South County Chamber Singers’ Musical Director Gears Up for Palm Sunday Concert

A sit-down with composer and scholar Enrico Garzilli

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An accomplished composer, musician, and scholar, Dr. Enrico Garzilli now embraces the next chapter in his career, taking the helm as musical director of the South County Chamber Singers (SCCS). Garzilli is known both locally and abroad, but his interest in music began early on, growing up in Cranston to a family of lifelong music lovers.

“I had a cousin who was an opera singer and another cousin who was very good at piano,” Garzilli reflects. “My mother played the piano and my father played the guitar, so music was very important in my home.” His first job was as assistant organist to Alexander Peloquin at the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul in Providence, fostering an interest in organ and choral conducting that would follow him through college.

Garzilli was later ordained as a priest and went to Rome to study music, theology, and philosophy – all of which he holds degrees. Not stopping there, he went on to receive a doctorate in comparative literature from Brown University, and Harvard published his dissertation. Passionate about his studies, he taught both here in Rhode Island and in Rome, and his love for these topics inspired his compositions.

With a body of work that spans choral pieces and dramatic-musical works, Garzilli explains, “I did start writing just choral music before musicals. Then, I came across the story of Peter Abelard and Heloise, and I said, boy, this needs music.” Referring to the true story of a 12th century love affair between a philosopher and his accomplished student, Abelard and Heloise became the two main characters of his operatic drama, Rage of the Heart.

Garzilli continued his musical storytelling with Michelangelo, Shadow of the Wall, and The Smart Set - Save Me the Waltz. “I always like to write about the generosity of the human spirit. I love the indominitabilty of the human spirit,” Garzilli says, enthusiasm apparent in his voice.

Garzilli was previously the musical director of SCCS – a highly skilled and rehearsed community chorus – and retired several years ago. Now, at 84 years old, he resumes his work as director following his predecessor Jean Maxon-Carpenter’s recent passing. On April 10, he’ll lead the group in performing the “Fauré Requiem” and selected pieces for Palm Sunday. “It’s different from a lot of requiems in that Fauré stresses the passion and the love of God. It’s really inspiring,” Garzilli reflects, adding, “It’s beautiful.”

A small orchestra will accompany the chorus during the performance, emphasizing the meticulous care, quality, and talent that concert-goers will experience. “There was a lot of excitement after the pandemic about being able to perform again. We had quite an enthusiastic audience,” says SCCS president Kathleen Lindvall; both she and Garzilli are glad to continue performing beautiful music
for the public.

The SCCS Spring Concert will take place Sunday, April 10 at 2:30pm at St. Francis Church, Wakefield. Tickets can be purchased at the door. Learn more at SouthCountyChamberSingers.com

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