Raising money to fund the professional composition of 26 melodies I have written for a stage musical about Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi Enlivens His World Through Music
Assisi’s New Wine brings St. Francis to the stage in a musical for a new generation, telling the story of the Troubadour era Francis of Assisi through 26 songs and dialogue written by Chuck DeShazo. Assisi’s New Wine weaves the important threads of the Medieval tradition of music in the nobility and upper middle classes of Southern France and Northern Italy through the rich tapestry of life in Assisi as it enters the earliest dawn of the Renaissance.
Francis of Assisi wears that tapestry with aplomb, and then fashions it to serve the purposes he has been given by God for invigorating the individuals of Central Italy and beyond with enduring, life-changing words and melodies impacting the world even today.
I grew up with a broad appreciation of music including classical, jazz, swing, musicals, folk, classic rock, hymns and other inspirational songs. Many times were spent attending classical, jazz and other concerts, as well as singing in school and church choirs. In addition to that, I have been a real student of European history, and have come to appreciate many of the famous composers. Music and the arts in general add a great deal of cultural wealth to my life.
I wrote a fiction book about ten years ago. Most recently I wrote a blog on city life, dealing with its aesthetic, artistic, commercial, educational, environmental, and social realms. The inspiration for the ‘Assisi’s New Wine’ project came from another video I had produced, which was a monologue on the life of Martin Rinkart, a German pastor and hymnist during the Thirty Years War.
An American in Italy
I have considered, how does one write a story about a historic figure of another era in another culture. For me the process involves having a genuine curiosity about the world. How does a culture meander to a certain fixed mark at a particular point in time? What were the commercial ideas, clan relationships, artistic endeavors, and philosophical pronouncements that arranged the food, wine and tableware in the homes and public places?
For me, the more that I wrote and re-wrote whole sections of this story, the more as a creator I was eating, drinking and dreaming about these characters and what they were saying and doing. The melodies that I wrote would play themselves in my head to the degree that I knew they belonged and were real to the story. Even in the edits, re-edits, and professional reviews, I had an intrinsic sense about the reality of certain parts of the story. If those parts were not stated or implied, the story simply would not exist.
I did not use a single visual template to create or refine this story. I wanted it to be as free from bias as possible. I did not set out to craft a period piece, an artistic drama or religious story. Assisi’s New Wine includes some of all of those things though and more. When I view a painting, I want to have my eyes rest on the beauty and technical proficiency of the painting, and not get distracted by the frame. For me the story should be good whether it is a period piece, an art movie or a religiously-inspired story. The adjectives don’t make the story.
How Did I Walk in Francis’ Shoes?
I appreciated from the beginning of this project that it was not sufficient to simply read some books about Francis and let the creative mind travel wherever it would. I needed to actually travel to Assisi and walk in his actual steps in the town and surrounding countryside. Both in 2009 and in 2012, I traveled there, staying in 1,000 year old buildings lining medieval cobblestone streets. Assisi is a very hilly town with numerous vistas from which one can glean timeless perspectives from the ramparts of the ancient houses stair-stepped along the hill to the acres of vineyards flowing down the hillsides below.
I walked past the prominently situated villa of the Bernadone family, and saw how Francis with his outgoing youthful personality really was the center of attention for certain young men in the town. Relaxing at a gelateria on the Piazza Del Commune, I could envision rowdy townspeople seated in outdoor bars throwing tomatoes, wine and anything else they could get their hands on in the direction of performers they didn’t like.
The ultimate experience I had occurred in 2012 when my wife and I were in Assisi, and we took a ninety minute hike from the town up Mount Subasio, a journey Francis took on numerous occasions to get away from people to enjoy solitude in prayer. While we decided, unlike Francis, to keep our shoes on for the journey, it was still easy to imagine the numerous experiences he had in those woods leaving from and returning to Assisi.
About Project Creator:
I feel that in my relationship with God, He has given me a passion for the city in the realms of aesthetics, the arts, commerce, education, the environment and social life. Assisi’s New Wine brings these passions out in a story form that is timeless in the sense that Francis of Assisi is a beloved historical figure who has had an impact upon millions due to his example while he was on the earth.
I initiated this project from a desire to bring historical figures to life for 21st Century audiences. This story has evolved over the the last seven years I have been engaged in crafting it.
Link to the Project: