Way back in the late 1990s we were hanging out with a couple from Communione e Liberazione. Because of that I become interested in the works of Luigi Guissani, the founder of CL. After reading his books I decided to use The Religious Sense as part of a class I was teaching at Marquette called “20th Century Christian Responses to Modernity.” Soon after that Riro (Maurizio) Maniscalco, one of the big names in CL, came to Milwaukee to organize a symposium on the use of The Religious Sense in university teaching. I gave one of the presentations, as well as did a friend of mine, Rodney Howsare, who had also used the book in his class. The great theologian, Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete also presented—and David Schindler was there.
As it turns out Riro was also part of a folk group called The Bay Ridge Band, who had produced a CD called Spirituals and Songs from the Stoop. So I wound up with a copy of the CD (probably free, since I never buy anything).
It was wonderful.
The Bay Ridge Band is six men and women from at least three countries who sing folk, blues and gospel.
- Chris Vath, Piano & Vocals
- Valentina Oriani, Vocals
- Molly Poole, Vocals
- Cas Patrick, Vocals
- Riro Maniscalco, Rhythm Guitar, Percussion & Vocals
- Jonathan Fields, Lead Guitar, Bass & Vocal
The voices of the two women are particularly sweet and strong. Sometimes the men’s voices are a little on the overkill trying to sound bluesy, but that is a minor critique. The arrangements are often compelling. The harmonies are rich, complex and varied. My family loves to sing them. In fact, we sang “Keep Your Lamps” at a talent show once—in four-part harmony.
What I like most about it is the joy. The album is fun in the same way that the Weaver’s Carnegie Hall Christmas Album is fun (I intend to review that later). A kind of freedom and joy even when they are being “serious”.
Most of the songs are traditional, but some are originals. One of my favorites is “A New Creation.” It is a wistful reflection on the American immigrant experience and the true longing of the heart.
Other favorites include “Bamboo,” “Sister Mary,” and “I Got Shoes,” which changes style several times, from folk to blues through classical and back again. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of cuts from the album on Youtube. The only other one is “The Things that I See,” which isn’t the strongest cut on the album.
David Schindler later invited me to an in-house CL discussion of Guissani’s book The Risk of Education. Several members of the Bay Ridge Band, including Riro and Chris Vath, were there so we had great sing-a-longs in the evenings.
The album and other Bay Ridge Band CDs can be sampled and bought here or at the usual outlets that I don’t promote online because why should I they don’t pay me anything.
Note: This isn’t them.
—Robert Gotcher is a theologian from Milwaukee, where he and his wife have been raising their seven children, five of whom are out of the house, more or less. He is a recovering Beatlemaniac.