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Oratorio tribute to Matteo Ricci

Oratorio for revered Italian Jesuit comes to China

Priests of Ningbo diocese thank the Guangqi Choir for their
performance Priests of Ningbo diocese thank the Guangqi Choir for their performance
  • ucanews.com reporter, Ningbo
  • China
  • November 10, 2011
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The Guangqi Music School Choir of Shanghai diocese has just completed its first touring performance of an oratorio production that depicts the life of the revered Italian Jesuit, Father Matteo Ricci (1552-1610).

The 50-strong choir performed at Nanmen and Longgang churches in Wenzhou diocese and the Assumption Cathedral in Ningbo diocese, from November 4 to 6.

Wu Jiagong, the school principal and a noted expert in Chinese sacred music, explained that the eight-act oratorio is still a work in progress. "The composition, in both classical and contemporary Chinese, was started last year and so far only four acts have been completed, as it is a huge project involving many people," he said.

"Like many Italian and Chinese Catholics, I have prayed for the canonization of Fr Ricci and his closest Chinese friend Xu Guangqi, who was the first Catholic in Shanghai," Wu added.  "Composing oratorios for the two sages has always been a wish of mine."

“I hope to promote the deeds of the two early Church figures through music, to encourage local Catholics to learn from them.”

In its present format, the performance consists of two parts: an oratorio on Fr Ricci uses solo and choral singing and narration to recreate scenes from his missionary life. This is followed by another oratorio that evokes the episode when Jesus went to pray in the gardens of Gethsemane.

The Assumption Cathedral production was especially well received, with an audience of more than 500 applauding wildly after each act. “It's excellent. I have never heard such good music,” said one elderly layman.

Cathedral pastor Fr Michael Li Hanjun said, “it’s the first time I've seen a musical performance about Ricci, so this is a bold and creative effort and really a new way of evangelization."

Actively involved in the development of Church music, Ningbo diocese held a choral concert to celebrate Assumption Day at the cathedral on August 15. Seven parishes within the diocese sent choir members to watch and learn from the oratorio.

"I hope this oratorio can deepen laypeople’s knowledge of Church music even more," said Fr Li.

As well as performing live, the Guangqi Music School runs summer courses and publishes its own CDs to promote sacred music in China.

END

Related reports:

Choirs sing in praise of summer music school

Xu-Ricci institute launched in Shanghai

Taiwan diocese honors late Catholic musician
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