The Tempesta di Mare Baroque Orchestra has released a musical tonic for the isolation and anxiety created by COVID-19. The text is a Stella Caeli—a plea to the Virgin Mary—and it was composed in 1679 as a prayer for relief from the plague ravaging Vienna. Tempesta di Mare has given it a performance that brings out all the beauty of the music and made it available for free on YouTube.
Get well soon
The video’s basic visual format is a standard group of thumbnails, but Tempesta has given it some important touches. The Latin text, with an English translation, is located in the bottom center of the screen and coordinated with the music. The images of the fourteen musicians move on and off the screen according to who’s playing or singing at the moment.
Tempesta di Mare calls the piece a “musical get-well card.” They sent an announcement to their email list with the hope “the music's positivity and beauty will bring some added cheer into your lives.” I forwarded the announcement, as Tempesta said we could, and I’ve received several thank-yous from the people I sent it to, usually saying they’re passing it on in their turn.
In the 14th Century, the bubonic plague—the Black Death—killed 40 percent to 60 percent of Europe's population. It may have reduced the world population by 20 percent. Smaller outbreaks flared up in the centuries that followed, including in 1679 when 70,000 people died in Vienna.
What, When, Where:
Tempesta di Mare presents Stella Caeli: A Baroque Motet to End the Plague on YouTube, available on-demand now.