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12 September Sep 2018 1044 11 days ago

“Never refuse to sing”: from an 1884 regulation of the Duomo’s Music Chapel

Insights into the most ancient cultural institution of Milan.

The life of the Duomo has always been accompanied by song. For centuries, the interweaving harmonies of the pure voices of the Music Chapel’s pueri cantores have marked the solemn moments of the Cathedral. Their presence is underpinned by intensive training to perfect skills, training that is deeply rooted in centuries of tradition.

Today, the Music Chapel is guided by Fr Claudio Burgio. He ensures continuity with the first Maestro Matteo from Perugia, who was appointed to perform the task in 1402 by the Board of the Veneranda Fabbrica.

Among the documents preserved in the Library Archive of Veneranda Fabbrica, we found a “Regulation for the School of Singing of Duomo di Milano’s Music Chapel” that dates back to 21 June 1884, and which offers a ”snapshot” of the life of students at the time.

The document witnesses a deep renewal of the continuity ensured by Director Giuseppe Gallignani (1851-1923), who was appointed on 19 April 1884. The number of students was not limited anymore but established each year by the maestro, and students were divided into two groups, namely adults (18-25 years) and youth (7-11 years). The school had two branches, which included two categories based on the duties of the Chapel; precisely, children attended the school until their voice changed, while adults could join for a three-year period. Even the repertoire was carefully chosen, and one of the duties of the Maestro was to ensure close compliance with the regulation.

The admission of a student (initially for a test period of three months) was decreed by the Administration of Veneranda Fabbrica through the Choir Director. The request had to be submitted with attached Baptism Certificate, Certificate of Good Conduct and a Statement of the Choir Director regarding “the suitability of vocal skills”.

The regulation also established the mandatory need to “arrive at School five minutes before the scheduled time of lessons”, to dress “decently” and to “have a respectful and civil conduct”. In 1884, the duration of lessons was defined as “two hours a day”, with the exception of holidays, when the Music Chapel performed during masses in the Duomo.

An interesting detail we notice is the provision “never to refuse to sing the music assigned, and in the specified manner”.