Picture Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli as a friar and you’ll imagine someone similar to Br. Alessandro Brustenghi, OFM.
Described as “a small man with a big smile and an even bigger voice” by theOakland Tribune, the Assisi friar is the first religious brother to sign a recording contract with a major record label.
Last week, Br. Alessandro began his first tour of the United States with a performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, Calif., on Oct. 30. The tenor — a singer of religious music — is staying at St. Francis Friary on West 31st Street from Nov. 6 to 12 while he is in the New York area. He will perform at St. Paul the Apostle Church at 405 W. 59th St. in Manhattan on Nov. 9.
Br. Alessandro will give a performance at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, where Edward Flanagan, OFM, is stationed, on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. The event’s free will offering will benefit the Holy Land Franciscans.
Though he avoids publicity, Br. Alessandro gave an interview to St. Anthony Guild’s The Anthonian magazine for its Spring-Summer 2013 issue. In the article, written by Octavio Duran, OFM, Br. Alessandro explains that he sees his talent as a gift, but not for himself.
“I see singing as just another way of doing evangelization, of making people feel the love of God,” he said. “A homily by a good preacher can do that, but so can a song when sung right.”
Br. Alessandro entered the Order as a 21-year-old postulant in 1999. After withdrawing from the formation process for a few years, he re-entered the religious life in 2005. Though his voice had not fully developed when he first entered the Order, by the time he reached his 30s, Br. Alessandro’s voice had matured and grown in timbre. The friars discovered his beautiful singing voice when he had to pass a vocal exam to enter the Order of Friars Minor.
After hearing some of his recordings, Mike Hedges — producer to U2 and The Cure amongst others — offered to produce an album for Br. Alessandro in Abbey Road Studios.
Last year, the friar released his debut album, “Voice From Assisi,” produced by Universal Music Group, the largest American music corporation in the world. Universal Music Group artists include The Beatles, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West. All proceeds from Br. Alessandro’s music go to the Order to assist Franciscan charitable activities throughout the world.
A sampling of Br. Alessandro’s music can be found on his YouTube channel. Information about Br. Alessandro’s life and music can be found on his website: Friar Alessandro: Voice of Joy.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.