Those who read my columns know that I have a soft spot in my heart for a capella music. So I was already fond of Corsican Polyphony when I attended the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, and I made it a point to catch Barbara Furtuna when they played there. Unfortunately, they were the last act of the "Night in the Medina" and I confess that, having gotten lost for several hours in the maze of the old city, I arrived late and exhausted at their set. As a result, I did not get the best seat in the house for videotaping... as a matter of fact, I had a splendid view of four Corsican backs. That did not detract from the music, which was glorious, and so I was thrilled to find that the World Music Institute was bringing the group over for a performance at Saint Peter's Church on 54th St. here in NYC. The church provides a very inviting space, with warm wood tones and great acoustics. I had another chance to catch this polished, impassioned ensemble -- this time from the front! Now, here are two songs, one sacred and one secular, from that performance.
As I videotaped I became fascinated by the very look of these men; their facial expressions and hand gestures seemed to come right out of a medieval or renaissance painting. I guess those early painters were working more from life than I thought! Each singer has a distinctive personality as well. Jean Pierre Marchatti, the diminutive tenor is nowhere near as demonstrative as the other three, preferring to deliver rock solid high notes, whereas looking at André Dominici (bass) is an exercise in empathy, both physical and emotional. Maxime Merlandi who might be considered the "lead singer" and who is a veteran of the ensemble A Filetta, provides a concentrated focal point, communicating with Jean Philippe Guissani (who sings the most subtly colored parts) almost entirely with his hands and eyes.
For more information about the tradition of Corsican polyphony and the group, go to barbara-furtuna.fr/
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