Voice from Assisi: The Humble Friar with a Record Deal

Music has been part of the Franciscan tradition for centuries - but Friar Alessandro appears to be the first one with a big record deal.
Friar Alessandro, the first Franciscan friar to land a record deal with a major label. (http://friaralessandro.com)
Mary Hynes and Friar Alessandro at CBC Toronto

Don't listen just yet.

First, we have a promise and a warning. Okay by you?

The promise: you will hear some really sublime music in a minute. The warning: the story you'll hear may strain your belief - it's pretty incredible.

A guy grows up in Italy, in a family of agnostics. Dinner-table conversation has a distinct lack of God-talk. Our guy, Alessandro, one day experiences something very powerful - and starts to believe in God. He becomes a friar with the Franciscan order.


Friar Alessandro crossing Abbey Road. Unlike most people who take a picture at the famous intersection, Friar Alessandro’s trip across Abbey Road ends with him going into the studio … to a recording session.

Friar Alessandro, also a carpenter and wood-worker, studies music. His attempts at learning to sing go from having 'no voice' at all - to a tenor so powerful, he gets a record deal with Decca Records/Universal Music.

How does a friar - who takes vows of poverty and humility - end up recording an album at Abbey Road?

"What they appreciate is my voice, that is a gift of God. It's not mine. They appreciate my smile, my happiness, that is not mine," Friar Alessandro says, adding that all money from the music goes to his Franciscan friary's charitable work. "I'm just a channel. I'm just an instrument."

Okay. NOW you can listen.

This is for you: an hour of music and conversation - a little light in the bleak midwinter - as Tapestry host Mary Hynes meets the voice from Assisi, Friar Alessandro Brustenghi.


Here is the list of songs played during the interview, in the order you hear them:

1. "O Santa Notte (O Holy Night)" from Voice of Joy

2. "Veni, Veni, Emanuel" from Voice of Joy

3.  "Resta Con Noi, Signore, La Sena" from Voice of Peace

4. "Ave Maria"  from Voice of Assisi

5."Cantique de Jean Racine" from Voice from Assisi

6. "Jesus Bleibet Meine Freude" from Voice of Peace

7.  "Adeste Fideles" from Voice of Joy

8. "Con Te, Gesu" from Voice of Peace

9. "Panis Angelicus" from Voice from Assisi

10.  "Joy to the World"  from Voice of Joy

Special thanks to harpist Lori Gemmell for her beautiful music. From her album Canadian Music For Harp, you heard "Song of Nymphs - Freedom", composed by Marjan Mozetich.