Virginia Barton

6 April 2018: Tango

6 April 2018


Do you sometimes feel you know absolutely nothing and have reached the age of four score+ as ignorant as when you were one score+?

The composition referred to below came as a complete surprise, avid Radio 3 listener though I am. (If you listen to that channel for long enough, you can reckon on hearing just about every piece of music ever written.)


A large family inevitably throws up diverse talents. We have neither jugglers nor gymnasts among us as far as I know, but I do have a nephew with a superb voice who was a chorister at Westminster Cathedral. Although his voice has changed with the years, his love of singing and making music has never changed.

This weekend he is part of the choir that will perform the Mass with a tango theme by Martín Palmeri, an Argentinian composer beloved of the Pope. The unusual accompaniment is provided by a violin, a viola, an accordion and a piano.

My nephew tells me that the piece languished in near obscurity until Pope Francis heard it. The rhythms must have been familiar to him and I like to think of him tapping his feet and having a twirl.


Have a listen and see if you agree:


The concert this evening is in St Omer, Pas de Calais, France, in the newly restored and reopened church known (as far as I can tell) simply as the Chapel of the Jesuits. The restoration has been carried out mainly with American money given by the Carroll family.

My knowledge of American history is lamentable, so correct me if I go astray. Charles Carroll (1737-1832), at right, a committed supporter of George Washington, was the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence. On his return from a European education, his father presented him with a whopping estate in Maryland, called Carrollton.

He would have known the church in St Omer long before it was closed by the Revolution, for it was built on the same site as the Jesuit school that Charles Carroll would have attended. This school was the forerunner of Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. Today the Lycée Alexandre Ribot, founded in 1848, stands in the same place.


My nephew tells me that the money ran out before the heating was installed in the church. Brr.

Possibly the choir and congregation will be trying out the paso, cunita or abrazzo cerrado to keep warm.






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