Notes on ABBÀ PATER from Vincenzo Messina
1. CERCATE IL SUO VOLTO
The Pope is particularly fond of Psalm 26, which he often cites in reference to man's search for the Lord, and the ultimate certainty that "lets his heart take courage." A brief introduction by the string section sets the tone for the Holy Father's message: "The Lord is my light and my salvation."
The recording was made in líAquila at the Church of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria by a young people's orchestra that was assembled especially for this occasion.
2. CRISTO È LIBERAZIONE
This selection, which is enhanced by the music of Latin America, blends the joyous sounds of percussion instruments, Andean flutes, and accordions with a full orchestra. The passages spoken by the Pope, from various sources and in several languages, possess as a common denominator a faith in Jesus Christ, the revealer of God and the liberator of mankind.
3. VERBUM CARO FACTUM EST
"And the Word became flesh," from the Gospel of John, portrays the reality of the coming of Christ through the interpretations of Katharina Scharp, the Roman Academy Choir, and the Orchestra Nuova Sinfonietta Roma.
4. ABBÀ PATER
The word "abbà," which signifies "father" in Aramaic, was used by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to express the close relationship between Father and Son.
Twenty years ago, Pope John Paul I's pronouncement that God is also Mother caused much emotion and surprise. Pope John Paul II has since expounded upon this affirmation by declaring that paternity and maternity are complementary attributes of the person of God.
The various spoken passages are part of a larger "operatic" setting that alternates words and music, orchestra and chorus, and modern melodies and Gregorian chants. This brief but moving spiritual journey has also been the inspiration for a music video.
5. VIENI, SANTO SPIRITO
These verses from the Sequence of the Mass of Pentecost are set against an intimate Oriental background based on an amalgam of Indian, Chinese, and Indonesian sounds. The music, which ceases almost entirely during the homily that His Holiness delivered on January 1, 1998, rises to a crescendo at the end with the participation of soprano, chorus, and orchestra.
6. PADRE, TI CHIEDIAMO PERDONO
Originally delivered on August 23, 1997 during John Paul II's vigil with young people in Paris, this homily conveys another theme that is dear to his heart. The dramatic nature of his message is reinforced by the expressionistic orchestral score.
7. DOVE C'ÈAMORE, C'È DIO
The concept of charity, or the extent of God's love, is a divine virtue par excellence as well as the supreme "law of Christ." It is expressed in passages from Exodus and Matthew, which precede the well-known Gregorian chant entitled "Ubi Caritas."
8. PADRE DELLA LUCE
The Pater Noster from the ancient Slavonic liturgy is sung by Echo, a choral group from Bratislava that specializes in sacred music. Punctuated by drums, bass, and full orchestra, it follows the passage from the Gospel of John that begins with "Everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it."
9. UN COMANDAMENTO NUOVO
This prayer, which is attributed to Saint Francis, was recorded in Assisi in 1986 on the occasion of the World Day of Peace. Preceded by the "Mandatum novum do vobis" from the Book of John, it is highlighted by a musical score that starts with a quiet melody for voice and Celtic flutes, and gradually increases in volume and intensity as the chorus joyously affirms the testament left by Christ on the cross.
10. MADRE DI TUTTE LE GENTI
This selection, which was recorded in the open air, is also part of a larger "operatic" piece. It opens with several Christian chants from Uganda and various African percussion instruments that introduce the recital of the Marian Antiphon from the Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours in both Latin and Italian. The "Dies Sanctificatus," which is sung as a Gregorian chant, alternates with the antiphonal stanzas in a steady crescendo of richer and more dynamic musical textures. The maternal nature of God's love is evoked by the historical references to the Woman, the Mother of Jesus, and Mary of Nazareth.
11. LA LEGGE DELLE BEATITUDINI
The last selection once again recreates the sounds of an open-air concert. As chorus and orchestra gradually become part of the score, they highlight the words contained in Matthew 5, when "Jesus went up on a mountainside" and proclaimed the Law of the New Alliance. In the spirit of the Beautitudes themselves, the musical setting is meant to convey a message of unity and reconciliation to all mankind.
Interview with Leonardo De Amicis
Q: What was your immediate reaction when you received this proposal?
The first thing I thought when I received this proposal was that it would be a difficult task to accomplish, in terms of both composition and production. From the very beginning, over a year ago, my hope was that it would not prove to be an exercise in futility. Thanks to the dedication of the entire production team, and their perseverance in striving to create a work of greatness, the final results were more than gratifying.
Q: When did you first hear the voice of the Pope?
I was extremely moved when I first heard the Pope's voice in my recording studio. However, after I had finished sketching out the first selection "Cercate Suo Voltoî everything suddenly seemed complete. Every nuance of his voice, every form of expression, every dynamic seemed to fit perfectly with the musical score. I had the distinct feeling that the ABBÀ PATER project was about to become a living reality. Even today, after having listened hundreds of times to the final work, I have the same reaction.
Q: How did you approach the project, and what choices did you make once you began working in the studio?
The first obstacle that I had to face was deciding what direction the music should ultimately take. I was already aware of numerous attempts made by other composers. The problem for me was finding a way to create music that would have popular appeal without reflecting current musical trends.
I felt that this composition would have to convey a sense of agelessness and multi-ethnicity, especially in light of our shrinking world. At the same time, it needed to reflect the importance of 2,000 years of religion and culture as expressed by the basic concepts of forgiveness, reconciliation, and man's spiritual pilgrimage.
All of us worked long and hard on this project, without any respite whatsoever. We met constantly with the various individuals involved, particularly Messina, the producer, as we collaborated on numerous daily modifications and variations.
Q: How much of your own spirituality was involved in the creative and production stages?
A: My own spiritual involvement was a fundamental part of the entire process, and more than once it proved to be a great source of inspiration. I come from a deeply religious Catholic background, and I was raised to live by the Christian rules.
During production, I came to understand many concepts that had not been totally clear to me. Above all else, it was the voice of the Holy Father that became my spiritual guide as I went about composing this work.
Notes from Stefano Mainetti
When I was asked to compose a musical score to accompany the words of the Holy Father, I must confess that I was plagued by doubt and uncertainty. Never before had I been involved in, or even imagined, such an undertaking. However, as I listened to the simplicity of the sentiments contained in the text, I began to realize that my apprehensions were groundless.
My greatest help in creating the music for "Un Comandamento Nuovo" was surely the expressive power of the Holy Father himself, and his enormous ability to communicate the word of God in an effective way. The beauty of the prayer attributed to Saint Francis accomplished the rest.
What I was searching for was a musical background that highlighted the text I was given rather than working in opposition to it. My solution was a simple, slow melody that would "crescendo" in accordance with the immediate, overpowering meaning that the voice of the Holy Father had wanted to give to those verses.
I employed the same approach while composing the music for "Dove CíË Amore, CíË Dio" with the help of a choral theme taken from the Gregorian literature. When I added the orchestral score to provide the necessary depth, I chose a series of ethnic sounds that are not generally part of the sacred repertory. This was done to emphasize the modernity of the evangelical message, as well as its absolute universality.
My use of multi-ethnic references throughout the score was intended to underline the Holy Father's concern with eliminating all geographical, political, racial, and linguistic boundaries. As a consequence, I moved the harmonic structure away from the dogmas that have been traditionally associated with the sacred repertory. The timeliness of the messages contained in the text facilitated my modernizing of the music.
In utilizing the computer as an integral part of the orchestration, my intent was to make it a determining factor, rather than an invasive element, in the evolution of the score, which is meant to reflect the contemporaneous nature of the words of the Holy Father.
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