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 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 own 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 my mentor John MacDonald at Akron, graduate 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 has always been appreciated.
Ah, Constance. Or, rather, today’s Konstanz (don’t ask … it’s a long story).
I finally got to visit Konstanz in 1990, seven years after finishing my doctoral studies. In a weird set of circumstances, I was on a complimentary tour of Graz, Vienna, Munich, and Konstanz during the 1990 reunification of Germany. In Vienna, our new guide (who had not slept), met our small group (none of whom had slept). As he called out the names of those onboard and came to mine, he asked “Swiss?” I answered, “yes” and with that exchange I met one of the best friends of my life. We left Vienna for Konstanz with Harald Lischkowitsch as our guide. Harald 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.
I am also indebted to 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.