How does a thing come to be? As an undergraduate at Mount Union College I was fortunate to come into contact with one of the best music faculties possible at a small liberal arts college. Lewis Phelps, the department head and my voice teacher was one of the finest music educators I have ever met – even now after having been a music educator myself for over 40 years. His energy and drive were matched by Carl H. Kandel, who encouraged my interest in transcribing music for the brass choir in which I played. Bruce S. Browne was our choral director, later renowned for his professional choral recordings and awards at international competitions. Peter Synnestvedt, orchestra director and music history teacher sparked my interest in musicology. These people set fantastic examples of how to be a musician and an educator.
I first learned of the Choralis Constantinus from my Master’s degree thesis advisor Dr. John MacDonald at the University of Akron. The terror of all graduate music students at UA, John would stalk into the early music history courses carrying a milk crate filled with LPs and books and declaring, “Any graduate student worth their salt had better be prepared to spend 4-5 hours a night in the library.” His doctoral advisor at the University of Michigan was none other than Louise Cuyler. He infected me with the notion that Isaac, not Josquin, was the major figure of the early Renaissance. Even though I had enrolled there to study choral conducting, I became a Music History and Literature major.
My doctoral studies at Arizona State University brought me into the sphere of yet another musicologist, Dr. Robert D. Reynolds. Like John MacDonald at Akron, graduate choral students at ASU who had to take Reynold’s History of Choral Music course lived in fear of failing it. So, of course, I requested that he be my dissertation advisor on the topic of producing editions from the Choralis Constantinus in modern notation. His tutelage in that and many other things – including the founding of ChoralNet – has always been appreciated.
I finally got to visit Konstanz in 1990, seven years after finishing my doctoral studies. In a weird set of circumstances, I was in Vienna on a complimentary tour of Austria and Germany the night that West and East Germany reunified in 1990. The next morning, our new guide (who’d been up all night), met our group (none of whom had slept). As he matched faces with names, he came to mine and asked, “Swiss?” I answered, “yes” and with that exchange I met one of the best friends of my life. Harald Lischkowitsch was born in Konstanz and is fiercely loyal to its history and traditions. He is a tourism industry expert, a personal trainer, a life coach, and an industry consultant. We have collaborated on many projects together since that time.
Harald introduced me to Wilm Geismann, Director of Music at the Konstanz Munster (former cathedral). Wilm and his wife Krista were open and encouraging when I brought my college ensembles to Konstanz on tour and they remained my friends as Wilm moved on to become the head of diocesan music in Freiburg and his Capella Cantorum Konstanz became the Capella Cantorum Freiburg.
As sad as I was to see Wilm leave Konstanz, the compensation was meeting his replacement at the Munster. Markus Utz, now Professor of Conducting and Choral Conducting at the Zürich University of the Arts, has been a good friend and colleague since he first came to Konstanz. From 2001 to 2008 he was Music Director at the Konstanz Munster. Markus and his ensemble cantissimo have performed many of my Isaac editions and his suggestions for improvement have been invaluable. His encouragement led to the establishment of this site.
These editions are also influenced by the current wave of musicologists who are uncovering new and fascinating information about Heinrich Isaac and his impact on music history. I’ll never be the scholar that they are. I see myself as a facilitator. But, without the work of people like David Burn, Rob Wegman, and Giovanni Zanovello (see references), much of this would be poorly informed.