Freshman Wins Award for Choral Composition

Posted: December 27, 2013

“The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.”

So begins “The Christ Child,” a new Christmas carol composed by Thomas Aquinas College freshman Giorgio Navarini, which debuted at the recent holiday concert of the Los Robles Master Chorale. As the winner of the Chorale’s 2013-4 Young Artist Choral Composer Competition, Mr. Navarini had the honor of hearing his composition performed by the 100-member choir at its December 14 concert at St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church in Newbury Park, Calif. (A personal recording of the audio from that performance, as well as the song’s lyrics, are available in the video below.)

The music for “The Christ Child” employs “elements of Gregorian chant … to invoke the depth, mystery, and ethereal joy of the Nativity story,” says Mr. Navarini. The lyrics are drawn from a poem by G. K. Chesterton.

Mr. Navarini has been composing choral pieces since the age of 15 when, as a high school student in his hometown of Pleasanton, Calif., he joined his church choir. There he discovered an aptitude and love for sacred music that led him to start writing descants for hymns and carols. Intending to pursue a musical career, he gave little thought to attending Thomas Aquinas College, seeking instead to study music in England. “I had no interest in coming here,” he says. “I thought this was just a school where you read books and don’t learn any practical skills” — a belief that was disabused when he attended the High School Summer Program prior to his senior year. “I realized that, at the College, you’re learning the best skill, which is to use your mind.”

Halfway into his freshman year, Mr. Navarini now sees the College’s classical curriculum as the perfect complement to his musical training. “The way that this education trains you how to think allows you to apply it musically, or toward whatever you may be doing,” he says. “For example, I recently read a very old book about singing, and I was able to understand it much more clearly because of the way we read texts so critically here and come to understand them.” At the College he also finds no shortage of collaborators. “There are so many talented and engaged people at this school whom I can work with to create and perform music.”

Indeed, Mr. Navarini is a member of both the Thomas Aquinas College Choir and Chrysostomos, a student choral group. He also has formed a men’s barbershop octet that had its first performance on a Friday night in early December, singing several Christmas carols at the City of Ventura’s annual tree-lighting ceremony. The next day Mr. Navarini was in Ventura again, where he led some 100 of his fellow students in a choral flash mob that brought Christmas joy to shoppers at the Pacific View Mall. Video of that performance has gone “viral,” garnering more than 35,000 views and an appearance on EWTN.

Joined by 20 of his classmates and members of his family, Mr. Narvarini delighted in the inaugural performance of “The Christ Child” at the Los Robles Master Chorale’s concert earlier this month. He also received a generous award presented by the Chorale’s director, Lesley Leighton. “Giorgio is the youngest winner ever of this competition at 19 years of age,” proclaims the Chorale’s website. “What a talent in the making!”

Giorgio Navarini (’17) and Lesley Leighton

Giorgio Navarini (’17) with Lesley Leighton, artistic director of the Los Robles Master Chorale

“Thomas Aquinas College is a small college, but its reputation has spread far and wide. Because it lives off the masterpieces of thought and literature emanating from the Christian tradition of the Western world, it provides a first-rate education for a select body of talented undergraduates.”

– Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J (†)