Musician blends Tango, classic styles in Mass composition

Rome, Italy, Nov 5, 2013 / 07:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At a festival in Rome, an Argentinian composer noted the need for sacred music in modern society and spoke of a Mass he wrote honoring his country which draws from both classical and Tango traditions.

“The Mass is a Catholic Mass, but my history is I don't have a very religious formation…I learn a lot of religious by the music, through the music,” Martin Palmeri said of the music he composed in an Oct. 29 interview with CNA.

Palmeri was born in Argentina, and studied musical composition under many different teachers, including Daniel Montes, Marcelo Chevalier, and Radolfo Mederos, as well as with Virtu Maragno and Edgar Grana in New York.

The “Tango orchestration” that the composer wrote was chosen as the opening piece for the twelfth annual International Festival of Sacred Music and Art held in Rome. The festival began Tues. Oct. 29 and will last until Nov. 10.

Observing that although the genre of sacred music is an ancient style of composition, Palmeri said that it is still widely relevant even in a secular culture, because for him, “studying the music, I can feel the composer's faith.”

Through the music, he reflected, even those who are non-religious or who do not have a strong formation in the faith are able to learn about religion.

Bearing this fact in mind when he wrote the Mass, entitled “Misa a Buenos Aires,” Palmeri expressed that he tried to include “all these experiences, singing and studying the music of the other religious composers.”

The particular score chosen to open the festival, he explained, is “a traditional Latin text of the Mass, and the difference is in the orchestration, is a tango orchestration, using all the material of the orchestras of Buenos Aires, the tango orchestras.”

This music, he noted, “is an experiment of mixing these two different worlds, between the choral music and the tango music.”

Palmeri's piece was specifically chosen for the opening concert of this year’s festival, which has been dedicated to the election of Pope Francis.

“I think they choose this piece because it is Argentine music…and I think they know that the Pope loves a lot that type of music.”

The International Festival of Sacred Music and Art was initiated in 2002 in order to promote the institutional activities of the Foundation for Music and Sacred Art, which include the diffusion of sacred music and the restoration of architectural treasures which are often contained in the Basilicas where the concerts take place.

Having his music played during the festival is “a pleasure,” expressed the composer, especially with the opportunity for his music to be played in Rome under the reign of an Argentinian Pope, which he described as “a big privilege.”

“Since this is a religious piece, it is a Mass, obviously for me it is wonderful, the possibility of singing this piece in Rome…I think this is a capital of all the religious music in the world. So for me it is a big privilege.”

The opening concert where Palmeri's music was featured took place inside of the Basilica of Saint Ignacio in Rome, and was sung by the local Cologne Dome Choir.

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