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Emendemus in Melius


concert band


Arrangement of a five-voice motet by Vicente Lusitano (b. 1520)

Commissioned by the University of the Pacific Bands Program

Première: Faye Spanos Concert Hall, University of the Pacific, January 25, 2024

I first heard the music of Vicente Lusitano in April 2020, the start of one of the driest three-year periods in the history of California. In 2023, the rain and snow returned with a vengeance, and we rejoiced even as we knew it was too much all at once for our parched ground to absorb. The gains would be temporary.


Lusitano’s radiant vocal music sounds like something beamed in from a distant time and place, which in a way it is: the African-Portuguese composer lived in 16th-Century Europe, writing motets and music theory treatises before falling into obscurity for about 400 years. The recent ripple of attention around Lusitano, who is thought to be the first published composer of color, reminds me of the abundant wetness we Californians enjoyed in 2023: I am grateful for it, yet I fear the gains will be temporary.


There are concert band arrangements of Renaissance music, yet to my knowledge not a single work by Lusitano has been arranged for wind ensemble (or orchestra, for that matter). If this truly is the first band arrangement of Lusitano's music, let it be the first of many to come.

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