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This is the most extraordinary musical story of the millenium.

 

Deep in the secret archives of the Vatican and the Italian state, under the dust of centuries, lies a collection of forgotten music, dating from the chants of the Catacombs right through to modern times. This includes music by many of the world’s greatest composers: Vivaldi, Verdi, Haydn, Bellini, Scarlatti, amongst others.

 

We have spent several years researching this astonishing trove and negotiating access to film rights. Some music has not been heard for over a thousand years. Our guide in the archives are two priests whose knowledge of the arcane archives is unsurpassed.

In London, Ed Sheeran, is astonished by the find. He embarks on a journey of discovery reeling in some of his most talented friends to play the music and to give it a new lease of life.

 

On the way, they uncover stories of heartbreak, scandal, murder and love. The truth so much stranger than fiction. 

Then, for the first time ever, the music will be performed in a grand concert, to be broadcast around the world.

NARRATIVE ARC

The documentary series  follows our musicians as they search through the archives for unpublished music.  Think "Raiders of the Lost Archive" without the swashbuckling.

We discover why the music was lost: some music was deemed too “jolly” for the masses and could lead to impure desires. Other manuscripts fell out of fashion; or were guarded jealously, to be enjoyed by an elite few.

Other music travelled abroad with missionaries and travellers to undiscovered lands, blending with local traditions and instruments to create something new.


Each episode will feature a musician who has a special connection to the music, composer and/or the place it hails from. 

Episodic Structure

 

We envisage a different star each episode. The adventure begins as they board a plane to Rome.  We see them meeting the musicologists or gatekeepers to the precious manuscripts. We listen to how it was intended to be played and then, back home in their own studios we see how the star works, making this melody into their own, unique version.

 

Our first episode sets the scene: we will follow our musician through the Vatican archives. There are four Papal Basilicas: we know the Basilica San Giovanni in Laterno has 7000 manuscripts alone. All the Basilicas are architecturally and artistically stunning. 

 

In Rome, we have seen unpublished music by Bellini, Scarlatti and Haydn amongst others. The earliest manuscripts date back to 300AD, transcripts of hymns sung by Christians in the Catacombs; indeed, some were written by St Benedict himself and others that hark right back to St Paul. There is plenty to choose from.

 

Throughout the ages, the Vatican kept meticulous records ; we know the choir, at times so poor, were fed in half-loaves of bread in the 16th century; we know how composers positioned the orchestra and singers to create maximum acoustic impact in the churches they wrote for specifically.  We intend to recreate the music in the churches for which it was written. 

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We investigate the stories around the manuscripts – how did 83 pieces of Vivaldi's music come to be lost for 250 years? 

One of the most important and most played composers ever was Palestrina, a musical alchemist.  He channeled tragedy into melody  After losing his wife, brother and two kids and almost losing his own life to the plague, Palestrina bounced back and altered the course of musical history. He re-invented the rules of composition. He gave us both counterpoint and polyphony (two simultaneous melodies). A titan of a composer, a genius; he was a rule breaker whose influence is still in evidence today. It may surprise Adele or Ed Sheeran to realise they use rules invented by Palestrina when they compose their own pop songs.

We also have uncovered manuscripts of composers who wrote sublime, angelic music despite being psychotic murderers: Prince Carlo Gesualdo, a composer of wonderful sacred music was given to fits of rage and cruelty. He was apoplectic with his wife when she cuckolded him with one of the most handsome nobles in the land. Sneaking up on his wife and her lover, catching them in flagrante delicto, he shot and stabbed the man. After quartering him whilst he was still alive, Gesualdo tore out his rival's liver and brandished it for all the horrified, gathered houseguests to see. He then garrotted and stabbed his wife so many times that her blood soaked through the mattress. The servants, cowering in the room below, watched as the blood dripped through the floorboards, drop by drop.

We have a team of expert musicologists on hand who are passionate about their subjects and who are keen to take part in the documentary. The stories are as fascinating as any in Game of Thrones - but all the more shocking for being real. The backdrop of these archives is a visual feast: some of Rome’s most stunning architecture and art can be found in these locations. 

Locations

Rome & Vatican

 

​The wonders of Rome need no introduction. Rome is a jewel in itself, but just south of Rome, in a Byzantine monastery encrusted in lapis lazuli and gold leaf and founded by St Benedict, there is a 100-year-old monk who is the only living soul to know the Latin hieroglyphs used on the 1,700-year-old vellum sheets in his monastery. Some of these were originally written and handed down by St Benedict himself.

Naples

 

The splendid city of Naples was the musical capital of the world from the 17th to 19th century. At the height of her glory, Naples boasted 500 churches (300 more than Rome) that all competed with one another for parishioners.  Church was one the only places ordinary people could hear music played live. In Naples, they were spoilt for choice.

 

It is in Naples we can score a real coup. The opportunity to film in a musical archive, amid the higgledy piggledy streets of Naples, amid the hanging washing,  that has been literally sealed shut since the devastating 1980 earthquake. The earthquake killed almost 5,000 people and displaced a quarter of a million people, who were made homeless overnight. 

 

Astonishingly, the renovations on the church and its archive have only been made recently and we discovered the treasure. This has not been made public so time is of the essence. It will also be a hugely emotional episode, giving back to a devastated city, one of their jewels. We are in touch with all relevant authorities for permits and so forth.

Florence

In Florence we will discover the unpublished musical treasures of Santa Maria del Fiore, guided by the expert hand of the Maestro Monsignor Michele Manganelli. We already have located over 200 manuscripts including ones by Scarlatti. We can count on the support of the Cardinal Betori of Florence.  

Venice

In Venice, we find the fascinating story of Vivaldi's "putte". Vivaldi taught in a female hospital; an orphanage for unmarried or parentless girls. At the time, women were not allowed to compose nor perform music in public. Yet Vivaldi taught dozens of girls to play and compose. At the time of "gran turismo" people, like Jean Jacques Rousseau came from far and wide to witness the performance of these "angelic" women. We have unrecorded music from both Vivaldi and the girls taught directly by Vivaldi during this period and manuscripts from which they sang and played.

Rest of World

We have good contacts in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Goa and Macao to see how not just the music, but the instruments changed when European Baroque music met local sounds.  It blended into something new and beautiful. This music changes as it travelled and then came home with new sounds and instruments.

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Album & Concert

The making of the album/concert. We envisage a grand finale concert to be staged somewhere spectacular – it could be the Colosseum or within the Vatican, or even, somewhere else entirely. In this episode, the music we have found under the dust of centuries past, will have new life breathed into it, in a creative process led by a titan of the music industry. The Concert, of course, could be a prelude to a World Tour.

Strategy

 

 

This is a mature project as we have spent several years doing due diligence and laying the foundations. There is enough music and enough stories to make this into a series.

Concert

 

Traditional or online broadcasters, cinemas and private spaces  (such as the Royal Albert Hall or the Kennedy Center) may all wish to participate in the concert, where the lost music will be  played for the first time, b ut at this point, it is too early to say.

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CONCLUSION

This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore and produce never-before heard music from some of history’s most interesting composers. It is a documentary with universal appeal: there are 1.3 billion Catholics in the world; live transmissions from the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, are now seen on more than 2,000 screens in 70 countries. Classical Music has a loyal and dedicated following. Moreover, many of the archives we will explore have never been seen on film before. 

 

The documentary is musical journey of discovery. It combines the appeal of getting to know a famous artist better, the fascination of one of the most cloistered and secretive societies in the world, some of the best artists who ever lived and the history they helped shape and reflect. It is also the story of the best - and worst - of humanity. Tales of jealousy, sacrifice, murder, joy and intrigue.  But most of all, this documentary will be a ray of sunlight in increasingly dark times. We want audiences to go away feeling, exulted, excited and wanting to explore more of the music they hear.

 

And of course, keen for the next instalment….

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