Friar Alessandro, The Voice from Assisi: review

Friar Alessandro, The Voice From Assisi (Decca) is a collection of devotional songs recorded by Friar Alessandro, of the friary of St Francis in Assisi, in Italy’s Umbria district. Many of the songs relate to the Franciscan hagiography.

Born Alessandro Brustenghi, in the village of Castiglione della Valle, the 34 year old friar studied composition and the organ first, taking to voice later. He changed vocation aged 21, when he decided to take the cloth after completing his studies in voice.

Friar Alessandro was discovered  by sound engineer and producer for U2, The Cure and The Priests, Mike Hedges. He invited the friar to London’s Abbey Road studios to record the tracks. It was the first time the tenor had been on a plane.

The selection on the CD range from the ‘lighter’ classics like Franck’s Panis Angelicus and the Sancta Maria from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, to contemporary songs like Donovan’s  Fratello Sole, Fratella Luna from the film about St Francis, and Paul Mealor’s Le Lodi di Dio Altissimo, an original setting of the words of St Francis.

There is also a premiere recording of a recently discovered work by Bellini, Tantum Ergo Sacramento.

Performing with Friar Alessandro on the recording is the London Session Orchestra conducted by Sally Herbert, with the choir Coro conducted by Mark Griffiths.

St Francis is believed to have been born in Assisi in 1181 or 1182. He is thought to have been a talented singer. Though the son of a wealthy  cloth merchant, St Francis took the vow of poverty when he entered the order. Likewise, the talented tenor, Friar Alessandro has renounced personal wealth, donating the proceeds of the CD sales to the charitable works of the Order of Friars Minor.

Despite his new found fame, Friar Alessandro will continue his work at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the foothills of Assisi, working also as a carpenter, making and restoring furniture and lecterns.

Friar Alessandro believes that his music is a vehicle for achieving his mission in the service of his faith. The opportunity to record CD and appear on You Tube has facilitated that goal. Interviewed in The Telegraph, he says “Music for me is a direct line with God. It’s the way to communicate with him, and it’s the way God uses to communicate with us. It’s the way to spread the gospel, to everybody, to the world.”

“The story of St. Francis of Assisi is very similar to mine. Francis was a humble man, and he decided to spread the gospel with music, dance and joy.”


Friar Alessandro, The Voice from Assisi, Decca, catalogue number 001743902 is available at ABC stores and ABC on-line.





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