At the conclusion of a stake meeting in Rome in 2009, Bishop Gérald Caussé asked if anyone had a question. A man named Nicolas Giusti, who was sitting in the front row with his wife and two children, raised his hand. Nicolas had joined the Church just two months earlier, and his question was this: “All my life I have asked myself many questions about the Lord. But now my question is, why don’t I have more questions about Jesus Christ?”
Bishop Caussé was intrigued by such a humble question from such an insightful new member of the Church. “At the end of [the meeting], I went to him and wanted to get to know him,” Bishop Caussé said on an episode of All In. “The Italians and French are like cousins,” he says, so their friendship felt natural from the beginning. “And I learned about his being a musician. I love music myself, and it was the starting point of our friendship.”
And Nicolas Giusti is not just any musician. He is an acclaimed composer and renowned opera conductor of over 40 years, conducting in the most exceptional music halls of Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, and Germany. He also composed for the most prestigious performing groups throughout Europe.
“Gérald often called me on the phone wherever I was conducting operas or conducting concerts anywhere in the world,” Nicolas says. “He took care of me, taking an interest in my things, listening to me talk about my work. I believe that he was very attentive to my soul as a true bishop of God should be. He bound us together through the French language, music, faith—many things!”
Nicolas also learned of Bishop Caussé’s skills as a talented amateur pianist. With that knowledge, a window began to open for Nicolas to achieve a dream he’d had since joining the Church in 2008: to testify of Christ through music.
“My desire in my career was to be an artist with spiritual depth. You know, it’s hard to be an artist and follow Christ,” Nicolas says. Through his friendship with Bishop Caussé, Nicolas began to see a way to do it. “A slow but inexorable thought began in my mind: we must do something together. And what is the better thing to do than testify to your faith with musical art?”
Bishop Caussé says he was shocked when Nicolas expressed wanting to record an album with him. But he has sincerely appreciated the opportunity to work with Nicolas, both because of his skills as a musician and his support as a friend.
“I said, ‘You’re a musical maestro, you’re a professional. And I’m just a simple amateur. And how can I do this?’ … But it’s been a wonderful experience for me, a 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,” Bishop Caussé shared on the All In podcast.
And the relationship has been just as meaningful to Nicholas.
“I [wanted] to do [an] album with Bishop Caussé specifically [because] what I miss is the spiritual part. I am a musician, but I would love to be like him, a spiritual and strong spirit,” Nicholas says. “For 40 years, until 2008, I was a musician. After 2008, the gospel entered into my life, and now I feel complete. It’s not possible for me to be just a musician anymore. I have to be both a musician and a spiritual being. And Bishop Caussé [helps] part of this in my life.”
Since that first discussion, the duo has recorded three classical albums together: an album of hymns called Joyful, a Christmas album called Noël, and their brand-new album which Nicolas calls “our miracle” —a compilation of Primary songs. Throughout his professional career working with some of the world's most talented musicians, children’s voices have always struck a different chord for Nicolas.
“When the children sing, they sing naturally. No stress, no professional thinking. They sing with heart. They sing with love. And this kind of singing has touched me more than [almost anything] professional.”
“My relationship with children’s songs is very special,” he says. “Throughout my life, I have always loved Jesus Christ’s request: Let the little children come to me. The voices of children have always brought me closer to God, more than music itself. When a child sings, my soul cleanses and becomes light. Everything that children sing, for me, has a very spiritual color. I dare say that I can hear the voice of Christ in the voices of children.”
The new album is titled As a Child and includes classical arrangements of familiar Primary songs like “I Feel My Savior's Love,” “He Sent His Son,” and “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus.” The arrangements are inspired in part by Sergei Prokofiev’s playful and story-like composition, Peter and the Wolf, with tracks that feature cello, clarinet, French horn, and full orchestra.
As he reflects upon the three albums he and Bishop Caussé have recorded together, one song stands out in Nicolas’s mind as a clear reminder that we are all children of God. He says the message in “Abide with Me, ‘Tis Eventide” best characterizes his love and testimony of the Savior.
“It is one of the most beautiful lullabies I know. We ask Christ to remain close to us in the evening, like children who ask their mother or father to remain next to them near the bed until they fall asleep. We could expand this vision in our lives—all men on earth should ask the Lord to remain beside them in the evening of life, before the great sleep. I consider it the lullaby of mankind.”