewal of culture, Magdalen College has created the Josef Pieper Prize, a prize awarded for a new work of art created by a student in dialogue with an existing work of visual, musical, or literary art.
The winner of the prize presents his or her work to the collegiate community as part of the Easter Vigil Feast, thereby linking directly and publicly those elements–according to Pieper–that give birth to the creation of culture: sacrifice, worship, feasting, and leisure. The winning work is performed for the collegiate community or, in the case of a literary submission, distributed to the community.
In addition to this public honor, the winner will receive a modest gift that will enable the artist to further his or her creative activities.General requirements for submissions:
Submissions should include:
Each semester the college organizes trips to New England museums, plays and concerts.
Recent Arts of the Beautiful events include:
|The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum||Boston, MA|
|Henry Purcell Society
Lully’s The Tempest
|Huntington Theater Company
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
|The Museum of Fine Art||Boston, MA|
|National Gallery of Art||Washington D.C.|
|Handel and Haydn Society
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9
Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann Violin Sonatas
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto
|Museum of Russian Icons||Clinton, MA|
|Currier Museum||Manchester, NH|
|Actors’ Shakespeare Project
Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing
Shakespeare’s Richard III
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
A Night at Bach’s Coffeehouse