Le Voci delle Grazie was founded in 2015 as a way for Laura Lopes and Bethany Shepherd to recreate the lost art of musica secreta, a performance practice of intense musical expression in the courts of Italy. For almost fifty years in the latter part of the 16th Century, the Court of Ferrara was frequented by some of Europe’s finest composers; Luzzaschi, Agostini and Marenzio all dedicated their compositions to Europe’s first professional female vocal chamber ensemble Il Concerto delle Dame.
The women of Il Concerto were virtuosic singers and accompanied themselves with harp, lute and viola da gamba. Laura Peverara, Livia d’Arco and Anna Guarini all performed the musica secreta for Duke Alfonso II and his court.
It was not only music that was written for this virtuosic ensemble. The poet Torquato Tasso (of Monteverdi and Handel fame) wrote over seventy five poems for Laura Peverara and dedicated much of his work to the women of Il Concerto delle Dame.
This all-female group’s influence spread to publishing as Baldini, the publisher for the court of Duke Alfonso II, produced two collections of Madrigals, Il lauro secco (1582) and Il lauro verde (1583). These two editions were comprised of compositions from across Italy dedicated to both Il Concerto delle Dame and the Duke himself.
The rich cultural heritage of Il Concerto continued to influence music and all forms of art throughout Italy. In the 1630’s the Baroni family comprising Adriana Basile (a famous singer of the time) and her two daughters Leonora and Caterina performed under the patronage of Cardinal Barberini in Rome. The composers Luigi Rossi and Domenico Mazzocchi wrote a number of pieces for the Baronis as Luzzaschi had done in Ferrara forty years earlier.
The court of Ferrara is never far away from the heart of Le Voci delle Grazie‘s sound. With the female voices of Il Concerto and its original instrumentation of harp, lute and viola da gamba combined with harpsichord, Le Voci performs female virtuosic music written throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
What’s in a name (and a logo)? We found our name listening to Strozzi’s Le tre grazie a Venere and looking at Canova’s sculpture The Three Graces. Our logo was inspired by Raphael’s painting from 1504.
Photo credits: Stamatis Xanthoulis, Juanjo Molero Ramos, Ross Buddie