Music contributes to the construction of a sense of identity through the direct experience and contact of the body, time and sociability, shaping imaginative cultural narratives.Footnote 1 Control over all these levels was, and partly remains, crucial for the Catholic Church as an educational agency. Combining historical and musicological methodologies, this chapter explores the musical activity pursued by the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land,Footnote 2 providing insights into the schola cantorum of the Custody’s headquarter in the St Saviour’s convent in Jerusalem, and the role played by its orphan cantors, before moving to the analysis of some of the “political” compositions of Agostino Lama, one of the most significant Palestinian musicians of the twentieth century. In doing so, we add to the literature of the so-called “acoustic turn”, which opened a variety of research paths by combining the methodology of musicology and international relations.Footnote 3 This was linked to three other emerging strands: international concerns in musicology, the aesthetic turn in international relations, and the cultural turn in international history.

In this growing and stimulating landscape of studies on the relations between politics, culture and music in the modern and contemporary ages,Footnote 4 most scholars have devoted attention to the Euro-American area, particularly during the Cold War. Although the Middle East remains quite peripheral to the discipline, some works have attempted to fill this gap.Footnote 5 Looking at the Israeli–Palestinian context, numerous musicological studies have focused on the links between Palestinian music, nationalism and resistance against Israel after 1948 and especially after 1967,Footnote 6 on Palestinian music in Israel,Footnote 7 and on the musical divisions between, but also the experiences of joint collaboration by, Israeli and Palestinian musicians after the collapse of the Oslo agreements in the 1990s and the outbreak of the Second Intifada.Footnote 8

With the exception of the figure of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, whose cultural and musical relevance has been investigated by Salim Tamari and Issam NassarFootnote 9 (although Jawhariyyeh’s scores remain unpublished), the works on Robert Lachmann’s “Oriental Music” archive,Footnote 10 some studies on Jewish music in the Yishuv and post-1948,Footnote 11 and initial contributions on missionary musical activities,Footnote 12 research on musicians and music in late modern Ottoman and Mandate Palestine remains a desideratum, despite the importance of Palestine for musicians travelling within the region and between the Levant and the West.Footnote 13

In this landscape, Christian religious congregations played an important role. Although often underestimated by or barely quoted in historical studies, music was part of the cultural agenda of church institutions and missionary congregations. Christian actors imported Western classical music, teaching musical notation and Western composition styles in Palestine. The Franciscan schools devoted special attention to music: three of the major Palestinian musicians of the twentieth century, Agostino Lama (1902–1988), Salvador Arnita (1914–1984)Footnote 14 and Yousef Khasho (1927–1996),Footnote 15 were taught by the friars. Lama spent his entire life in the service of the Franciscan Custody, while Arnita and Khasho used the training received by the Franciscans outside the religious sphere of St Saviour’s, working for internationally reputed institutions, such as the American University of Beirut in Arnita’s case,Footnote 16 and the National Conservatory of Jordan in Khasho’s. The Custody’s schola cantorum won renown in the Palestinian landscape during the twentieth century.Footnote 17 In 1995 the Franciscans opened the Magnificat Institute, currently one of the few music schools in the Old City of Jerusalem.Footnote 18

As regards sources, the history of Palestinian music is intrinsically a connected history. Documents of musical interest are often located in archival fonds not immediately recognisable as “musical archives”. Therefore, not only in the Levant but perhaps particularly so, the history of a musical chapel requires surveying multiple archives and records, including land registries, architectural documentation, printing press holdings, municipal archives, radio records and private memoires, in order to retrace its course but also to precisely contextualise the extensive itineraries of the music and its performers.

St Saviour’s Schola Cantorum

The role of music within the Franciscan Custody—connected with two of its main objectives, evangelisation and education—must take central place in any comprehensive history of music in modern Palestine. These two tasks were strictly linked: music was a liturgical element and a pedagogical tool. And in this way the music sung and taught by the Custody helped to shape the liturgical and civic soundscape.

The Custody was also a space for the production—composing, playing and printing—of music. Established in the mid-nineteenth century, the Franciscan Printing Press (FPP) was among the main Jerusalem printing houses for music.Footnote 19 The FPP archives holds printed procession manuals (“Processionalia Terrae Sanctae”) for the Holy Sepulchre dating from 1866; books with the Melkite liturgy in Gregorian notation; the musical programme in Latin of the schola cantorum for the 1921 Holy Week; a 1935 antiphonarium; a 1938 text in Armenian with songs for the scouts (printed in 700 copies); a volume of Esercizi di solfeggio e di canto corale by Luigi Bottazzo and Oreste Ravanello, printed in 1943; religious sheet music from the 1950s and 1960s; Christmas and Easter greeting cards with hymns and sheets; children’s songbooks; a songbook printed for the Fascist Working Men’s Club; flyers with the Hebrew song “The New Hatikvah”; and the composition of the Jordanian national anthem dated 1965. Some sources refer to the “Archive of St Saviour’s Chapel” but this archive is not included in the inventory. The absence of a specific fond on the music played in the Holy Sepulchre reinforces the hypothesis that a separate musical archive has yet to be identified. Franciscan musical activity also included a band in Bethlehem. The most important Franciscan musical group was the schola cantorum of the Holy Land, composed of friars, laity and orphan cantors from St Saviour’s orphanage.Footnote 20

In order to retrace the history of the schola cantorum, the second tome of the monumental Franciscan inventory mentions two musical sources that deserve deeper attention.Footnote 21 The first one, entitled “Cappella musicale di San Salvatore: Annotazioni, 1923–1945”, is a manuscript notebook of 187 numbered pages, written by Lama, who played a pivotal role in liturgical music in Palestine in the twentieth century. Born on 28 August 1902 in Ramleh, he spent the period from 1908 to 1916 in the Franciscan Orphanage in St Saviour’s, where he also attended an elementary school run by the Franciscans and was taught music by the friars.

The archives of the Franciscan Custody contain traces of Lama’s childhood. In the card index of boys admitted to the orphanage from 1896 to 1931, his entry is number 107, and includes his dates of birth, baptism, confirmation and entry to the orphanage.Footnote 22 Following this information, a note informs that Lama was raised at the expense of the Latin Parish of Bethlehem. The assistant pastor of this parish, Fra Atanasio Nazlian, made “special recommendations” to support Lama’s admission to the Terra Sancta boy’s orphanage.Footnote 23 This description, which highlights the favour the young Lama enjoyed, stands in contrast to some other descriptions that reported that the boy in question was “caciato” (kicked out) or “rimandato a casa” (sent home) because “ladro, cattivo e incorreggibile” (thief, bad and incorrigible) or that he ran away from the orphanage. As was the case with all orphans, Lama received a health check by a doctor upon entering the institution.Footnote 24 His name reappears in the registries containing the results of the orphans for each school year.Footnote 25

Although the orphanage was closed during the First World War, the friars kept Lama in the convent because of his talent for music, especially the organ. Along with the guarantee of food and lodging, he also had the opportunity to attend private lessons, especially in music. From 1919 to 1923, he was a teacher. On 1 January 1920, the Custos, Ferdinando Diotallevi, appointed the eighteen‐year old Lama as organist of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, a position he held until his death in 1988. As early as the early 1920s, the compositions of the young Lama, executed by the schola cantorum, were appreciated during the liturgies at the Holy Sepulchre.Footnote 26 In 1923 he also became director of the schola and of the Antonian Charitable Society band in St Saviour’s, and was active as a music teacher and choir conductor. Many of his choir compositions are still sung at St Saviour’s and in all Palestinian parishes.

As he states in the introduction of the “Annotazioni”, dated 6 November 1928, Lama, then director of St Saviour’s schola, copied and continued the notes written by his predecessors from 1923 to 1927.Footnote 27 The second source, entitled “Cronache orfanatrofio”, but not written by Lama, covers four decades, from 1929 to 1969.Footnote 28 While this is not a musical chronicle, music features prominently in its pages. The directors of St Saviour’s orphanage kept notes on all musical activities involving the students.

In the first document, the notes were started by Fra Augusto Facchini in 1923 and continued by Fra Pacifico Del Vecchio (director of the musical chapel from July 1925 to January 1926) and Fra Francesco Triantafillides (director from January 1926 to July 1927). The document comprises three different notebooks: according to Lama’s aforementioned introduction, he decided to collate these notes in one book so as to make it easier to consult them. Lama specified that he copied Facchini’s and Del Vecchio’s notes “very scrupulously”, while he made a selection of Triantafillides’s pages, refusing to add “discordant and unpleasant notes” to pages referring to “Melodies and Harmonies”.Footnote 29

Lama describes in detail the choir’s activities: the liturgies it attended, repertoire and celebrants. All directors followed the same structure regarding notation: they report the date and the festivity, the location of the liturgy, the programme sung and offer some comments on the performance. Every chronicle is accompanied by critical remarks about the pieces and the performance of the cantors. The schola cantorum repertoire mainly included polyphonic pieces. Gregorian chant, unexpectedly, had a secondary role, and the “Annotazioni” was usually critical of performances of it. It often contains harsh criticisms of the execution. The directors lamented the absence of some friars from choir practice, their errors,Footnote 30 especially in the Gregorian chant, and their distraction during the liturgy.Footnote 31 The sense of decadence was amplified by other elements: the poor state of the organ of the Holy Sepulchre and the difficulty in finding a favourable position for the choir.Footnote 32

In the notes of the directors of the musical chapel, the spiritual dimension of these liturgies was also affected by the conflicts and clashes with the other communities allowed to officiate in the Holy Sepulchre, particularly during the Holy Week and Easter ceremonies. The everyday coexistence among the choirs appeared problematicFootnote 33 and, at times, very conflictual.Footnote 34 The “musical clash” also left an impression on the pilgrims visiting the holy places, as evident in the pilgrimage account of the 25-year-old Angelo Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII) reporting the “nuisance” in hearing the voices able “to scare the dead” of Copt cantors over the “suavity and good taste” of the Franciscans.Footnote 35

Lama provides a vivid representation of that “infernal cacophony”.Footnote 36 In 1928, he wrote that on Holy Friday (April 6) at the Holy Sepulchre “all is squalid [and] sad”, adding that “one day the Holy Sepulchre will lose all its splendour because of the Schismatics”.Footnote 37 These tensions did not involve confessional relations only; they were part of the historical problems of the Latin Catholic Church, and particularly the Patriarchate Custody, especially in celebrations involving Patriarch Luigi Barlassina.

Apart from these conflicts, the notes also report on the everyday strategies and tactics of mutual coexistence. During the 1930s, the restoration of the organ of the Holy Sepulchre risked sparking new tensions: on the day the new instrument was tested, the Franciscan Procurator sent a case of beer to the Armenians and Greeks in order to curry favour and to avoid clashes.Footnote 38

Controlling and Patronising Orphans Through Music

In the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries there were three orphanages within the Franciscan Custody: one in Jerusalem (for boys only) and two in Cairo, one for boys (run by the Franciscan Missionary Sisters) and the other for girls. The male orphanage in Jerusalem was founded in 1879 and situated within the walls of St Saviour’s. In the 1890s orphans and the St Saviour’s parish schoolboys were taught together, but the friars soon separated them. The 11th July 1927 earthquake forced the friars to reunite the orphans and the parish schoolboys in the same building for few years.Footnote 39 In the 1930s it the orphanage hosted about 80 boys, mainly from Catholic families. It was directed by a Franciscan friar, in coordination with other friars and lay members of the third order for supervision. The boys were divided into two sections: the first for boys under 14 years old and the second for boys aged 14–18, after which they had to leave the orphanage. The education of the orphans was focused on religion and the study of languages, particularly Italian, French and English. The programmes included the basics of music and singing and, for selected students, a special music class in which the orphans were taught the art of singing at a higher level and learned to play an instrument. The most promising students were provided with instruments and books and were followed by a teacher. Some organists were trained and the orphanage provided the schola cantorum with sopranos and contraltos for everyday liturgical service. The young choristers and altar boys participated in the friar’s daily procession to the Holy Sepulchre and sung the Te Deum as pilgrims were entering.

Boys over 14 years old were sent to train in workshops for tailoring, cobbling and typography at St Saviour’s. Upon reaching 18, the orphans could leave the compound or stay to work in these workshops run by the friars. Alumni could spend an “honest recess” in the evening in a club in the school.Footnote 40 This entertainment was accompanied by a performance of St Saviour’s Antonian band, which was composed of alumni.

As reported in the orphanage chronicles—initiated by the director, Fra Fulgenzio Pasini, on 28th May 1929—the institution had no precise regulations nor had it specific admission criteria for orphans.Footnote 41 Italian was the lingua franca within the school, as throughout the Custody.Footnote 42 The director was appointed by the Custos. The teachers were both friars and laymen. The orphanage, which closed in 2004, was based in the building that today hosts the Custody curia. Its archive, composed of documents in Arabic, English and Italian, has since been deposited in the historical archives of the Custody.

The schola cantorum was composed of friars and of students of the Franciscan male schools and Jerusalem’s male orphanage. Around 22 boys served daily in the choir, reaching 30 for the sung masses in St Saviour’s parish. Only men and boys were allowed to sing during the liturgy. The only reference in this source to female students singing is from 15 July 1927, the day of Holy Sepulchre feast during the celebrations of the Franciscan centennial, when, despite the damages sustained by the Basilica due to the earthquake four days before,Footnote 43 hundreds of male and female students of the Catholic schools in the Holy Land sung the Missa de Angelis together in the basilica.Footnote 44

St Saviour’s schola cantorum was not a professional choir: singing was part of the duty or training of its members. Although the performances by the cantors were often criticised by the director, the judgements on the orphans and the alumni were much more positive and encouraging. The boys were described as “exact and sure” in their way of singing, their voices highly praised and their commitment the object of special attention. The liturgical service was demanding, requiring a daily presence at the Holy Sepulchre and frequent participation in St Saviour’s celebrations. In addition to the liturgies were daily practices: “To have good executions, at least three weeks of last rehearsals are required, otherwise fiasco”,Footnote 45 noted Fra Triantafillides in 1926. For special festivities, the choir’s performances in St Saviour’s were accompanied by the orchestra.Footnote 46

The orphan members of the chapel were gradually separated from the others: in consideration of their commitment, the orphan cantors were allowed to leave the compound. And the schola’s activities were not limited to the Holy Sepulchre and St Saviour’s parish liturgies; the choir was involved in all the major celebrations of the Franciscan Custody and of its churches and sanctuaries, not only in Palestine but also in Damascus and Aleppo, which meant that some of the orphans travelled widely.

Franciscan musical activity was also disseminated via radio. In January 1936 Filastin reported that an agreement had been reached between the Franciscan friars and the Palestine Broadcasting Service (PBS) to broadcast the music played by the Antonian band in the Arabic section of the programme through the new transmitter in Ramallah that was scheduled to begin operation in March 1936.Footnote 47 The “Annotazioni” also reports that in 1935 Radio London, in programmes transmitted in Europe and the United States, and in the following year Radio Jerusalem began to broadcast the liturgies sang by the schola, particularly during Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost and Christmas, from the Holy Sepulchre, Gethsemane and Bethlehem.Footnote 48

The choir also accompanied cinematographic projections: at the end of May 1930, it sung in a hall of the Terra Santa College during the silent movie Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.Footnote 49 Soon afterwards the Custos forbade them to participate in such events, with the exception of the screening—organised by the Italian Consulate of Jerusalem—of the movie celebrating the signing of the Lateran Treaty in 1929 between the Fascist regime and the Holy See.Footnote 50

This attention paid to the orphan cantors was accompanied by a system of control by religious and lay probation officers. The cantors were not allowed to speak in Arabic during the recess.Footnote 51 Each year, during the Easter vacations, the cantors, divided in groups (friars, laymen and boys), organised a trip called the “scampagnata”, offered by the Custody as a reward for their services. Likewise, a ten-day paid vacation was offered to some of them, suggesting a regime of strict rules and occasional rewards.

A Musico-Political Agenda

The orphans and their choir did not only sing liturgical music. The music performed by the Jerusalem and Bethlehem bands marked feasts and entertainment within the convents but also in public spaces. Politics entered the Custody walls: the musical activity of the orphan and alumni cantors also included singing at performances organised for political events. In 1925 during the journey to Palestine of the former British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, who was accompanied by Herbert Samuel, High Commissioner for Palestine, the Franciscan band played the British national anthem.Footnote 52 The orphans also sang a hymn in Arabic composed by Lama in the presence of King Abdullah of Jordan during his visit to Jerusalem on 11 April 1935.Footnote 53

The increasing alignment of the Custody with the Fascist regime also influenced musical life. The chronicle mentions the song “I crociati balilla” together with other popular Italian songs performed by the schola.Footnote 54 The Fascist regime devoted considerable attention to Palestine, aiming to increase Italian influence in the Levant. Benito Mussolini, who promoted a revival of the cult of St Francis as an “Italian saint”,Footnote 55 called on the Franciscan minor order to increase the number of Italian friars sent to the Holy Land, although this pressure did not produce the results anticipated by the Prime Minister.

In this diplomatic strategy, Mussolini found an ally in Victor Emmanuel III, who intended to reinforce and legitimate his family’s claims to titles such as King of Cyprus and Jerusalem. The Italian Consul in Jerusalem proposed to Mussolini a pilgrimage by the crown prince, Umberto.Footnote 56 The king encouraged this idea and the pilgrimage took place during the 1928 Holy Week and Easter celebrations (1–9 April). In the celebrations organised during this journey, the choir took centre stage.Footnote 57 The orphans were educated to be loyal to the Savoy monarchy: after the death of Queen Margherita (4 January 1926), a mass was celebrated in her memory in the presence of General Consul Antonio Gauttieri and the vice-consul of Haifa, Giordani: during this liturgy the choir sang Lorenzo Perosi’s requiem mass for three male voices.

On 11 November 1929, the king’s birthday, the consul sent a gift—some sweets (“un cartoccio di bomboni”)—to every orphan. On the same day, 12 cantors sang the Gregorian chant during a solemn mass in honour of Victor Emmanuel. The notes report that the orphans sent a “little letter” thanking the consul. In December 1930, for the celebrations of New Year’s Eve, the orphans had to read a poem in Italian.Footnote 58

The late 1920s and early 1930s were marked by the conflict between the Latin Patriarchate and the British authorities over the education bill in Mandate Palestine, a first draft of which was presented in 1928, then promulgated in 1933 as the Education Ordinance. Patriarch Barlassina, who was very active on the educational front,Footnote 59 resisted any form of control by the British government over Catholic schools, especially the patriarchal ones (which comprised 24 schools with around 800 pupils, mainly from Catholic families).Footnote 60

At the end of the 1920s, the Palestinian situation was also changing. The 1929 riots and later the outbreak of the Arab revolt in 1936 profoundly affected the organisation of the Custody schools. The orphanage classes were interrupted from May to early October and from 1936 to 1938 the choir was not allowed to go to Mount Tabor to chant at liturgies.Footnote 61

At the same time, Lama’s growing fame in Palestine was used by the Custody in order to increase its reputation in the eyes of the Holy See and the Fascist government, which involved “Italianising” the figure of the Arab teacher. In 1935 Custos Nazzareno Jacopozzi requested the Holy See, through the Apostolic Delegate of Palestine, Gustavo Testa, to confer a decoration—the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice crossFootnote 62—on Lama as “reward and encouragement” for his activities as composer, organist and director of the schola cantorum.Footnote 63 Instead of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, Mgr. Alfredo Ottaviani awarded Lama the Benemerenti medal in October 1935.Footnote 64 Two years later, in 1937, Jacopozzi’s request for another decoration for Lama, this time from the Italian government, was refused by the Italian consul, Quinto Mazzolini.Footnote 65

Lama: From Cecilianism to the Nakba

In the “Annotazioni”, references to Palestinian music in Arabic are very limited: the liturgical music was mainly chosen from the Gregorian repertoire. On Holy Friday in 1924, the choir was reported to have sung the ʾadhka al-salam, to the popular theme of Vexilla regis.Footnote 66 In 1928 Lama noted that “We must also remember to have a song in Arabic in honour of the Madonna that can be sung at the end of the various ceremonies, so as to contribute to making the feast more solemn by making the people sing it too”.Footnote 67 He was also the author of devotional music and songs in Arabic.Footnote 68 The FPP catalogue attests to the publication of manuals of popular and spiritual Arab songs, and the abovementioned article from Filastin reported that the music played by the Antonian Charitable Society band and broadcast by the PBS was in Arabic.

This was a highly significant period for Arab music. In March–April 1932 the Cairo Congress of Arab Music gathered Arab, Jewish, Turkish, Persian and European musicians and musicologists.Footnote 69 During this event, opened by King Fu’ad, the discussions and complex exchange shaped and standardised the category of “Arab music”, in a debate around “tradition” and “modernity” that influenced subsequent cultural policies in the Middle East and its relations with European countries. The conference, in which some Palestinian musicians and composers participated, was a seminal event that has shaped music education, scholarship and cultural policy in Arab countries ever since.

No trace of this event is to be found in the “Annotazioni”. The repertoire listed in the “Annotazioni” provides information not only about what was chanted and played but also how the choir and organ were expected to perform and, implicitly (as the liturgical service was one of the main objectives of the music schools), how the choirboys were trained, as well as the theological and aesthetic ideals according to which the pieces were selected. The “Annotazioni” carefully records the musical programmes of the most important liturgical celebrations. Among the most recurrent musical pieces, the choir sung an Introito by Angelo Fabiani (1868–1938); Kyrie and Gloria from the Messa a tre voci d’uomo by Lorenzo Perosi (1872–1956); a four-voice graduale (Christus factus est) by Felice Anerio (1560–1614); Credo from the Missa Papae Marcelli by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525–1594); Offertorio and Communio by Ignaz Mitterer (1850–1924); Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei from the Missa O quam gloriosum by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611). This programme is representative of the fundamental criteria on which the repertoire of the Schola was selected: the best-known musicians of the sixteenth-century Roman School alternate with contemporary composers engaged in the refoundation of liturgical music on the basis of church tradition. Almost all of the choir’s performances follow this model.

One of Lama’s main intentions in collecting and continuing the chronicles of the Schola’s liturgical performances was not only to select the most suitable pieces for each celebration but also to establish a canon of authors and musical styles. This aesthetic standard was clearly shaped on the ideals of the Cecilian movement.Footnote 70 This movement, developed in Europe during the second half of the nineteenth century, promoted a reform in Catholic Church music, with the aim of defining the features of liturgical music according to church teaching and to acquaint church musicians (choirmasters, choristers and organists) with the official instructions on sacred music. The movement sought to counter the influence of the operatic style on liturgical music, in an attempt to restore, with the return to plainchant and Renaissance polyphony, a supposedly decayed tradition.

The Cecilian programme was motivated not only by aesthetic purposes but also by pastoral concerns. Through the rediscovery of Gregorian chant and the emphasis on musical training according to tradition, the Cecilians sought a restoration of church authority, pursuing the aims of the First Vatican Council. In their view, sacred music had to be subject to the purposes of the liturgy, through the adoption of a simpler harmonic and melodic language. This reform movement was embraced and supported by the papacy and particularly by Pope Pius X, who, in his motu proprio Inter plurimas pastoralis officii sollicitudines,Footnote 71 published significantly on St Cecilia’s feast day (22 November) in 1903, endorsed the Cecilians’ aims. This document on sacred music gave a strong impulse to musical training and the birth of the parochial scholae cantorum.

From the end of the nineteenth century, the directors of Custody’s schola cantorum were strongly aligned with the Cecilian movement. The Franciscan Hartmann von An der Lan-Hochbrunn (1863–1914), better known as Pater Hartmann, a well-known composer of sacred music, friend of Perosi and leading exponent of Cecilianism, held the post of organist in the Church of St Saviour and in the Holy Sepulchre from 1893 to 1895. According to Hartmann, the primary purpose of sacred music had to be the promotion of religious devotion in the congregation and this would be achieved through the adoption of a simpler and more sober musical language.Footnote 72 His successor in the church, Fra Agostino Frapiccini, was a student of Antonio Cicognani (1857–1934), who was deeply influenced by the Regensburg school of church music, one of the main European institutions that promoted Cecilian ideals. He was also the author of the music of the “Hymn of the Holy Land”.Footnote 73 Moreover, the “Annotazioni” records that Fra Ilarione Nacuzi, sorvegliante in the orphanage for about 30 years, was one of the friars most involved in the reception of Pius X’s motu proprio.

As his musical choices as choir director and composer testify, Lama was trained in a musical environment, that of the Franciscan Custody, that was deeply influenced by Cecilian values, and he too contributed to their promotion. Thus, if the basis of musical teaching in the Franciscan school and orphanages can be placed within the Western classical musical tradition, this was mediated by the theological and aesthetic values of the Cecilian movement. The Christian listening community of the Franciscan Custody was built according to these values. The music sung and played during the liturgies was meant to be the sound in which the local Arab Christian community and pilgrims could recognise and distinguish themselves, in an interfaith context, as part of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

Lama’s musical output is mainly composed of vocal and instrumental (organist) music for the liturgy. Today his scores are mainly in the Franciscan Custody archive and in the private collection of the Lama family. Among them, the Prayer is a small piece for solo baritone with organ accompaniment. It was composed as “a humble souvenir to the honourable members of the UNSCOP” (United Nations Special Committee on Palestine). The score was printed in a leaflet format (probably in 100 copies), dated 13 June 1947—while the members of UNSCOP were arriving in Palestine, and given to the audience. The title page is in itself an explicit declaration of political intentions. It describes the author as an “Arab Palestinian” and that he is the organist of the Holy Sepulchre. At the bottom of the page, the text of the piece, given in three languages, English, French and Arabic, surrounds an image of Jerusalem in which the dome of the Holy Sepulchre is clearly visible. The text consists of two biblical verses taken from Psalm 18:6/2 Samuel 22:7 and Ecclesiasticus 36:13: “In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God / Be merciful, o Lord, unto Jerusalem, Thy holy city, the place of Thy rest”. The piece, in B flat minor, is in the form of a recitative and arioso. The three-bar recitative, based on the words of Psalm 18:6 and 2 Samuel 22:7, is based on the harsh sonority of the seventh diminished chord and serves as an introduction. The arioso that follows can be divided into three sections, with a concentric ABA’ structure. In the sections A and A’ the invocation “Be merciful, o Lord, unto Jerusalem” is repeated through a simple melodic idea imitated by the organ, while in the central part B the words “Thy holy city, the place of thy rest” are accompanied by dense chromatic harmonies. The dedication of this song to Jerusalem may echo the hymn “Jerusalem”, whose music was written in 1916 using “And did those feet in ancient time”, William Blake’s preface to his poem “Milton”. Composed by Sir Hubert Parry as an anthem for the suffragette movement, it became extremely popular and in some ways acted as a British claim to Palestine, with no other comparable example with such political implications in Europe.Footnote 74

According to documents collected in the recently released Pius XII’s papers in the archives of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the memories of Lama’s eldest son, Tony, after the outbreak of the 1948 war, the family took refuge in St Louis’ Hospital, which was adjacent to Notre-Dame de France, near the New Gate.Footnote 75 After the assault by the Haganah, the family was split and Agostino was transferred to a camp. After he was released through the efforts of the French Consulate a few months later, he took refuge in St Saviour’s.

During these dramatic months, probably in November 1948, Lama composed the Postlude. The postlude is, by definition, an instrumental piece performed at the end of a liturgy or a celebration, after the concluding rite and during the exit of the congregation from the church. This composition is based on the plainchant of the Ite, missa est IV and can be inscribed in the nineteenth-century tradition of the organ postlude. As for many other examples of this musical genre, the beginning of Lama’s postlude takes the form of a fugue: the incipit of the theme is imitated through the voices shaping the polyphonic texture of the piece. The character of this first part is flowing, harmonious, but the musical discourse is interrupted by a sharp and dramatic augmented sixth chord, which suddenly leads to a choral restatement of the theme, which is accompanied by a fanfare-like rhythm that gives to the plainchant the nature of a march echoing the ongoing war.

Reverberating Around a Changing City

The events of 1948 had harsh impacts on the professional careers and personal trajectories of Palestinian musicians, forcing many of them to emigrate.Footnote 76 The consequences of the war for Palestine would not only be echoed in Lama’s Postlude. After the 1967 war, Salvador Arnita composed the “Cantata”, based on the text of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem Bitaqat Hawiyyah (Identity card).Footnote 77

From 1948 to 1967, when the Old City—and therefore St Saviour’s compound—was under Jordanian control, Lama expressed his loyalty to King Hussein, composing music for the monarchy, in a phase in which most Palestinian Catholics did not support the Jordanian annexation of Jerusalem and the West Bank, as demonstrated some years before by the participation of Fr Ibrahim Ayyad in the conspiracy to murder King Abdullah. However, the post-1948 history of the cultural policy of the Franciscan Custody towards Israel and Jordan, including its musical engagement, remains worthy of further study.

Looking back at the late Ottoman and Mandate period, in the St Saviour’s microcosmos, music was a tool for the friars to maintain and strengthen the internal dynamics of patronage and control over the orphans, students and artisans in the workshops. At the same time, music was a powerful way to elaborate the Custody’s public presence, to assist in developing its relationships with the local authorities and foreign representatives, as well as in differentiating itself from other Christian confessions, but also in inhabiting, through public performances, the sound spaces of a citadinité in transformation, as during the Mandate period.

Lama’s itinerary, from orphan to master, highlights some elements of the history of the Franciscan educational system. His example demonstrates the growing importance of the Palestinian laity within the Custody, and, at the same, the efforts of the friars to Westernise and, more particularly, Italianise (and therefore use the figure of Lama in the internal disputes between the various national components of the Custody), as demonstrated by the requests for honours to the Holy See and the Fascist government, and by sending the most promising Palestinian music students to study in the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Italy.Footnote 78 In a multilingual institution like the Custody,Footnote 79 music was an alternative language to promote and, at the same time, to control circles, actors and rules.

In a period that saw the progressive separation of religious communities, music broke through, in some ways, the sectarianism imposed by the authorities, although it offered in parallel a means to perform the increasing political and social conflicts within the city and beyond. In Jerusalem, religious music was also “city music”, reverberating in its streets and neighbourhoods but also delivering an echo of the international politics pursued by the Franciscan Custody, thus contributing to the shaping of its complexity (Figs. 1, 2 and 3).

Fig. 1
figure 1

St Saviour schola cantorum, 1925–1934, ASCTS

Fig. 2
figure 2

Latin Patriarchal band, undated, Archive of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem/Archive of the Ecole biblique et archéologique française

Fig. 3
figure 3

Madaba Patriarchal band, 1931, Archive of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem/Archive of the Ecole biblique et archéologique française