The Australian jubilee has its own spirit and towards the end of the Year of Mercy it celebrates in a special way with three of its finest artists: Niké Borghese, Kevin Brophy and George Palmer.
The performance, called ‘Faces of Mercy’, has been held in Sydney on 23rd October and will be in Rome in November, at the Australian House directly in the heart of Christianity.
The Faces of Mercy is a performance that responds to the call from Pope Francis to ‘ announce the mercy of God as the beating heart of the Gospel’ and therefore he proclaimed an Extraordinary Year of Jubilee to ‘gaze more attentively on mercy’. The words of the Pope:
If we open our hearts to those on the fringes of society, then we can see how many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled by the indifference of the rich.
The great news of this Jubilee was the fact that every church can celebrate its own Year of Mercy and this creates less pilgrims to Rome but more activities worldwide. This is the reason why also Australia, where the Catholic faith is not dominant, and the distance from the Vatican is several thousands of kilometres on land and sea, St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney has planned its own celebration.
John McCarthy, the previous Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, conceived a work of art, drawing on original painting, poetry and musical composition. He wanted to reflect the present spirit of Australia, a country where art is in its Golden Age and many artists are arriving on the international stage. John called on talented artists from his connections in Australia and Italy.
The performance involved all senses of the audience through a combination of images, sounds and inspiring words. To create a triptych painting ‘to set the scene’ he called on Princess Niké Arrighi Borghese of Artena, who was brought up and educated in Sydney. She went deeply into the theme of human behaviour from Despair to Mercy and Love, in a large painting divided in three parts with an intense dominant blue that guides the visitor to Joy.
The poet Kevin Brophy wrote the ‘libretto’, a collection of poems from his pen, prayers of Pope Francis and Psalm 69.
George Palmer absorbed the images and poetry to create the inspiring music. His connection to this work is really interesting. Before retiring to full-time music composition, he was a Supreme Court Judge in NSW, well known to John McCarthy from his day as a Queen’s Counsel.
This musical composition combines the spoken voice of Kevin Brophy’s poems with the songs for a soprano and cathedral choir. A five piece string and wind orchestra created the musical setting. The output of this creative endeavour is a three parts ‘cantata’ including the spoken voice.
The composition was then produced and directed by Australian artistic director Michael Campbell. The location of the performance was the Crypt of the cathedral and this exalted the mystic of the event.
St. Mary’s is a traditional Neo-Gothic cathedral and the crypt below is reminiscent of some medieval churches in Italy. Yet, it is a relatively modern structure built out of ‘warm’ Sydney sandstone over 100 years from 1865. The sandstone in the crypt responds to the light playing on it creating emotions reflecting the themes at each stage of the performance.
The words of Pope Francis and the songs were performed by Amelia Farrugia, a soprano well-loved by Australian audiences, who had performed as a soloist at the Final Mass for Pope Benedict XVI as well as in the Spoleto Festival.
I have been extremely happy to attend the performance and I am sure that I will be in Rome on 17 November 2016 to share with my wife in Italy the real Australian Spirit of the Jubilee.