Every morning in Florence, I wake up to the sound of church bells. It was the same in Venice a week earlier. I just need to count the number of rings to know the time. They never seem to ring when I’m deep asleep. I made a short recording to remember the sound, just before breakfast with my mom.
On this warm Sunday morning in November, I took a detour and led my mother to the church of a nearby monastery. The sound of the organ lured us in.
A young nun stood at the entrance handing out programme sheets entitled “Solennita di Tutti i Santi.” On one side of the church kneeled two rows of nuns. On the other side kneeled monks. As I had never been to a church service with nuns and monks, I was curious if this was a Latin Mass, i.e. with Gregorian chants.
The Santa Maria Assunta church of the “Fraternita Monastiche di Gerusalemme” gradually filled up as time passed. The pure sound of men and women contrasted greatly against the tenor and baritone duo at the Latin Mass we had attended the previous Sunday at San Simeon Piccolo in Venice. I felt somewhat guilty that it was the music that caused me to stay for the service.
The same evening we arrived early for a concert of countertenor, oboe, and organ at the Chiesa Santa Maria de’ Ricci via Del Corso. The countertenor opened with Pergolesi’s Salve Regina, soaring to heaven. I explained to my mom that it’s rare to hear countertenors. Indeed it was her first time.
After the countertenor, the oboist played a piece of Corelli. I couldn’t find the correct Chinese word for the instrument or explain the details to my mother.
It was exciting to see the organist and his 12 digits (fingers and feet) playing one of my favourite pieces, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. The countertenor assisted him by turning pages and switching the registers. Usually we never get to see the organist in action. Here with the organ in front of us, we could see and hear him.
The church was only 25% full, despite the freebie. After the concert, the church custodian brought out CDs for sale. At 15 euros per CD for an unfamiliar group of musicians, I thought it was pricey. But for a free concert, to support the musicians, I was happy to pay for it.
While listening to the 50-minute CD, a live recording of flute, countertenor, and organ, I learned that the association was formed in the late 80’s and the music school since 1990. The Giovani Musicisti Fiorentini offers free concerts of mainly Baroque music on organ, flute, oboe, and often with voice such as soprano and countertenor. Apparently they provide free live music every single day of the year.