The concert in Munich (Photo: Roland Altmann)

Munich: Fr. Giussani, Music and beauty

A concert organized by the International Music Friendship to celebrate Fr. Giussani’s centenary. Here is how it came about and what happened in the words of those who played in it...
Giovanni Grandi

The IMF, International Musical Friendship, is a story of wonder that began 30 years ago and that always mysteriously renews itself. This time it happened in Munich, on the occasion of a concert dedicated to the Centenary of Fr. Giussani's birth on Monday, October 3, in the Mariahilf Church in the heart of the city.

We are talking about fifty musicians who came from different cities in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. There are also those who bravely boarded a tour bus from Holland. They were mostly between the ages of 17 and 25, but there are also a few teenagers among them and a couple of 60-year-olds, professional musicians, conservatory students, teachers from different music schools, and a few amateurs who wished to participate.
This is the "IMF Orchestracademy," the orchestra born out of the desire of IMF young people who, as they grow up, wanted to continue the experience of music and friendship they encountered around Europe and which changed the way they experience music.
Scheduled for the concert were two pieces that were dear to Fr. Giussani and featured in the "Spirto Gentil" series: Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Among these two giants, there was also a piece by Lorenzo Geroldi, one of the young men in the orchestra who began composing for his friends.

(Photo: Roland Altmann)

On the evening of September 30, rehearsals began in the auditorium of Munich's Salesianum led by Ya-Wen Köhler-Yang, a courageous Taiwanese conductor who has been following the IMF orchestras for a decade. Nor was courage lacking in Michele Torresetti, a lifelong friend who began playing violin in the orchestra as a child at the IMF itself and who had accepted the challenge of being a soloist for the Beethoven piece.
Time was short, and the program had to be put together in only three days. But, even when their instruments were put down in the evening, the music began again with voices and songs from different traditions.

October 3, a national holiday in Germany and the day of the concert, soon came. The imposing Mariahilfkirche filled with people who are captivated by the music. It was a beauty that imposed itself, both in the music and in the faces of those who played. It is a powerful reflection of that beauty tirelessly pointed out by Fr. Giussani and that also reaches the lives of these young people today. Here is what two of them wrote after the concert.

I really like playing in the orchestra, because for me it is a bit like Fr. Giussani says in the introduction to Beethoven's Concerto: the orchestra is like a community. It is a place that generates beauty, because it takes the individual instruments and makes them stand together with a common purpose. In addition to a common purpose, let alone there might also be a common origin! It changes everything. The concert for me was also the celebration of IMF, because it is a great friendship whose origin – at least as I am getting to know it – is Fr. Giussani and the beauty of Christ that he allowed us to encounter. And what common origin can one have that is greater and deeper than this? To see what it has generated in these days fills me with emotion.
At first I was a little intimidated by the responsibility of Konzertmeister, "first violinist," but at the same time it is something that charged me so much and gave me an incredible gusto in studying the pieces. But the thing that amazed me and helped me most in this responsibility was just belonging to a community: only supported by a community can I perform at my best.

What touched and moved me the most during these days was the perception of those beside me and an unusual way of spending time together.
We had actually come together to work out the program and prepare the concert in a short time.
To my surprise, however, there was no separation between rehearsals and the free time outside of it. The two evenings we spent together with songs and personal contributions were extraordinary for me. Why?
Many of us, young and older, were meeting for the first time and did not know each other at all. Yet there was a focus and communion in singing and listening to each other that left me with great wonder.
I was able to experience a joy, creativity, and intensity that one cannot produce but can only participate in with gratitude. When suddenly some people took their instruments and wittily improvised an accompaniment to the songs (with the bassoon and trumpet, mind you!), I was reminded of an expression of Fr. Giussani, who attributed the dignity of the enduring and the eternal to every moment: "The density of the instant."
I felt something similar when, at breakfast, some people told me about being in a pub the night before and singing a drinking song in several voices. Then, two tables away, a group of professional English choristers stood up and sang Bach in multiple voices. In response, our Italians sang a polyphonic Alpini song and so on.... At the end, both "choirs" together tried to sing Mozart's Ave Verum from memory.
How moved I was when, just before the concert, everyone came together to sing Alecrim, a Brazilian folk song, before entering the church. Or when, at the end of the concert we sang Signore delle cime and Non nobis with many voices.
There was no longer a separation between prayer and concrete action; one belonged inseparably to the other. I understood even better that ora et labora really corresponds to man's heart and makes him live with joy and freedom.
All of us certainly gave something in honor of Fr. Giussani out of gratitude to him, but the greatest gift of this event was certainly given by him: he made us understand that through his charism he wanted to help many people experience in their own bodies this phrase of St. Irenaeus, which he so often quoted, "The glory of God is a living man."