By Paul Goldfinger
Nineteen years ago, when Tony Bennett appeared in the Great Auditorium for the first time, the tenor soloist in Ocean Grove, Ronald Naldi, was asked to sing the Star-Spangled Banner. He did so gladly because he is a great admirer of Mr. Bennett’s work. When Mr. Naldi learned that Tony Bennett was returning this season, he volunteered to sing the National Anthem again.
The audience of over 4,000 people was thrilled by Mr. Naldi’s performance. He was accompanied on the Hope-Jones organ by his 23 year old grandson Sean Gough of North Plainfield, New Jersey; his magnificent tenor voice resonated and soared through the massive wooden structure.
Mr. Naldi is a professional singer with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and he has been the tenor soloist in Ocean Grove for the last 38 years. Several years ago he was honored by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association when they named him “Artist-In-Residence.”
Ronald Naldi was born in New Jersey. He is a member of the Italian-American Hall of Fame. During the summer, he and his wife spend weekends in their tent. He is a member and soloist with the Great Auditorium Choir and, when he is not in the Grove or traveling around the world, he lives in North Plainfield.
We discussed the acoustics in the GA with Mr. Naldi, who has appeared throughout the world in great opera houses. He said that the acoustics are “incredible” in the GA and he loves to sing in that “unique huge” building. He told us that he sings without amplification in the GA as do all the singers and musicians who perform the famous sacred and classical works that are staged regularly in Ocean Grove each summer. The only time they use a microphone is when a recording is being made. Performing in the Great Auditorium has been likened to playing inside a giant cello.
Ronald Naldi is a Blogfinger fan, and we were delighted and privileged to be able to speak to him. He has recorded four CD’s: two are of Neapolitan music while the other two contain songs composed by Maria Lombardo and Dennis Hyams—both from New Jersey.
This song, Santa Lucia, is from Mr. Naldi’s album “Torna a Surriento.” It is a traditional Neapolitan composition from the 19th century. If you were to take the boat ride into the “Blue Grotto” off the Isle of Capri, near Naples, the boatmen like to sing this song while they row around in circles inside the grotto. If you emerge through the small opening unscathed, you will have this song reverberating in your dizzy head for days.