For Vivaldi’s Gloria

Last night I had the supreme privilege and pleasure of hearing our eldest son play with his chamber music ensemble a concert of Bach and Vivaldi at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Trenton, New Jersey. (Here they are performing in Florence several years ago. )  What moved me the most was when the children performed Vivaldi’s Gloria, accompanying  the Absalom Jones Inspirational Choir.

As Frank has written on these pages, Vivaldi was a Catholic priest. What I discovered last night by reading the program notes was that for 40 years Father Antonio Vivaldi was part of the 18th century “ospedale” movement, which offered what we would now consider music therapy to orphans and others marginalized by society. You can read more about this movement on the website “Vivaldi’s Girls”. The concert reminded me how God uses music and other forms of beauty to heal our souls.

As Maetro di Violino di Choro of the  girls’ ensembke of Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, Vivaldi was required to compose two masses a year, two Vesper servies and two new motets a year. He composed Gloria for these orphaned and illegitimate girls to perform.  

Our son’s participation in a chamber-music ensemble here in New Jersey is another occasion to marvel at the way God works. Three summers ago, I was working in Trenton, which is about an hour from home.  My husband and I thought we had done a good job figuring out child-care arrangements; Greg works near home and the boys were settled into a recreational activity nearby. Through a very unfortunate turn of events, our eldest was unexpectedly kicked out of the activity. If I were to give you the sorry details of how this unfolded, you likely would agree with our perception that adults in charge were unkind and unfair. He’d done nothing to warrant his rejection. The events angered us. But they also left me and my husband in a pickle. What to do with our 11 year old?

Frantic, I scoured the internet for alternatives and stumbled on a “chamber-music” music camp a few blocks from my workplace. Our son was a new double bass player and attended the camp joyfully. When camp was over, S., the director, approached me and asked me if she could ask him to join her chamber-music orchestra for youth. I balked – he was new to playing bass and these young musicians were so experienced and talented. They have performed in Chicago, Paris, Essen, Düsseldorf, Florence, Prague, Montenegro, Croatia, Baden, Vienna, and as part of the Philadelphia Bach Festival. But S. saw something in him that I could not – raw talent, an agreeable personality and an openness to learning.

Last night, I closed my eyes as the orchestra and choir performed the Gloria. I was transported to another place, and place of peace and joy and beauty.  I forgot the piece was being performed by children; it was that well done. But then I remembered the girls of Venice, for whom this piece was written. (In the painting at left, they are shown performing) Vivaldi hoped his Gloria would help heal them and as a result, all of us can be healed by his music. Here is a clip of the first movement, not from last night’s concert, but from the movie Shine.

  • Michelle

    That is lovely, Allison! While I do not share your faith, I share your joy in seeing your son find his creative place in the world. I look forward to seeing him perform at some point!

  • Allison

    Thanks Michelle. So sweet of you to read and comment. Your friendship is a gift….

  • Dwija {House Unseen}

    Thank you for this story, Allison! My husband is the musician in this family and I have been trying over the years to increase my appreciation for the way that music can help bring us into the Lord's presence. Having kids sure does add so much that we might never experience in our lives otherwise!

  • Paula

    I love hearing that Vivaldi was a Catholic priest! One of our most wonderful experiences was in Paris, at the Eastern Rite Catholic Church of Saint Julien la Pauvre 19 years ago. We heard a beautiful Vivaldi Mandolin Concerto in the most amazing setting, surrounded by icons. The acoustics were so tremendous, we could hear the musicians' picks leaving the strings. What a beautiful memory! I am so glad your daughter has the opportunity to share her music with others! Bach and Vivaldi…gifts from God!