The University of Chicago Motet Choir was founded in 1960 by the eminent Renaisance musicologist Howard Mayer Brown as a way to explore the early music that he played no small part in reviving along with students of similar scholarly interests. Around the mid-1980s, the focus of the choir began to expand; from a group of scholars discovering a repertoire and putting their conceptions of Renaissance performance practice to the test, Motet Choir evolved into an ensemble oriented toward performing at a high level a gradually broadening repertoire of a cappella art music.
Renaisance polyphony has remained a core part of Motet Choir's repertoire and the foundation for our ensemble's distinctive approach to music-making. In addition to the particular technical skills nurtured by Renaissance music (nuanced tuning of thirds and perfect sonorities, a healthy, resonent, and unaffected tone quality, a sensitivity to word stress and the shaping of a line), the independent lines of polyphony have inspired in us, both as sections and individuals, a high level of musical self-reliance. Each of us works to advance her or his own musicianship and to be proactive as performers and interpereters of music. In a similar way, the necessity for singers of Renaisance music to be acutely attuned and responsive to one another has led to a strong sense of ensemble becoming an essential part of our choir's life, artistically and personally.
Of course, in keeping with the circumstances of our founding — and with our inclinations as U of C students — we strive to understand the music we sing both emotionally and intellectually. The insights from history, culture, language, internal structure, and other ways of understanding that we cultivate as students in a wide range of disciplines inform our artistic practice as they do all other areas of our lives.
Over the last several years, Motet Choir has also developed a particular commitment to engaging with the work of living and recent composers, especially through new commissions and direct interactions with composers. These twin strengths serve as the anchors of our repertoire, which now expands to a cappella music of the highest caliber from a broad spectrum of cultures and time periods, as well as occasional collaborations on major choral/orchestral works and other special projects.