K-State student bringing music history to life, transcribing 500-year-old manuscript

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A local student is bringing history back to life through music.

About 500 years ago, a Catholic masterpiece was last performed, and thanks to a Kansas State University student you can now hear it.

After six long months, and with the help of a computer, Patrick Dittamo was able to bring the Missa ad te levavi by Bartolomé de Escobedo, to life.

The K-State grad student and Topeka native has spent the last six months transcribing the song.

“I would have a voice in front of me, and I’d copy it into the staff below,” Dittamo said. “Bit by bit, scrolling along. And then once I finished that voice, I would go to the next page and work through that voice.”

The transcription was difficult because the ink on the sheets had smeared, and how old the piece is. The song is also only sung acapella, but with the help of an app, he was able to transcribe the song and hear it with an instrument.

“But now we can actually hear what it sounded like, and discover something new, but old,” Dittamo said.

Now people can hear what it sounds like through a concert preformed by the Kansas City Chorale members.

To one member, Bryan Pinkall, he said this is a positive for a church community, that just this week watched as a fire nearly destroyed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

“After the Notre Dame fire, it seemed like it was resurrection of art that we needed to share,” Pinkall said.

“This is a fascinating piece of music,” Dittamo said. “It’s going to be heard for the first time, likely, in four to five-hundred years. And it’s just delightful. There’s a certain thrill of discovery. Because you don’t know what you’re going to get, until you transcribe it.”

The Kansas City Chorale will perform a sample of the Missa ad te levavi, Saturday, in Kansas City. It will be at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.

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