Festa Monini: colors, sounds and tastes of Umbria

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Christmas in Music

Umbria and its surroundings
05 Novembre 2012

Christmas in Music

From Umbria Gospel Festival to "concerts under the tree", from sacred music at the Winter Jazz Festival in Orvieto, in December, the green heart of Italy echoes with music and song.

Snow outside. The warmth of a fireplace in the home. The Christmas tree. The presents. Children's games. All warm, comforting images that recall celebration. But there is one thing more than any other, in any season and wherever one is, that allows one to breathe in that mood, that special atmosphere: which is music.
Intangible, evocative, funny and engaging or deep and intimate, it never leaves us indifferent. It always speaks to our souls. It is capable of making us cry, laugh or be revived.
Perhaps this is why it is so closely linked to the best and "mystique" festival of the year. Whatever the reason, it is certain that here, in Umbria, throughout the month of December it seems that every village, every square, every street resounds with the warm and emotional notes like those at the Umbria Gospel Festival, traditional like Christmas carols, famous and international such as the Winter Jazz Festival in Orvieto or "cultured" and classical such as in the many concerts which take place in various cities culminating in the great concert under the biggest tree in the world in Gubbio.

Gospel in Umbria
Religious, imbued with the culture and the black American suffering of the '30s, Gospel Music stirs deeply within the chords of our sensitivity. The voices of exceptional soloists often act as counter-balance to the choir: the tone and personal virtuosity amplify the musical and emotional intensity of the songs, original blues rhythms with the simple religious lyrics that incite one to become involved and to emotion. And so the music and the vocal search together become performance and celebration.

The Umbria Gospel Festival opens in Paciano, on 8th December, with The Soul Of Gospel, an exciting quintet made up by the extraordinary voices of Joselin St. Aimee, Vincent Williams, Kenn Bailey and Caroline Awuku accompanied by one of the best Gospel pianists in Italy, Michele Bonivento Continuing in Gubbio, on 23rd December, with the Spirit Of New Orleans Gospel Choir, an award winning choir, composed of 10 members from the Baptist churches of New Orleans and Louisiana.

At Città della Pieve, on 28th December, an exhibition by Mildred Daniels Gospel Singers, a choir and a prodigious voice producing a sound that emits a strong emotional charge. The next day, at Passignano, more sounds from Charleston, South Carolina, the South Carolina Mass Choir, that with passion and skill blended with tradition and modern rhythms enriching the gospel vocabulary with new sensations. Sunday 30th, in Ellera (Perugia), Monica Lisa Stevenson with her band and her exceptional vocal performances will engage the public in an explosive and contagious show. While New Year will be celebrated at Castiglione del Lago, with the Followers of Christ, a youth choir which have artistically grown in the great Gospel community of the Baptist Churches of South Carolina, able to interpret gospel music of all persuasions, from the most traditional and contemporary.

The other side of black music
From 28th December until 1st January, at Orvieto, the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival goes on stage for the twentieth consecutive year. There will be five intense days of live music, folk, improvisation, intense: jazz that like gospel has its roots in the African American communities of the Southern United States and like gospel it is related to the poetics of primitive blues and with spirituals, over the decades it has incorporated into its language the accents of many different genres: from American popular music to ragtime, from samba to classical music, but it has always remained undeniably engaging and recognisable for its particular swing, the syncopated rhythm its blue notes. Its charm and its sounds have travelled the Atlantic, and have taken root in Europe creating expressive forms and styles that have already taken on their own important identity and personality. And in this year-end festival, in the magnificent setting of one of the most fascinating historic towns of Umbria, the best expressions of many different styles can be enjoyed and that this genre has now acquired.


The masters of jazz
Many important names are expected: the exceptional voices of Kurt Elling, accomplished contemporary jazz vocal artist, from the talented Gregory Porter or Dee Alexander, one of the most popular artists on the Chicago scene. The Italian talents are also of equal note: starting with Giovanni Tommaso's supergroup with Pietro Tonolo, Flavio Boltro, Danilo Rea and Roberto Gatto, who were also present at the first edition in 1993, ending with Gino Paoli that with Danilo Rea will perform a special concert, on New Year's Day, focussing on voice and piano, it will be possible to listen to two great Italian singer songwriters and one of the most lyrical and creative pianists known today. And then the refined Brazilian rhythms of Paula and Jacques Morelenbaum reworked to the sound of refined chamber music some of the most popular pages of historical samba singer/songwriters in Brazil. Or Pedrito Martinez, Cuban percussionist offering new music, anchored in the Afro-Cuban tradition. Finally, not to be missed, in the sumptuous setting of the fourteenth-century cathedral of Orvieto, gospel with the Bobby Jones' Nashville Gospel Superchoir.


"I canti alla luce di una stella" (The songs in the light of a star)

However, there is not only gospel or jazz: music lovers can find great concerts, in every city and in almost every church, there are many in Umbria. Refined musical programs, instrumental or vocal, or engaging moments with traditional music and traditional sweet Christmas carols. At Perugia, at the Sala dei Notari with soloists from Perugia. At Terni, in the Chiesa di San Francesco At Gubbio on Christmas Day in the Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Servi, while on Santo Stefano (St. Stephens day), the churches of Amelia will resound with songs from the best Umbiran choirs. Città di Castello, Umbertide...."Alla luce di una stella" (songs in the light of a star) is the title of the Christmas concert on 28th December in the lower Basilica of Assisi. While in the church of San Francesco, in Gubbio, Christmas music will be sung under the biggest tree in the world. There are many concerts, it is impossible to list them all. Just as it is impossible to describe the deep emotion that is felt listening to this wonderful music amidst the columns and aisles of superb works of art, in places where nature, history and the world have elected a symbol and example of intimate and authentic spirituality.

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