Music to Pope’s ears

Uruguayan opera conductor Ignacio Pilone at the Cathedral of St Marie where he is conducting a concert  of South American music on Friday, March 21
Uruguayan opera conductor Ignacio Pilone at the Cathedral of St Marie where he is conducting a concert of South American music on Friday, March 21

On Friday St Marie’s Catholic Cathedral is marking the anniversary of the installation last year of Argentinian Pope Francis with a concert of sacred music from South-America,

It will feature music never performed before in Sheffield and will culminate with a more famous piece, the great Misa Criolla by Ariel Ramirez.

Performers will be the Sheffield Chamber Choir directed by chorus master Robert Webb, Sheffield-based Argentinian tenor Ernesto Correa, and Uruguayan opera conductor Ignacio Pilone.

The concert has been programmed by St Marie’s concert and events manager, Silviu Cobeanu, who has known Ignacio Pilone from student days in his native Romania.

The conductor recalls that it was there in Bucharest that he first conducted Misa Criolla which he has since performed all over the world.

Born in Uruguay he has been based in Madrid in 2002 (though maintains his allegiance to the football team of his homeland and is apprehensive about the World Cup having being drawn in the same group as Italy and England and jokes he worries an English defender will try and nobble Luis Suarez before the summer).

He also maintains links as visiting Assistant Conductor at the Teatro Solis Opera House of Montevideo. In his adopted city he is musical director and conductor of the FFE Choir and the Opera XXI Choir and this year assumed charge of the Claudio Abbado Orchestra.

Last year he was awarded the 100 Latinos Madrid for his outstanding contribution to the city’s cultural life and his professional excellence.

“It is my first time in Britain and I am excited because I am aware of the tradtion of choral music here,” he said as he prepared the first of three rehearsals before the concert. “It is challenging to conduct an English choir.

“This is a piece I have known for more than 15 years and I know exactly what I require from the choir and what I can ask of them.”

He explained that Ramirez wrote Misa Criolla in 1964 at a significant time, immediately after Vatican II, which allowed the use of the vernacular rather than pure Latin in Catholic churches. It created a place for traditional folk music and Ramirez had the idea to write in the Spanish language using Argentinian folk music.

Spanish tenor José Carreras also played a part in its popularity. “After being diagnosed with cancer he was sick for many years and when he returned the first thing he released was Misa Criolla. That such a major artist had elected to perform the piece took it to another dimension. That was in the early 1980s.”

Misa Criolla will form the second part of the concert. In the first half Pilone will show off his other talent as a pianist, accompanying guest tenor Ernesto Correa and also playing solo items including some tango pieces to demonstrate the breadth of Argentinian music.