Artist's death brings documentary to light

Ceremony held in the catacombs of Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Martin Scorsese to present The Oratorio conducted by Donato Renzetti and filmed at the Basilica of Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral
Martin Scorsese to present The Oratorio conducted by Donato Renzetti and filmed at the Basilica of Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Earlier this month I attended the interment service in the Basilica of Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral's catacombs for the artist Soledad Arias, a dear friend of Ed Bahlman. The eulogy was given by Reverend Brian A Graebe, the youngest pastor in New York in the oldest church. A representative of the parish, who was streaming the ceremony for family members not able to attend due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, mentioned The Oratorio and Martin Scorsese's involvement in the project.

Soledad Arias’s who what where (detail) in FLOAT at the Socrates Sculpture Park, installed by Ed Bahlman
Soledad Arias’s who what where (detail) in FLOAT at the Socrates Sculpture Park, installed by Ed Bahlman Photo: Soledad Arias

The Oratorio, shot by Jonathan Nelson and directed by the team of Alex Bayer, Mary Anne Rothberg, and Jonathan Mann, features soloists Salome Jicia, Francesca Dotto, Patrick Kabongo, Pierluigi Dilengite, and Daniele Terenzi with the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari choir and orchestra, conducted by Donato Renzetti. The discovery of an old program triggered some detective work by Basilica Music Director Jared Lamenzo and Italian musicologist Francesco Zimei that led to lost sounds regained and the 1826 benefit concert for the Sisters of Charity’s orphanage recreated.

“Music gives a soul to the universe and life to everything,” Martin Scorsese says in the performance documentary and talks about the history of the Basilica of Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral which was his neighborhood church where he was an altar server. In Mean Streets there is a scene set in the Cathedral's walled graveyard. Francis Ford Coppola shot The Godfather baptism in the old Cathedral and Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) gets an honour from the church in The Godfather Part III.

Soledad Arias’s like you I forgot (chromogenic C print)
Soledad Arias’s like you I forgot (chromogenic C print) Photo: Soledad Arias

The ceremony for Sol took place on August 6, the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. In one of her most marvellous, probing artworks she used a quote from Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour: “like you I forgot” situated in a blue sky with white puffy clouds.

Ed met Sol for the first time at a Museum of Modern Art screening in New York during the Marguerite Duras film retrospective in 1995. Forgetting and remembering are like a seesaw. They cannot be separated. Sol’s impressive installation “who what where” - pennants strung between trees at the Socrates Sculpture Park in New York - in its entirety reads “Who would I be if I could be/Where would I go if I could go/What would I say if I had a voice/Where would you go now that you know.”

Scorsese’s The Irishman, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, opened the 2019 New York Film Festival. Film at Lincoln Center has yet to announce the 58th New York Film Festival Spotlight on Documentary selections. The Oratorio would be an excellent addition.

Martin Scorsese says in the film, as he walks through the graveyard of Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral: “This place was something that ultimately affected the way I see the world, the way I hear the world and through my work. This place is just breathing stories and lives long-forgotten.”

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