Music is a spiritual gift, binding people together no matter what language we speak, what our culture may be or where we live. Singing is the most spiritual music because it incorporates words and we learn each other’s words as we sing together. The added bonus is that we carry our instrument with us wherever we go, ready at a moment’s notice.
The Ragazzi alumni group Continuo has grown since their founding in 2010, from 9 to 16 alums as each year more Ragazzi grads come back after college and want to sing together – at a level they find fully rewarding. And what do they choose to sing? A surprising amount of the repertoire they freely choose (no one tells them what to sing) are the classics that they learned as boys and young men.
They can’t truly go back – their voices have changed and matured – but clearly their experience as boys in Ragazzi have shaped their choices, musical and social.
The boy choir sound is so special, so ethereal and so fleeting. It is unique and reminds us that the very first European choral music was composed exclusively for boys and men. In Ragazzi we continue that tradition as we reach back in history to recreate some of the original boychoir classics and present them to our audiences.
Beautiful choral music calms the soul and is an antidote to a loud and indifferent world and learning to be a musician helps mend the strains of a frenetic pace. Our boys learn emotional intelligence as well as mathematics (musicians are constantly calculating fractions), languages, focus, teamwork and empathy. The instructional devices we use – our bag of tools – includes the music we choose to sing: our repertoire.
When we look at a whole new season, we choose repertoire that covers all styles within a year. This includes music of the great composers as well as current pop songs and folk music from around the world. Our music is chosen to present the audience with a variety of tempos and styles as well as to serve as a training tool for the boys’ rhythmic and vocal development. We look for powerful texts that expand the sensibilities of the boys and their listeners.
Plato, in the Republic, when he described a perfect education said, “Music for the mind and gymnastics for the body.” Ragazzi is helping to shape boys who will empathize with their neighbors (and know that the world is full of neighbors) and who will be able to explore and make sense of their own feelings and sensibilities. This is learning music.