Music Notes: Buon Natale – is finally here! – By Myron Heaton

 Here, once again, is our very own Music Man.  Myron, I hope you really like this show.  It’s my favorite.  ~Marie

(Courtesy Detroit PBS)
( Detroit PBS)

I was hoping to have had this out sooner but my order of this program had not arrived yet when the PBS special came on television tonight. So here is my review of the television show on PBS – December 2, 2013. This was filmed on March 27, 2013 or as they called it at the time –“ Christmas in March in Miami “. Try to get your head around that image ! 

In quick summary, I want to say that this program was really excellent but given their schedule that week it should not have been good at all. More on that later.

I don’t usually describe the staging of a song but this was excellent: curtain closed, the boys walk in through the audience shaking hands as they keep walking and while the orchestra (out of sight) plays intro to Panis Angelicus. They make it to the stage just in time to start the song. Beautifully sung – period . Then this is done the curtain opens to a very lavishly decorated stage with full orchestra and the song Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. The whole transition was excellent. Nice lively rendition.

With the boys up on their round platform they sat on the edge and sang I’ll be Home for Christmas. Another great orchestration and using the alternate introduction made famous by Bing Crosby. Nice singing and very rich in tone. Gianluca gave a wonderful mellow sound to the 3rd verse. This was followed by the boy’s now-famous medley with the big band Sinatra sound – Medley: Jingle Bells Rock-Let it Snow-Wonderful Time of the Year This is always a powerful performance and they always have fun with the audience. When you compare the “We are Love “ concert which was filmed the night before this program, this audience was a lot more “alive” and responsive to the boys.

Perhaps the best song and best performance of the night: The Christmas Song(Chestnuts Roasting on an open fire) – the orchestration was fantastic and it starts with Gianluca singing in a most incredible and mellow tone. He is inspired by the great singer Mel Torme – who, by the way, was also the composer of this great song. Torme was known as the “velvet fog” – nickname because his voice moved so smooth and because he was a great jazz improviser. That was Gianluca right here and right now. To make it even more wondrous, Piero – who normally pushes tone rather strong came through with his own wonderful, mellow vocal sound. Ignazio followed with some jazz rifs and echoed by Gianluca again. Mel Torme would be proud. Truly great performance of this wonderful song.

Up next a very nice rendition of Ave Maria – Schubert version. As Gianluca points out there is another famous version written by Johann S. Bach and arranged by Gounod. Here, I am afraid, we had some evidence of the tired voices from the stressed out week. More on that later. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town – changed the mood right away with a lot of cute facials and footwork from the guys. This was fun. This section concluded with their very fine arrangement of O Holy Night. Giving each boy a good solo section and also using very nice harmony is part. The singing here is just absolutely glorious. Great orchestration but this is all the guys. This is what Gianluca, Piero and Ignazio were created for. This is what the original meaning of the words “Bel Canto” really meant. Absolutely pure and simple beautiful singing – period !

The next section starts with Silent Night which was not quite as good as they have done and part of it was the rather dumb position they are sitting in – ugh ! They looked so uncomfortable from the start. Singers don’t sit on the floor with their legs crossed up under their arms – sorry Gianluca. Fire the stage director. They have sung this song much better on prior times (the Today Show last year, for one).

A let-down to a highlight. Elvis’ Blue Christmas – sung totally a capella ! ! !

Starting without any pitch from orchestra (nice to have perfect pitch) and sung with no orchestra, or piano or guitar. Just PURE GUYS ! That was fantastic and very pretty. This was followed by another of my favorites that they have sung before Notte Stellata (The Swan)–another “Bel Canto” example of singing. The version of White Christmas was sung vey nicely but I felt they should have stayed with the original key which is lower by two steps and therefore better range for all. They carried it off. The concert ended with Feliz Navidad along with Belinda. Nice audience sing-along. Good ending to a program.

As I said above, this concert came off in truly excellent fashion – great music done with great quality. Congratulations boys, but no due to planning. There should never have been a plan that forced the boys into filming two entirely different concerts for television BACK TO BACK – one day after the other. “We are Love” on March 26 and Buon Natale on March 27 ! This is bad vocal planning and vocal care. I also think it takes advantage of the boys’ good nature and their extraordinary professionalism ! The proper plan should have been a week of rehearsals for the first show and two days off and then a week of rehearsals for the second show. These two concerts came off because of the three most wonderful young men in the business today.

Bless you Ignazio. Bless you Piero. Bless you Gianluca. We love you and wish you all a great and restful Christmas with your families.



31 thoughts on “Music Notes: Buon Natale – is finally here! – By Myron Heaton”

  1. I’m pretty appalled that they had to do two very different concerts back to back. That just seems pretty overwhelming to me. Says a lot about their dedication and professionalism but it also says something entirely different for their concert planners. Someday Piero, Ignazio and Gianlucca will have a stronger voice in these plans. On the positive side I thought it was a delightful concert. I did think it was pretty odd that they made Gianlucca sit on the floor! Poor guy! Thanks Myron!

  2. Myron, I knew you would like it too. You always have awesome insight. Makes me crazy when you point out something I didn’t see and I have to go back and look/listen again.
    I really loved this show. I thought the Guys looked great! Even better than in We Are Love. I couldn’t wait to see Piero sing the word “NOEL” in O Holy Night. What a treat! Gianluca seemed relaxed – and that silky voice… Ignazio was the best, of course. Oh that face! My only complaint (beside the fact they didn’t sing in my living room) is that Blue Christmas isn’t on the CD.

    What magnificent performers we all chose to love!
    Atta Boy, Boys!

  3. Thank you, Myron, for the in-depth and professional review. I am happy to hear that the show went well, for the most part. However, I continue to be upset by the lack of professional insight on the part of Live Nation or whoever is responsible for pushing our guys into non-stop performances. And, of course, our guys are always happy to do their best — that’s the kind of individuals they are. As I may have told you before, I love Piero’s voice, can’t stop listening to it. But, in the last few mini-performances, he obviously has a cold or is just plain hoarse. And still, they keep pushing him and Ignazio and Gianluca to sing, sing, sing. All three appear to be worn out–they even tweet that they are exhausted and need rest. I just hope they don’t damage their voices. Let our little ones go home, eat lots of Christmas dinners and rest their voices!!!

  4. Thanks Myron for this great review(I got it printed this time) like Sheridan, I too get very upset when I see how whatever promoter they have in a particular country, pushing them non-stop. I really hope that this is going to stop next year, and as you said Piratesorka, that they will be given a greater say in their schedules and that more consideration and respect will be shown to them.if that’s the way the business works, then its time for a change. promoters must start learning that their clients are not things but people, and stop squeezing every once of blood out of them for money. the person matters more than the money. stop using them ( and the other stars as well) as a comodity

  5. Thanks Myron, insightful as usual. I find your comments pretty much agreed with how I felt. I’ve watched it 3 times already! “Oh Holy Night” leaves me breathless to the last note, bravo Guys. I loved this one better than “We Are Love” (although I loved it too) They looked and sounded better in “Buon natale”.

  6. Wonderful review Myron, thank you! I thought the show was fantastic except for the odd staging of the song Silent Night, which I mentioned before. Too bad on that one. The song deserves reverence and I don’t feel sitting on a park bench or the floor portrays that at all. They sang it beautifully, but was hard to get past the visual of them in awkward places. I find it interesting, refreshing and totally admire them for singing Christian songs in their program. So many artists shy away from that these days and I LOVE IL VOLO FOR BEING BRAVE ENOUGH TO DO THIS! The “Blue Christmas” song was pure joy! I hope they get home safe and have a wonderful Christmas season with their families and loved ones. They certainly deserve it! Thanks again, Myron. Love reading your reviews!

  7. Christmas in March! I was lucky to be able to attend the concert, actually both concerts. I have the most wonderful time. Our guys are handsome and are nicely dressed with the appropriate amount of makeup. The stage is beautifully decorated. The recording was also smoother than the first night and there was less retakes. I think the back to back concerts was not a problem this time because our guys were actually more energetic on this one than the first night. Of course they were not doing a long tour then. The actual song sequence in the recording is different than in the PBS show. I remember they ended the concert with either Blue Christmas or Notte Stellata. Am I correct, Michele? You were there too.

    The real treat for me actually came later after the concert at the back gate of the Fillmore Theatre. That was the first time I met Gianluca, Piero, and Ignazio in person! I am glad I went all the way from California to Miami just to see our guys. I fell in love with them even more. It definitely was a life changing event for me! Buon Natale will be on again tonight at the Nor-Cal PBS station. Yeah!

    1. Elaine and I were at both concerts in Miami, if only we had known each other then! Buon Natale was the most fun to me of the two shows! The guys were more relaxed and appeared to be having fun and the audience had fun too! I loved the retakes – the audience seemed to get more involved and even clapped harder! I know Notte Stellata was very near the end and maybe Blue Christmas the last song. I am so glad I was able to get off work and get to Miami from Washington, DC on such short notice – it was an experience I hope to have again and again – attend a filming of an Il Volo special for PBS! Thanks PBS and THANKS Ignazio, Piero and Gianluca!

    2. Elaine, I agree that this could have been worse if the tour had been going prior. When I listen to the singing on Buon Natale and hear just a little bit of rasp in the sound but only once in a while – it shows up in Piero in the very first song – So then I worry that they are having to many rehearsals and performances in close order. I also agree that this one was, in some ways, a better program. a curious paradox.

  8. Myron, thanks again for your very valuable insights! I have been enjoying this performance for about a week now, and each time I see something that makes me smile again. I do believe that as the boys mature personally as well as professionally they will take more control of their schedules and performances, and some of this craziness will disappear. They are learning so much about this music business in this phase of their careers, not to mention all the different languages they are learning as well. Simply put, I think this is the best concert they have produced, ever! I can’t imagine how good the next one will be!

  9. Thanks Myro for hour comments. I get so angry that the guys are taken advantage of & I can’t understand why their managers Tony Renis & Gatica can’t step in & make some rules. I hope from the experience of this years tour where cioncerts were so close together & where they were sick & still singing that they speak up for themselves this year & demand better spacing between concerts & placing on the stage. I think they are still too nice & don’t want to rock the boat & speak up for what they are comfortable with. I agree with you Deanne that a lot of it is the promoters squeezing them to perform for the money.
    On another note I loved Feliz Navidad & the way they sang it & this time Belinida didn’t do a bad job of harmonizing. All the other songs were great because I feel they can do no wrong.

    Ignazio, Gianluca & Piero you deserve a long rest & relaxing. You have given of yourselves all this year even when you could hardly stand. Please talk among yourselves to stand strong & voice your say as to how you want your concerts spaced & more down time.
    You pick your songs wisely then stand tall & say how you want to sings them. This is your career & your health that has to be looked after.
    We love anything you do or anyway you want to sing. You don’t need to let promoters or anyone else spread yourself thin because that is not the way you want your careers to go. You can be in charge. You can also talk to Mr. Gatica & Mr. Renis & also Mr. Torpedine & explain how you are feeling.

    For now go home & forget everything but being with your families Have a fantasic Christmas Ignazio, Gianluca & Piero with lots of fun lots turkey & presents & if you feel up to it Ignazio coming up with a song or two to put on a new album when you return to the States & us. God bless you & keep you safe going home. I pray for you always.

  10. Thanks Myron for a great review. I haven’t seen the show yet, it comes on next week in my area. And I haven’t gotten my CD yet either, thanks to Interscope! I know Loretta you got yours yesterday but I haven’t gotten mine yet. However I had a treat today. Sitting in the car waiting for my husband I had on the radio to our classical station, where they play what they call classical Christmas music.
    They had on some piece that was all instrumental, and then out of the blue, I hear this well know (to us!) voice, and I sat up and said to myself, “That’s Gianlucca!” And indeed it was–the Il VOlo version of Silent Night from Buon Natale. A real pleasure and a good surprise too!

    1. I have yet to hear them on our local radio stations too. We have a station that plays Christams music from Thanksgiving til noon on Christmas day. I think I shall call or write them and strongly suggest they join this century and play Buon Natale!

  11. Thanks for the critique, Myron. I just have a couple of questions…
    You mentioned that during, “Ava Maria,” you could really tell the strain on their voices, and I was wondering what specifically drew your ear to that?
    And you mention that Piero typically “pushes” tone; does that have anything to do with how he seems to pronounce a lot of his words (while singing at least) at the front of his mouth–more than the other two?

    I agree that the audience was more involved in this show, but I have to point this out: I think a lot of the girls didn’t follow the rules. I’m pretty sure the rules were to wear an ugly sweater…just saying… 😉

    1. before Ave Maria at the beginning when they are singing “Panis
      Angelicus” on the front of the stage you will hear Piero with just a little bit of raspy -ness in his voice in the middle range and lower range. It is just barely there but that is a sign of a tired voice. Gianluca shows just a little later on in another song. So does Ignazio. It is not in the extreme high notes or very low notes but in the middle range where it shows up.
      Re: Piero – “pushing tone” has to do with a method that Helden tenors use to fill their mouth and sinus cavities with as much pure tone before it leaves their lips to the audience. Every trained singer does it – Gianluca does it very well and Ignazio does it as well but Piero does it in a big way. It takes him a lot of control to sing a very “mellow” sound like “White Christmas” but he does it very well.
      I hope this makes sense.

  12. Myron, thank you, as always for your enlightening, professional critique. I have not yet seen the show, but do have the CD. Your comments are right on target, especially regarding the Boys not getting enough rest and downtime between concerts. I just pray that they will begin to stand up for themselves and resist being taken advantage of. Hopefully their parents and voice coaches will back them up if and when they address these issues with their management and record company. Again, thank you for sharing your expertise with us.

  13. Absolutely wonderful special but my criticism of the show is the way they record it. I don’t want to see the audience or the guy on the guitar or piano just show them. And yes why did they put Gianluca on the floor for Silent Night. I wish Blue Christmas was on the CD. You know if you could physically see their voices I think it would appear as BUTTERED VELVET.

  14. Echoing many of the same sentiments here – love, love listening to these marvelous young men. But, as Myron has so well said, they need rest and care, so who is responsible for these concert dates? Thought Barbara was, or Tony or Michele or …? Their voices are gold and should be treasured as such, not worn out because someone can squeeze another interview or song out of them. Want to have them around for a long time!!

    1. Il Volo signs a contract with three organizations: all the concerts on the tour are under Live Nation of LA. The personal promo appearances are under the control of PBS and some are with Barnes and Noble . Barbara and the boys can ask for changes but they really have to pretty much go with these people. Right now the tour is done so it is PBS (for the Christmas show push) and a little bit with Barnes and Noble.

  15. Watched it again for the second times tonight on PBS. To me they sound astonishing, perfect, marvelous, impeccable, flawless…I am particularly impressed by Gianluca’s Silent Night. He managed to sing the song so beautifully even in that awkward position. Bravo to his professionalism. My absolute favorite has to be O Holy Night. Wait I love Ave Maria, Panis Angelicus too. Oh Christmas Medley and Feliz Navidad are so much fun. Ah how can I forget Blue Christmas. Okay really, I love the whole concert…and our guys. Merry Christmas guys. Enjoy your time at Orlando and in Florida.

    1. I’m with you, Elaine!! They were all what you said and more! Kudos to the folks putting these two wonderful specials together: Richard Jay Alexander, Scott Lochmus (multiple award-winning director), David Chacon, and most of all, Michele Torpedine, Tony Renis and Humberto Gatica. If you put the number of years of experience in the entertainment business of all these individuals together, the number is astounding. Special thanks to Barbara for keeping so close to these guys and treating them with the obvious love and admiration that you have for them and for them to you as well.

      Thank you Piero, Ignazio, and Gianluca for being such a treat to listen to and to watch over and over again.

    2. I gotta agree. My favorite songs list changes each time I look at it again. this was a superb concert. One of their best – even if they were worked too much that week.

  16. On a side note…I emailed our local PBS station as they DID NOT carry the Buon Natale PBS Special! They have carried the first two IL VOLO specials, but not this one. I was SO disappointed! I have the DVD , but there are many who could have been exposed to this group for the FIRST time! Also, I agree that this was their best special out of the three. I have no idea why the station didn’t pick it up. Just a HUGE LOSS for those living in our area!! If your PBS station did not carry it, please write or call and ask them to provide all further IL VOLO specials in the future!!!

  17. I loved all the PBS shows but this was my favorite. The Boys have have such an amazing presence. They take my breath away. The bright lighting showed their handsome faces so clearly and they were dressed so impeccably. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. To me their voices were magnificent and at times I was filled with emotion and tears. I do agree that the staging of Oh Holy Night was awkward but the Boys handled it well. I especially loved when Piero and Ignazio put their hands on Gianlucas shoulders. It was very touching. I have watched this special at lest 5 times already and I will continue to watch it all year long !!!!Imagine 12 months of Christmas !!!! I understand they will be in Orlando today. So close but so far !!!!I I live 21/2 hours away from Orlando. I can almost feel their presence !!! Bummer !!!

  18. Thank you so much for a beautiful review, Myron!

    While I love the entire show, I think my current favorite song is Blue Christmas. So gloriously sung, and such a sweet surprise!

    I loved their interaction… the way they came in, the transition from Panis Angelicus to the Christmas staging and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, connecting with the audience during an instrumental break, dancing in the aisles, and for those who have the DVD, the introduction to the Ugly Sweater Contest.

    I felt Belinda’s voice was more refined singing the Feliz Navidad medley than singing Constantemente Mia (on Mas Que Amor album). And Belinda said some sweet things about Our Boys on the Documentary.

    I always enjoy the Documentary on the DVD, and this was no exception. It was fun to hear from Richard Jay-Alexander, David Chacon, Michele Torpedine, Humberto Gatica, Tony Renis, and of course The Boys!

    I’m sure I won’t want to put this away come January!

    Christmas joy,
    ~ Jeanine DuBois, Compassion’s Doorway

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