Italian Choral Showcase

Ennio Morricone and Choral Music

We open this section with a prolific choral music composer, who’s now a symbol of Italianity around the world: Ennio Morricone, who passed away last 6 July. A lot has been said about him, bus his choral production -the one for soundtracks- is now waiting for being appraised and rediscovered. So, here I present a small summary of the talks that took place with some of the conductors who collaborated with him: Paolo Lucci, Mauro Marchetti, and Fabrizio Barchi.

The first one has told me about the compositions for white voices: ‘I own Morricone a lot. He has been the first great composer that has believed in me when I was a very young director of an unknown white voices’ choir. I went to the trial with the first soundtrack, Chi l’ha vista morire (1972)[1]; twelve very complex pieces, just for children. The conductor was very happy and we commenced 30 years of collaboration with the choir which by that time was named ARCUM. I have registered all his soundtracks until 2003, among which was the one used in Pasolini’s Salò.’ The soloist that sings Miserere in ‘The Mission’, came from ARCUM as well. ‘Morricone trusted me and had a great appreciation for me. This has always made me proud. But at the same time, he was very challenging and always intending for perfection.’

Along with cinema productions, Morricone has envisaged a dichotomy of concert music, he’s seen it freer, and thus a good field for experimentation and creativity outside an easily comprehensible tonal scene. Among this, are Pier Paolo Pasolini’s scioperi su sonetti. ‘These are pieces of significant difficulty with a rhythmic complex combination[2]. The last composition for choir’s white voices was Arcate d’archi con bambini. Lots of other concert pieces were recorded in ARCUM but were never distributed: these are pieces that require patience, perseverance, commitment and a capacity which are difficult to find these days. Nowadays, white voices’ choirs perform less difficult music, the level is much more lower.’

A very young Mauro Marchetti used to sing In M. Lucci’s choir, he has later performed Morricone’s music and prepared choirs for concerts directed by the same composer: ‘When I was young I failed to realize whom he was. He had a fun attitude that made us feel comfortable, at the same time he was very demanding but always calm. He had a perfect consciousness of the orchestra, but it was only after years, when I was directing the ‘Città di Roma’, when I could appreciate this consciousness of the choir, in an instrumental sense, often leaving it behind as volume. I have in a drawer an Amen of him for 6 choirs, lineal and consonant, different than his choral pieces for concert.’

We receive M. Marchetti with the hope of listening soon in real time this Amen, and we’ll conclude our little talks with M. Fabrizio Barchi.

‘Our collaboration began with a credit card ad, defined by a percussive style and overlapped pieces, already experimented in “The Mission”.’ The choir was named Accademia Polifonica di Roma. Even though the organic was composed by very young children, and the music was complex, our collaboration was always good because he appreciated the fact that the children were always well prepared. And in this way, we recorded Lolita[3], Il Quarto Re[4], La Casa Bruciata[5], Il Fantasma dell’Opera[6], Al di là dei Sogni[7] and other films in which the choral part was important. He also trusted in my monitoring. Sometimes I remember our arguments at the phone. Throughout the years the choir changed its name to Musicanova. Among others, we register ll Pianista sull’Oceano’s Ninna Nanna per Novecento, and the music (beautiful!) for Vatel[8], with an imposing choir in Händeliano style.’

’His way of treating choral composition was more instrumental than vocal, he often required very virtuous voices, sopranos had to reach very high pitches. His requests were thorough and he didn’t rest until everything was neat. I compared to him in a humble way, I perceived his greatness. I always aimed to prepare the choir in the best of ways because he was very scrupulous with his work and if anything didn’t go as expected he was easily irritated. My greatest delight was by far having been able to give my singers this opportunity. The nights following his death, many of them have thanked me for such an important experience. He liked working with youngsters, but he appeared to be detached and formal. With him, a word was not enough, two words were too many.’


[1], the choir was the first nucleus of what was later named ARCUM.

[2] On this link it is possible to listen to the piece performed at La Sapienza University’s Main Auditorium in Rome.





[7]The film’s story is very curious: Morricone composes the music, but it has never been used because it was considered as ’too important’.



Translated from the Italian by Elada Libardi

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