Bishop Gérald Caussé and Nicolas Giusti: Why the Presiding Bishop and His Friend Recorded An Album of Piano Duets
In his spare time (that we doubt exists) the Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gerald Caussé, recently practiced and recorded piano duets with his Latter-day Saint friend, Nicolas Giusti, an acclaimed Italian composer and opera conductor from Rome. We spoke with the duo about their European heritage, how their families found the gospel and why Primary pianist is one of the best callings in the Church.
Bishop Gérald Caussé and Nicolas Giusti's album, "Joyful," can be found here.
0:00 Morgan Jones: The Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, under the direction of the First Presidency and with the help of his counselors, administers the temporal affairs of the Church. This includes but is not limited to tithing, fast offerings, welfare programs, humanitarian aid and building projects. One thing that is certainly not part of the Presiding Bishop's job description is pianist. But when his friend Nicholas Giusti asked Bishop Gerald Causse to record an album of piano duets with him, he couldn't say no. The result is an album with a title that describes how they felt while recording it in a single word: joyful.
0:42 Gerald Causse is the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and is an accomplished pianist. Before his full-time church service, Bishop Causse's career was in the food industry, where he worked with several supermarket chains and food distribution companies.
1:00 In France, Nicholas Giusti is an acclaimed Italian composer and Opera conductor. He has had great success with many operatic productions performed throughout the world. He is currently an adjunct professor at BYU and UVU and a musical director for the Utah Vocal Arts Academy.
1:22 This is "All In," an LDS living podcast where we ask the question what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm your host Morgan Jones, and I'm so grateful to have Nicholas Giusti and Bishop Gerald Causse in studio with me today. Welcome.
1:40 I already warned them that I'm probably going to mispronounce their names. So thank you both for being here. And please forgive me in advance for any mispronunciation.
1:50 Morgan Jones: Well, I am so so excited to talk with both of you. I think that your friendship is so neat and my first question is you're both European. So does this create an instant bond with anyone else that's from Europe? Or is your friendship unique? And how did the two of you become friends?
2:12 Gerald Causse: Well, the Italians and the French are like cousins, there is only the Alps in between our two countries.
2:18 MJ: Okay
2:18 GC: So we have a natural bond, and that helps. But, Nicolas, you should know that he's absolutely fluent in French, he can speak French like a Frenchman. So that's facilitated our first context in becoming friends, as he would speak that beautiful language.
2:38 MJ: Yeah. How did the two of you originally meet then?
2:41 GC: So it was in Rome. I was at that time serving as a Seventy, as a member of the area presidency of the Church in Europe. And I was assigned to preside at a Stake Conference in Rome. And so on Saturday evening, we had the Saturday evening session and I invited the members to ask questions. The first question was asked by a man sitting on the front row with his wife and two children. He stood up. And he said, 'I've been a member of the church for only a few months. Before I met the missionaries, I had a million question in my life, about the gospel, and about the meaning of life. But since I've met with the missionaries, they have answered all my questions. I don't have any other questions. Is it okay? And I laughed but it was the first time I heard from Nicholas and at the end of the meeting, I went to him and wanted to get to know him and he answered me. ... And I learned about his being a musician. I love the music myself, and it was the starting point of our friendship. That's so neat.
3:52 MJ: Nicolas, you're a convert of how long now? How long have you been a member of the church?
3:56 Nicolas Giusti: 11 years. Since 2008.
4:01 MJ: And how did you originally come in contact with the church?
4:05 MG: Hmm It's strange, because I worked many, many years in in Switzerland and I worked just maybe 20 years just around the Zollikofen. Zollikofen is where the temple is in Switzerland. And for 20 years I worked around the temple and never saw the temple. I never heard about missionaries. I never heard about the Mormon Church. I never heard about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or the Tabernacle Choir. And I never heard about nothing. And when we were baptized with my family in 2009. Because we went to the temple after one year after our baptism. And when they told me that there is a temple in Zollikofen, what? I worked just around no person told me about the temple, about the church, no one time in my life and I discovered the church...after my wife met with one friend and he started talking about the family, the children and then the church and we received the missionaries and...we were baptized. But before that time I never heard about the church. No one things.
5:54 MJ: So what you're telling me is we're falling down on our job.
5:57 NG: Yeah because I worked in Bern, Bern is just 15 miles from the temple. I lived many years in Jegenstorf, two miles, close to Zollikofen and never heard about the church.
6:15 MJ: Wow.
6:16 NG: No one things.
6:18 MJ: And Bishop Causse, your parents are converts to the church. How did they come in contact with the gospel.
6:25 GC: Two missionaries knocked on their door. And I don't think they were ready. They didn't practice their religion too much. But they felt something. And they received the missionaries first because they were interested in becoming friends to American boys of their age. And they were curious of learning more about America and my father was a lover of jazz. And so they heard about the story of Joseph Smith and that made them laugh a lot.
7:00 But because they laughed a lot, they wanted missionaries back. And so after three months, they gained a testimony of the gospel. And they were baptized in a collapsible swimming pool in the missionaries' apartment because there was not one meeting house in the whole country of France in 1963. When they were baptized, it was just a few months after I was born. So I like to say that I may have had, that my birth, may have had an influence on my parents becoming interested in the Gospel.
7:31 MJ: Yeah. And how have each of you seen the gospel bless your families?
7:36 GC: It's difficult to imagine sometime I, I think, what would my family be if missionaries had never knocked on the door of my parents? It's difficult to imagine. I can't imagine it because most of the blessings I have in my life are the direct product of the gospel. My wife, our children, my parents. And so I am very grateful to my parents because they were bold, very bold. In the little branch that they joined, there were only maybe 10 members, 15 members and many more missionaries than members. And so you had to be bold and somewhat led by the Spirit to make that decision to to be baptized in the church, but it was the best decision for my life and the life of my family.
8:32 MJ: What about for you Nicholas?
8:34 NG: I remember one story when Lorenzo my son served a mission in 2010, just two years after our conversion. And my father was a little scared about this because all my family are Catholic. He told me, 'Where is Lorenzo going on the mission?' I explained him what is the mission? And after three or four months, one day, he called me and he said to me, you know, Nicolas, I have to tell you one story. When we were in Belgium when you were three or four years old. We received the missionaries. I never heard this story before this, and he started to cry my father when he told me this story, and (he said), 'We received two young men on American missionaries and they knocked on the door and (said) "We are missionaries from the LDS (Church)."' He remembered the name because we were baptized just two years before and he, he didn't want to take the missionary in the house but he said 'Okay, you can enter just if you rescue my father,' because his father was dying. And the missionary said, 'We cannot do this kind' and he was a just a little rude with the missionary. He closed the door. And in that moment when he called me he was crying because now he realized the people could do the same thing to Lorenzo in (his) mission when Lorenzo was in England and he cried all the time, because he was irreverent. ...and after, maybe eight years ago, when we came in, to Utah. We moved to Utah from Italy four years ago. We went in the first time in Orem and one evening we were in one ward and we received one brother in this ward. And when he came in my house, he started to speak and he was around 70 and he started to talk about his mission, everything he did, and he told me, 'My brother served a mission in Belgium a long time ago.' 'Okay. Wow, interesting. When did he serve? Around 1963, 64.' 'Hmm..wow, this is incredible. I was 3 or 4 years-old.' Okay, short story. His brother was who knocked on the door of my father. I was shocked in that moment. And he gave me the number, the phone number and I called him. And he remembered my house. He remembered my street. He remembered my father was too rude with him. But he understood why that he was upset, he was scared about losing his father but incredible. This is the gospel. I realized the gospel we are like one family, spreading everywhere in the world but in somewhere we are together all the time. It's incredible, from Belgium to Orem, an incredible connection.
13:15 MJ: It all connects. That's amazing.
13:18 NG: This is the gospel. One big family.
13:21 MJ: Absolutely. Well, I I couldn't help but think Bishop Causse, you said that when your family joined the church that your branch was so small, and that there were no ward buildings, meetinghouses. And I couldn't help but think that now in both the countries where you are from there are temples so there's a temple in Paris now and there's a temple in Rome. How do you both feel about that?
13:49 GC: It's marvelous. I just think that all my life almost since I was born, I've prayed for a temple in France. If I think of my children, when the temple was dedicated two years ago in Paris, my, our youngest daughter was 19. When the temple was announced, she was just born. So it took 19 years to get there. And so for know Noemi, our youngest daughter, she has prayed almost every day of her life until the age of 19, for a temple to be dedicated, so it was a long process. But now that I think about it, sometimes it's good to have a long process of preparation. And when the temple was dedicated, I think all the saints and friends rejoiced, but were ready to use it and to take the names of their ancestors and also to take their friends to see the temple and people were proud of it. For the first time, it felt that the church was out of obscurity in our country.
15:02 And I just returned from the Rome temple dedication, we were there with President Nelson and the First Presidency and the Twelve. And I just thought about Nicolas every day. And what a blessing it is for his family to have a temple in his own country.
15:20 NG: Yeah the Rome temple for me is like the lamp in this big city. This is the Lamp, the light. And every day when I I think about the temple, I remember one member who sang with me in the choir at the groundbreaking...he is from the south south south Sicily. And one day he told me, I am going to the temple in, in Zollikofen in Switzerland, because this was the temple. 'And you're from Agrigento?' 'Yeah, yeah. Siracusa...Agrigento.' 'And how many hours you have to drive?' 'Maybe 40, 42...every time I think of the Rome temple, I remember this member now is happy. Because he has to drive just 12 hours from Agrigento, Siracusa. Yeah, he touched me a lot, this man because 40 hours with a normal car, a very humble man.
16:46 MJ: I grew up in North Carolina. And where we were, we often traveled like three and a half hours to the DC temple until the Raleigh temple was built. Now I think about it and I'm like, I work right across the street from the Salt Lake temple. And I think I take it for granted. And so regardless of the distance, I think we don't appreciate the temple enough.
17:14 GC: I think a lot about it every day, because now I can see a temple from the windows of my house. And so every morning when I wake up, I go and have my breakfast, and I look to the temple. And I think of when I was a young boy, and it would take two days to get to the temple in Switzerland. And it's almost as if I have to pinch myself and I say to myself, every time I see the temple, 'You must not consider this as commonplace. Don't get used to seeing the temple every day. This is a miracle everyday.'
17:52 MJ: Yeah. Bishop Causse when you were growing up in France, and you said that you've prayed almost your whole life for a temple? Did you ever imagine that you would have the opportunity to be so involved in getting these temples around the world? I think that's so amazing.
18:09 GC: You never imagined those things. Never. I would never have imagined it. Certainly not. I don't know if it if I would have wished to be part of it. Because it felt to me such a huge work. And now that I am in this, I feel grateful every day and feel humble, to see those houses that are being built. And every time that we go to a dedication I meet with our project managers and I say, 'Who did that?' And they say, 'Not me,' 'Not me,' 'Not me.'
18:48 And I will say, 'Probably the Lord did.' And it's good to be an instrument in the hand of the Lord because we realize that we are only a very small part in this work.
19:00 MJ: Absolutely. When did the two of you become interested in music? Nicolas, I'll let you start first.
19:10 NG: I don't remember when because I was a child. I can just count you the short story when I started to become a musician maybe to study music. We were in Brazil in the Belgium capital. We were in a dinner with my father and mom's friend. They were the same age as my parents. ...I remember this. And we finished the dinner and as a child when you are in the new house you want to discover one place now. Okay, I opened one door and I saw an instrument, it was a piano. I opened this piano, I started to play the melody. ...I played one little piece. My father was in the dinner room with my mother. They came in, 'You play piano?' And I remember my answer, 'Yes, it's easy for me.' Oh it's incredible. My father, 'Okay, tomorrow I will go to the academy,' and from this moment. My father start to say 'It's incredible. You play easier without lesson.' Okay, this piano was my first piano, they bought this piano. I played the first piano in my life. This piano became my piano, my first piano. ...And I play this...they bought this piano. I started in that moment. Four years old.
21:07 MJ: Wow. I can tell you it doesn't usually go that way for people. I took a lot of piano lessons. A lot of money wasted.
21:16 NG: I just played one little melody but in my brain, it was perfect pitch. I discovered after. You have you have perfect pitch. Bishop.
21:31 GC: Yeah. My parents found out about my perfect pitch. I didn't know what it meant. But they said you have perfect pitch and you need to, to learn music. So that's how we started. I was seven years old at the time and started with piano lessons at home. I then went to Conservatory of Music in the place I lived in and and always loved it. Until at some point I had to decide that whether I wanted to focus on music or on something else like business. I was not brave enough to do like him, or maybe I was not good enough or smart enough but finally decided that I would rather go into a business school so I could earn enough money for my family. But always kept playing music and keeping as close as possible to other musicians because often people ask me, is it really what you wanted it to do to be the Presiding Bishop? And I always say I never had that as a plan in my life. For sure, if you had any calling proposed to me, the first number one I would like to have in the church would be to be the organist of the Tabernacle Choir. But for some reason the Lord had some other plan for me and anyway, I don't have the skills for that.
22:58 MJ: Well, speaking of callings Nicolas, you mentioned before, or I heard that you mentioned that your favorite calling that you've had was as Primary pianist.
23:09 NG: I was in Taylorsville in that time. Yeah.
23:12 MJ: And why do you love that calling?
23:15 NG: Yeah, because I, I think I don't know exactly but I think the the Christ voice is the children's voices. And when I listen, or when I heard the children sing or the children's voices. ...(Begins speaking in French)
23:57 MJ: It sounds good. Whatever it is, you're saying listen to you say it all day.
24:09 GC: I don't even know. I read the Bible in French first before reading it in English.
24:16 NG: This phrase was in my brain.
24:19 MJ: "Suffer The Little Children To Come Unto Me"
24:21 NG: Yes. And when the children sing, they sing naturally. No stress, no with professional thinking, they sing with heart. They sing with love. And this kind of singing touched me more than professional...
24:45 GC: Yeah, we have that thing in common because my first calling of the church was also to be the pianist in primary. But it was a different age, I was 12 years old. I was just out of primary and happy to be out of primary and invited back in.
25:04 MJ: Oh my goodness,
25:04 GC: But I loved playing the piano for the children. And I got emotional so many times, just simple songs. But beautiful spirit that touched my heart. And I believe that it was instrumental in, in my strength and my testimony in the Gospel and, choosing to, to put the gospel first in my life, it was one of those experiences, that as a young person, you need to feel the spirit. And I was very grateful for the bishop who invited me to serve in the primary, he had to be bold for that. Because you would like to be in a young man's, probably the Aaronic Priesthood class or quorum. But he felt that that would provide me with experiences that were very valuable in my life,
26:01 MJ: I have to tell you, because we now all three have this in common, I don't play the piano, but I was the primary chorister, my senior year of high school. And I was kind of going through a little bit of a hard time at that time, and I got that calling. And it was just like, the biggest blessing for me. And so I do think there's power in those primary songs and in children's voices. And I think music is so important. And that's something that I wanted to ask you about Bishop Causse, obviously the church places a large focus on music. It's a big part of what we do in the church. And the church puts monetary resources behind making sure that we have that in our sacrament meetings and extra activities and programs and things. Why do you believe that music is so important in worship?
26:56 GC: It's interesting to note that with the new Sunday schedule, we used to have sharing time in primary. It's now called singing time. So we reduce a lot of things, but we care about that singing. But it is such a core way to learn about the gospel, to learn to sing from a young age. And the reason is that music is one of those channels of the Spirit. It's an international language, if you think about it. I was recently in Sao Paulo, in Brazil, involved in a devotional with 600 young people from Brazil. And I had an idea of singing hymns from the pulpit in French because Primary songs I don't know them in Portuguese, obviously but even in English, I learned them in French. So I started singing a number of songs in French and 600 voices responded to me in Portuguese, singing the same hymns.
28:01 And so if you think of, we are the same family all around the world. And those 600 kids that have been raised in Brazil, on another continent than I was raised. And yet we have a common language, the language of music, and we can understand each other. And it conveys the spirit.
28:21 MJ: Yeah. When you two had this idea to create this album together, obviously that takes some time and coordination and practice. But why was creating this album important to you?
28:37 GC: Can make it clear, Nicolas had the idea, I would never have that idea. Because I didn't think I was able to do that.
28:44 NG: I knew he was able.
28:49 MJ: We all need somebody that believes in us, right?
28:51 NG: I never had thought about this. He's impressive. Because he can do everything. Incredible. He can practice. I don't know where he find the time to practice, to prepare everything. ...One day I call him Superman, something like that. You are my Superman. Yeah, I imagined to do this album because Bishop Causse is a part. What I miss is the spiritual part. I need one spiritual part like him. I am a musician but I would love to be like him, spiritual and strong spirit. ...For 40 years, until 2008, I was a musician. After 2008, I add that spiritual, the gospel entered into my life. And now I feel complete. It's not possible for me to be just musician, or just one, I have to be both musician and spiritual being. And Bishop Causse is part of this in my life.
30:38 MJ: I love that.
30:39 GC: Nicholas is too kind. But I remember when he called me once and said, I just composed a few arrangements of hymns and I'm going to send it to you and tell me how you feel. So when I received them, I went on my piano and started playing. And I was amazed how beautiful it was. And I called him back. And I said, 'It's beautiful.' And he said, 'I'm glad you like it. Because we are going to record this together.' I was stunned. I said you're a musical maestro, you're a professional. And I'm just a simple amateur. And how can I do this? And he said, I believe in you and I still can tell the difference between us but he covers all my shortcomings. And so hopefully, in the album, you don't feel it. But it's been a wonderful experience for me, very humbling experience to work with him. He helped me to appreciate hymns even more, and spiritual music because he has that love for the gospel.
31:50 NG: He can touch my heart every time Bishop, please.
31:54 MJ: Do you do either of you? Or do both of you have a favorite song on the album? Or a favorite arrangement?
32:03 NG: No. These are like children. We have six children. I love every one.
32:13 MJ: That's what Mack Wilberg told me too so you're in good company. He wouldn't pick a favorite.
32:20 NG: I cannot that.
32:22 GC: Maybe I can suggest one. It's the first one on the album, "Where Can I Turn For Peace." And the reason is when he sent me the arrangement, I didn't feel it was a good one because I always listen to that music, that hymn thinking of how sad it is. And when you're facing adversity, and you need the help of the Lord. And I call him back I say it's too joyful. It's not appropriate for the theme and the topic. It's all about the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And then I received a lesson on the phone and he said, President Nelson would say, happiness has nothing to do with the circumstances of our life, but everything to do with the focus of our life and he said, No, the atonement is in a way a joyful event that we need to celebrate. And there is a lot of joy in the good news of the gospel, including in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And he was right. And I I feel it's the most beautiful hymn on the album because it reminds me of that experience and what I learned with Nicolas.
33:33 MJ: That's awesome. Thank you. Well, Bishop Causse and Nicolas, I cannot tell you how, what a delight it has been to be with you today. You both have such, you mentioned Bishop Causse's strong spirit that he has with him Nicolas, but I would say that you have the same spirit with you. So thank you for sharing it with us. I just have one last question for you. And that is, what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
34:02 NG: To be in the Gospel? To me is like to play one big orchestra, big choir, and realize exactly what is what is the composition from maybe from one big composer like Mozart, like Strauss, like Puccini, and to realize that the complete meaning that that you are accomplished. Without the gospel, you can do everything but you will miss something. ...Yes, exactly what what the what happened with my wife when we started to have the first meeting with missionaries. The question was, we miss something. We don't know what we miss without the gospel. But we miss something. And the question was what we miss? And we answer it together, the faith of God together. And the gospel is like the last things you need to complete what you are doing. It's important, it's little things, it's big things, it's all things. It's everything.
35:43 MJ: I love that you tied that into an orchestra because that's what you know best. Right? I love that. Thank you. What about you, Bishop Causse?
35:50 GC: To be all in the gospel? It is to seek every day of your life to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. It's not to seek a personal reward, but to seek this incredible blessing of being a tool that the Lord will use so he can bless others. And I believe that this is what we try to do. It's not about each other being good performers. It's about how we can convey the testimony that we have of the gospel to others through music.
36:29 MJ: Thank you. I love that
36:31 NG: He is my Superman.
36:33 MJ: Thank you both so much. This has been so such a pleasure. Thank you.
36:37 Both: Thank you. Thank you.
36:39 MJ: We are so grateful to Bishop Causse and Nicolas for taking the time to be with us. You can find their new piano duets album, "Joyful," and Deseret book stores beginning May 10th. For more episodes of "All In," check us out on iTunes, Spotify, Bookshelf Plus or by visiting LDSLiving.com/podcasts. And as always, please don't forget to leave a rating or review. We hope you have a wonderful week and we'll look forward to being with you again next week. Thank you.