A Choir Book Comes to Life

Learn about the storied history of the Gothic Room’s choir book, then listen as it’s brought to life.

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Associate Librarian for Collections and Programs at Harvard University’s Houghton Library (and formerly the Gardner’s own Associate Curator) Anne-Marie Eze and Thomas Kelley, the Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard, explore the Gothic Room’s antiphonary—a religious choir book—in this short film. Given to Isabella by her brother-in-law before 1903, the choir book's past is wrapped up in truth and legend. Eze and Kelley take us back through its history and introduce musicians who sing the book’s antiphon—a short chant before the psalm—for the feast of Saint Nicholas.

An old book opened up to a page.

The book's large format allowed the text and music to be seen by the choir.

Isabella Stewart Gardner displayed this book at the feet of her portrait by John Singer Sargent in the Gothic Room. Click on the link below to watch the video and check out the book on your next visit!

A Choir Book Comes to Life, 2015
3 minutes. Video by Allie Humenuk and Lisa McElaney

Watch on YouTube

Portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner by John Singer Sargent.

John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner (1888) with the choir book (about 1600-1615) in the Gothic Room
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. Photo: Sean Dungan

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