(To see more of Michal's world music videos, visit inter-muse.com)
Those who read my column 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. However, 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 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. They seemed to come right out of a medieval or renaissance painting, right down to their facial expressions and hand gestures. 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.