Thursday, April 10, 2008

"The most humble priest I have met in my entire life"

Pianist 's concert for pope was ‘ecstasy’, by Goergette Gouveia. Journal News April 10, 2008:

It is the hallmark of the great performer that he or she transports the audience to another realm. Pianist-composer Pierluigi Sampietro needs no such aesthetic alchemy, however, when he recalls playing for Pope Benedict XVI in Rome last year.

"When you meet the pope, you cry," says Sampietro. "He is so simple, the most humble priest I have met in my entire life. When he takes your hand, he puts it in his two hands. As Catholics, we know that he is the living representative of Christ on Earth. Can you imagine then sitting next to him? When I went to the piano, I was filled with so much emotion that my hands started to tremble. I never got that trembling before. For the first piece, I knew it was not me playing. People don't understand this. It's ecstasy, that's all."

As he speaks, Sampietro gazes off into the distance, past his wife, Elena, who sits quietly in the corner of the living room of their Harrison home. His eyes well with tears. His hands tremble anew. And you realize that you, too, are no longer in that Italianate living room - with its delicately curved, gilded furnishings and Canova-inspired sculpture - but back there at the Palazzo Apostolico in Vatican City on Dec. 2 of last year, one not only with Sampietro and the pontiff but with Bach, Mozart and all the musical greats who have been Sampietro's lifelong companions.

How Sampietro - who has been organist and choir director at St. Gregory the Great Church in Harrison for 47 years - came to play for Benedict XVI is a bit of an "It's not just what you know but who you know" story. . . . (Read More)