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Vietato Cantare l’Ave Maria in Chiesa Posted by on Aug 28, 2012 in News

È vietato cantare l’Ave Maria in chiesa! (It’s forbidden to sing the Hail Mary in church!) Unbelievable but true! But why?

A couple of weeks ago, actor and film director Michele Placido, originally from Foggia in Puglia, got married to the young actress Federica Vincenti. He asked his old friend Al Bano, a famous pop singer from the same region, to perform Gounod’s Ave Maria at the end of the religious ceremony, but a few hours before the wedding Al Bano was advised by Michele Placido’s secretary not to sing it:  apparently both Gounod’s and Schubert’s versions of Ave Maria have been banned from the churches of Puglia because they are not considered to be religious songs!

Here is the justification as explained in the 1994 edict of the Puglia Church: “L’Ave Maria di Schubert parla di due innamorati che convivono nel peccato” (Schubert’s Ave Maria talks of two lovers who live together in sin). How is this possible? Well, Schubert’s Ave Maria was composed for a song based on Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Lady of the Lake”. In the poem the beautiful young heroine, Ellen Douglas, is forced to hide out in a mountain cave, along with her father, when her family is exiled by the king due to their political beliefs.  There she sings a song, "Hymn to the Virgin", a prayer to the Virgin Mary for help and comfort. In the original song the prayer is in the German language, and begins and ends with the words “Ave Maria” (Hail Mary). In time, the words of the prayer were changed to those of the traditional Latin prayer, and the main melody was separated from the rest of the work, becoming a religious song in its own right.

As for Gounod’s Ave Maria, the problem is that “rielabora un preludio di J.S. Bach sfruttato poi da un editore ebreo” (it develops one of J.S. Bach’s preludes, which was then used by a Jewish publisher). Gounod, a profoundly Catholic man, originally composed a  melody for violin accompanied by a piano playing a variation on Bach’s prelude n.1. It was published in 1853 as an instrumental under the title “Meditation”, the lyrics being added later. The ‘sin’ in this case is not in the words, which are those of the Latin prayer, but in the fact that Gounod used a theme from Bach, who was Protestant, which, to make matters worse, was published by a Jew!

When Al Bano was told about the veto, he was outraged: “È pazzesco – aveva detto Al Bano poche ore prima del matrimonio – è una decisione che non posso accettare né come cantante né come cristiano. L’ho cantata in tutto il mondo, davanti a Papa Giovanni Paolo II, a Madre Teresa di Calcutta e ora, a casa mia, nella mia terra, mi sento dire che non posso cantarla. Siamo davvero all’assurdo!” (It’s crazy – said Al bano a few hours before the wedding – it’s a decision that I can’t accept, neither as a singer, nor as a Christian. I’ve sung it all over the world, in front of Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and now, in my home, in my own country, I’m told that I can’t sing it. This is really absurd!). So, being a very determined person, Al Bano arrived at the wedding just before the end and sung Gounod’s Ave Maria, e al diavolo le polemiche! (and to hell with the arguments!)

P.S. to be honest, I don’t like Al Bano as a singer (his real name is Albano Carrisi). If you want to listen to a lovely performance of Schubert’s Ave Maria click here, and here is Gounod’s version 

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