Towards the middle of the eighteenth century Alfonso Maria de' Liguori, the founder of the Order of the Redemptorist Fathers, decided to enhance his pastoral work among the poor in the Kingdom of Naples, by the introduction of hymns both in the local dialect and in Italian. These religious compositions were vehicled by extremely simple melodies based on popular ditties, and the missionary used them to teach the “lazzari" (the destitute) the basics of Christianity, making them the focus of liturgical ceremonies and dedicated prayer meetings.
Many of the songs were related to Christmas-tide celebrations. Some of them like Tu scendi dalle stelle, Quanne nascette ninno and Fermarono i cieli were destined to become very famous. This repertoire spread quickly through the region , becoming a feature of the Advent Ritual Cycle and promoting the growth of a specific musical genre characterised by lullabies, pastorales for the zampogna (Italian bag-pipes) , hagiographic and alms-seeking chants, still in use among the people in the area.
This record presents a number of these tunes, which although they have been revisited by Ambrogio Sparagna, still preserve the original spirit of these traditional folk prayers in music. To exalt the simple, natural beauty of these musical pearls, Sparagna has entrusted the interpretation to Peppe Servillo and a female vocal Quintet, accompanied by the eclectic, pluri-instrumentalist Erasmo Treglia and an trio featuring, in particular, the majestic giant zampogna, an instrument of extraordinary proportions (about two metres tall), and widely used all over the Kingdom of Nalpes towards the end of the XVIII century to accompany the songs first introduced into Christian liturgy by Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, and here presented on disc for the first time ever.