WILKES-BARRE - Clear, resonate guitar notes of “The Entertainer,” played by Giovanni De Chiaro filled the St. Patrick Church worship site of St. Andrew Parish on Sunday afternoon.
De Chiaro, a renowned classical guitarist, performed in Carnegie Hall and for former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary; Pope John Paul II and numerous other dignitaries.
De Chiaro collaborated with the Rev. James McGahagan, pastor of St. Andrew Parish, to hold a performance in St. Patrick Church three years ago to benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre.
Every year after, De Chiaro returned to hold the benefit again. McGahagan said that last year the parish raised about $1,000 for the kitchen that has fed thousands in the area.
“St. Vincent de Paul Kitchen has been open for 28 years and serves 300 meals a day 365 days a year,” McGahagan said. “The working poor and elderly rely on the kitchen for nutritious meals,” he said.
De Chiaro said he is happy to help out a charitable organization that helps so many. Donations were being accepted and De Chiaro said any sales of his music CDs would be donated.
Sitting on a chair in front of the altar, the New Jersey native played a variety of acoustical guitar music including some originating from Spain and Italy with ease and grace.
He took a moment between pieces to explain a little about the composer and story behind the music. De Chiaro said one called “Suite Espanola,” composed by Isaac Albeniz, consists of five pieces of music depicting what it was like to live in a small Spanish town.
De Chiaro performed his rendition of “Ave Maria,” which he played for the late Pope John Paul II, recently made a saint by the Catholic Church.
Reflecting on that day, he told the audience, he was unsure on the proper way to greet the pope, so he “shook his hand and then bent and kiss his ring.”
Some classical compositions, such as the “Funeral March of a Marionette” by Charles-Francois Gounod, was made main stream as the theme song to the Alfred Hitchcock TV show, he said.
The audience of 55 filled the pews and were mesmerized by the delicate but precise delivery of each musical selection.
McGahagan said the unique partnership between the parish and De Chiaro all began when De Chiaro attended a service with his sister, Maria Hunter.
“I attended a Mass with my sister and was impressed with the acoustics,” he said. The church with it’s high dome ceiling and marble inlays provided the perfect audio conditions.
“I did the clap test,” De Chiaro said.
Demonstrating, De Chiaro clapped once, and the sound clearly reverberated through the church.
Sitting in the audience, Hunter said De Chiaro began playing guitar when he was 5 years old. Wiping tears of happiness from her eyes, she recalled many wrong notes and broken strings as he learned to play.
“I am just so proud and so grateful,” she said.
After paying homage to his sister, De Chiaro said the opportunity to play in St. Andrew/ St. Patrick is “an inspiration.”