Our choir rehearsal at Ghivizzano’s barn-like lower church went well last night. I especially enjoyed our new seating plan – we’re in the pews now rather than the choir stalls and I can actually gather what our choirmaster Andrea is telling us rather than having to pick it up out of the church’s booming resonances.
We’re going to sing in Perpoli’s church at 9.30 AM this Sunday. I’ve never been to Perpoli although I know it lies somewhere between Gallicano and Castelnuovo. Anyway, here is a distant view of it:
We rehearsed the pieces chosen to sing at the various parts of the Mass, pieces we could now sing in our sleep if we weren’t worried about waking up our bed-partners – Lotti, Frisina, Citti etc.
At the end of the rehearsal our choirmaster reminded us that not only were we singing before God but also before Don Italo Bianchi.
At this stage you’ll probably ask who this Don Bianchi is. Here goes then:
Don Italo Bianchi is probably one of the most distinguished church composers alive today – another Italian version, like Frisina, of John Rutter. Maestro Bianchi was born in Castelnuovo di Garfagnana in 1936 and is also the parish priest of Gallicano’s beautiful Della Robbia decorated church.
He studied composition with Cicionesi, Bortone and Bartolucci and, since 1970, is chief Professor of harmony, counterpoint and fugue at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome.
Don Bianchi’s impressive list of compositions includes five symphonies for orchestra, two string quartets, a requiem, chamber music, and many pieces of polyphonic music. His collaboration with the “Apuan Alps “choir (see for my post on this choir at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/moving-mountain-melodies/ ) from Pieve Fosciana have produced compositions based on local folk-song collected in the Valley.
In 1990 Don Bianchi was a guest of Seoul’s Korea National Symphony Orchestra, which performed the world premiere of his Symphony no. 1. In 1993 he was back in Seoul for the Korean national anthem in his new musical arrangement. Don Bianchi retains a firm link with the Korean music scene to this day.
In 1993 Tuscany’s choral Association published a collection of songs that are part of the repertoire of the Apuan Alps choir. Fourteen are Tuscan folk-songs, and the rest are sacred compositions dedicated to the Garfagnana region.
In 2011, on the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Venice, Maestro Don Bianchi composed the Eucharistic celebration music at the Parco di San Giuliano which was attended by around 300,000 people. The Mass was broadcast live on BBC One and distributed by satellite in Austria, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary. Bianchi’s music was performed by a thousand-strong choir. In 2006 he was composer of the music of the Mass that Pope Benedict XVI celebrated in Verona during the fourth National Congress. For the occasion, Don Bianchi composed “The Mass of the Angels”, which was sung by a choir of 4000 singers in choirs from all over the Veneto. Don Bianchi has also previously composed Masses celebrated by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.
Wow! With all that to his credit we’d better sing decently not just for God but for Gallicano’s local priest and world-renowned composer Don Bianchi! It’s quite remarkable what amazing geniuses lurk in our little villages. (But then didn’t Haydn work for years in a back-water on the Hungarian plains before Salomon brought him to London and world fame?)