The National Association of Italian Choir Directors (ANDCI) was founded in April 2019, and at the beginning of 2020 it was already witnessing a number of new projects take shape. When in-person activities were forced to come to a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many new initiatives were discussed, shared and brought to fruition online. Just a few months earlier it would have been inconceivable to picture fifty choral directors (out of the 142 that make up the association) from all over Italy chatting away virtually about chorus, voice training, composition, and the best way to record rehearsals.
When people were encouraged to work remotely, directors needed to adapt to smart working. But without being able to rehearse on stage with his choir, what exactly could the director do? For a start, engage with choir members virtually: but first, what about preparing the new repertoire? In comes the Virtual Choir (including a number of directors from within the ANDCI) with Bruno Bettinelli’s Domine Convertere, coordinated and assembled by Sandro Pisanu and uploaded onto the official YouTube channel (https://bit.ly/3aWt8lR). This channel includes educational videos, interviews and a playlist with live recordings from the various choirs involved. As stated by Roberto Maggio, president of the association, “this channel is our very much needed virtual concert hall. Given the unprecedented times we’re going through, we wanted to keep communication flowing between our choirs and their followers.”
Nowadays, most people listen to music on their smartphones or on a computer; CD players have practically disappeared. Digital choral music, or “liquid” choral music as it is often called, is now much more readily available. Whilst the quality is undoubtedly affected, it’s good enough to listen to with headphones, and the long playlists now allow our choirs voices to be heard all over the web. The YouTube channel also includes tutorials on technique of directing by Aldo Cicconofri and Pasquale Veleno, comprising little technical snippets and advice on hand signalling, topics that are useful to everyone, regardless of their level. There are also tutorials covering the philological practice of Gregorian chant with Franco Radicchia, and vocal technique with Catharina Sharp. There’s even a special space for the little ones (ANDCI-Kids). Treble voices are perhaps the most important as they ensure cohesion within any choir. The growth of a voice, supported by the right technique and repertoire, is fundamental for the growth of the Italian choral reality. The importance of workshops in both primary and secondary schools has seen the diffusion and creation of new styles of music suited to singers of different ages. The video series “Meeting the Writer” has also been very successful, whereby original compositions are presented and the composer himself conducts and presents the recording. The “Interview” column welcomed Paul Crabb (USA) and more recently Gary Graden (USA). Everything can be found online at the following link: https://www.direttoricoro.it/educational/
The association has used online platform Zoom to host virtual meetings involving a large number of directors exchanging views on ways of working and discussing repertoires, mostly concerning school choirs. Young singers initially needed support from adults when using computers and recording themselves. Yet during lockdown they became autonomous, having learnt how to listen to the teacher with headphones, record their voice, and have even learnt how to film themselves performing.
Creativity certainly hasn’t been lacking during these uncertain times; some compositions have been extremely original. Starting with firme musicali, composer Dante Muscas created an entire composition with just a selection of notes provided by the participants, connecting them by harmonic, melodic and rhythmic affinity, and counterpointing them with the words of a few famous passages spoken by judge Giovanni Falcone. On the anniversary of the Capaci massacre, the words of the judge murdered by the mafia echoed together in a beautifully harmonious compositional embrace. In summary, there’s lots going on within the association: numerous activities have been planned in anticipation of the National Assembly on 17th and 18th October in Assisi, Umbria, where we will finally be able to meet face-to-face in the Hotel Domus Pacis.
Graduate in Classical Guitar, Choral Conducting, Music Didactics and Lyrical Song from the Conservatory of Perugia, Alessandro Zucchetti obtained his bachelor’s degree in Musical Discipline – Choral Conducting from the same institution in 2012. His thesis was on the topic of composer G.A. Angelini Bontempi. He attended the Academy for Choir Conductors FENIARCO (in 2005 and 2007), led by Filippo Maria Bressan, and followed courses in choir composing with P. P. Scattolin and Simon Carrington, as well as a course in orchestral directing with E. Nicotra and Robin O’Neill. Zucchetti has participated in operatic productions, working with the Lyrical Choir of Umbria (Purcell – Dido and Eneas 2004 and 2007, Donizetti – L’elisir d’amor 2008, Rossini – The Barber of Seville; Verdi – Rigoletto 2009; Mozart Don Giovanni 2014). As a guitarist he has played with a range of Italian music associations both as a soloist, and in duet with other instruments. He is the director of the Polyphonic Choir “G. A. Angelini Bontempi” in Brufa, and of the Choir “ControCanto” in Bettona, Perugia, as well as “Coro Lions”, also in Perugia. From 2013 to 2016 he was secretary of the Regional Association of Choirs of Umbria (ARCUM). He teaches singing and choral workshop at the A. Mariotti High School in Perugia.