You’d probably re-think “re-incarnation” if you ever met Frate Alessandro, Assisi’s “singing friar.”
Short (St. Francis was about 5’4”) with close-cropped brown hair, brilliant brown eyes, a joyful grin and a ready laugh, a bouncy step (the only element that might not jibe with the Saint – but who knows?), Fra’ Alessandro, Assisi’s “singing friar,” fits my image of his order’s founder, our San Francesco.
A friend and I chatted with him one morning at the Assisi train station. Gullbritt was heading home to Sweden, he was on his way to a Naples concert.
I’d first heard Fra Alessandro at a benefit concert in Assisi – performing with guitarist Fra’ Davide and violinist, Fra’ Marco – captivating his audience with his magnetism as well as his music.
Signed by Decca Records, young Frate Alessandro has hit the international music scene. He started studying voice while in his Perugia high school: “I was studying composition and organ but the voice teacher needed to fill her class so she roped me in, telling me, ‘join us, I ‘m sure you have a good voice.’ She was wrong. I had no voice.” He does now.
I asked him what singing was for him: he replied without hesitation, “the sound of the voice of God who created the world with his own Word.” He added, “Singing is a passionate connection with Him for me – even when doing scales! I’m in another dimension and I hope all listening are there with me.”
And his religious vocation? “I was sixteen – but I tried to avoid it. I just wanted to enjoy life like anyone my age.” (Could be the words of a wealthy Assisi merchant’s son, early 13th-century…)
But the tug wouldn’t let go. At nineteen, he headed to Assisi for counseling with a Franciscan at the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli, the 16th century church built over the site where San Francesco died, October 3, 1226.
His spiritual guide counseled patient reflection, telling the young man, “if your decision comes out in a burst like an explosive, it won’t last. A vocation must grow slowly.” Two years later, Frate Alessandro entered the Franciscan order as a postulant at the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli.
He knew what he wanted.
He’s on the road a lot performing. At his wish (and with approval of his superior), his concert fees go to the poor and needy in Franciscan missions, underscoring what Fra’ Alessandro said as we chatted: “Music, voice and singing connect all of us together.”