Ennio's 70th Birthday Concert, Rome, 1998

Venue: Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia , Auditorio di Via Della Conciliazone, Roma, Italia

7th November 1998

Orchestra E Coro Dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Voci Soliste: Dulce Pontes and Angelo Branduardi

Soprano: Gemma Bertagnolli

I had booked in advance for the Concert and flew Dublin - London Heathrow - Rome Fiumicino.

When I arrived in Rome on Saturday Afternoon I checked in to the hotel. I was booked in for the Sunday concert but I said to myself, "now that you are here, why not see if you can get in to tonight's concert and see HIM twice!! That was the luckiest decision I have ever made - someone out there must have been praying for me.

When I arrived at the Auditorio the first thing I noticed were some hastily erected notices on the doors in Italian. I knew enough Latin from my schooldays to know that something was amiss when I saw words like "Concerto Domenica 8 Novembre annulato"!!! I went inside and approached the ticket office - my worst fears were confirmed. The Sunday concert had been cancelled because of a National Strike.

I explained to the girl at the counter (luckily she spoke goodish English) that I had tickets booked for Sunday and was there any available for tonight and she said no. (The cream of Italy's society was gathered here with 30 minutes to concert time). She offered me a ticket for Monday but I said I had to fly home on Monday. I must have been at the desk for nearly 20 minutes when she finally agreed to sell me a ticket (I would have to reclaim the money for the other one later).

The seat was rather posh - in the Galleria - like a box seat in the old days. So at 18.50 I settled into that seat to await the arrival of the Maestro. I looked around the huge auditorium which was filling up to capacity and more. People were standing at the back and along the sides - possibly other people who were booked for Sunday.

The orchestra filed in - all 100 of them or close to it. Then the Chorus of 80 behind them plus about 20 more to the left of the stage. The Orchestra Leader then arrived to tune everyone in. I knew that the next person to come through that door would be HIM!! I had to pinch myself to make sure it was not a dream. Then the door opened and there he was.

To thunderous applause he walked out accompanied by the first of the three soloists on the night (Angelo). My emotions caught up with me at that point. After over thirty years a dream had come true. I cannot describe in words my feelings at that moment.

A hush came upon the audience and Il Maestro began.

Part One was a quiet beginning:

Uccellacci e uccellini

Per le antiche scale



Cinema Paradiso

Una Pura Formalita

Metti Una sera a cena

Un delitto Italiano.

Ennio then exited to bring on the soprano (Gemma) for the next session - the Leone scores.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly - Awesome and then my hair stood on end for Ecstacy of Gold. The orchestra, chorus and soprano just let fly and produced a sound I will never forget. OK, there will never be anyone like Edda but this was great stuff too. I was virtually blown out into St. Peter's Square. Everyone should hear this piece live at least once in a lifetime.

Once Upon a Time in the West - My heart bled.

Giu La Testa (Duck You Sucker) "Sean, Sean, Sean" - my heart bled even more.

The interval arrived and Ennio departed to tumultuous applause.

Part Two - Ennio arrived back with Dulce Pontes.

The Battle of Algiers

Sacco and Vanzetti (sung in English)

Indagine su un cittidano al di sopra di ogni sospetto

Sostienne Pereira (This song haunted me for months afterwards)

La Classe operaia va in Paradiso

Vitime de guerra (Casualties of War)

Quemada (aka Burn) ( The chorus-work here was mega) I have never liked this much on LP but hearing it live was just awesome.

Every one of these performances was top of the range, class, you name it. At this stage I was up to ninety.

Then came the epic finale.

Il Deserto de Tartari.

Riccardo III

and finally THE MISSION.

The oboeist gave it everything - you will never hear a better rendition of Gabriel's Oboe.

Then Ennio, the chorus, orchestra and percussionists went into overdrive. The roof of the auditorium just lifted up and blew away down the Tiber. As they all hit the last note together the audience erupted. Ennio turned around to face us and to bow. All hell broke lose. Clapping, tears, yells, whistles, cries of "more" reverberated around the hall. I was on my feet with clapping hands in the air.The Maestro walked shyly off the stage with Dulce. He was called back many times. Eventually the orchestra, as one, beat their feet on the wooden stage floor. The noise was deafening. If Ennio thought he was getting away early he was mistaken. Only when he took the baton in his hand again did the crowd relent. We got the MISSION all over again!!! The hall erupted again at the end. I lost count of the number of times he had to come back again but eventually he blew kisses to everyone and disappeared for the last time through the door. I sat back in my seat to savour the moment. It was very hard to leave the auditorium that night.

As I walked back to my hotel I relived every moment. I'm sure the population of Rome must have wondered who this idiot was, walking their streets that night thinking he was Ennio and Edda all rolled up into one.