Moving mountain melodies

Male voice choirs bring principally to mind the Welsh valleys or the Red army. They should also bring to mind the Italian Alps for there are many wonderful choirs in these regions.

The Apuans don’t form part of the alpine chain but, because of their savage and rocky nature, are termed Alps, the Apuan Alps, so why should there not be an alpine choir here? And there is! It’s the thirty-seven men-strong Coro delle Alpi Apuane, founded in 1964 at Gallicano, who transported their stirring vocal chords to our concert at the church of the Sacred Heart at Ghivizzano where our own happy band of singers rehearses.

The evening’s concert was divided into three sections: first our parochial choir of St. Peter and Paul, conducted by the highly-gifted young maestro Andrea Salvoni, performed Lotti, Kodaly and Gounod.

Then the choral class from the music school of Borgo a Mozzano, conducted by their director, Lia Salotti sang (and quite exquisitely too) three pieces showing the incredibly high quality Lia has brought to children’s singing in this neck of the woods.

Then came the centre-piece of the evening, a choir I had heard much about but never heard live, the Coro delle Alpi Apuane – and what a knock-out it was – a glory of voices taking us through every emotion from sadness to joy in an ecstasy of sound under the supreme conductorship of Maestro Luca Bacci (whose exceptional gifts have led him to be appointed also conductor of the St. Cecilia choir in Lucca, in addition from his other magnificent lot of singers, those of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana cathedral. What a busy man he must be!)

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Male voice choirs arise from hard times: work down in the mines or war in the trenches and the songs they sing often reflect this struggle to see the light at the end of a very long tunnel or to draw a crumb of hope in a hopeless situation. The words of La Tradotta, for example are as follows:

La tradotta che parte da Torinoa Milano non si ferma piùma la va diretta al  Piave,

ma la va diretta al Piave.

La tradotta che parte da Torino

a Milano non si ferma più

ma la va diretta al Piave,

cimitero della gioventù.

 

Siam partiti, siam partiti in ventisette,

solo in cinque siam tornati qua,

e gli altri ventidue?

E gli altri ventidue?

Siam partiti, siam partiti in ventisette,

solo in cinque siam tornati qua,

e gli altri ventidue

sono morti tutti a San Donà.

 

A Nervesa, a Nervesa c’è una croce

mio fratello è sepolto là,

io c’ho scritto su Ninetto,

io c’ho scritto su Ninetto.

A Nervesa, a Nervesa c’è una croce

mio fratello è sepolto là,

io c’ho scritto su Nineto,

che la mamma lo ritroverà.

 

Cara suora, cara suora son ferito

a domani non c’arrivo più,

se non c’è qui la mia mamma,

se non c’è qui la mia mamma.

Cara suora, cara suora son ferito

a domani non c’arrivo più,

se non c’è qui la mia mamma,

un bel fiore me lo porti tu.

 

The troop train departing from Turin doesn’t stop at Milan any more but goes directly to the Piave,

but goes directly to the Piave.

The troop train departing from Turin

doesn’t stop at Milan any more

but goes directly to the Piave,

cemetery of youth.

 

Twenty-seven of us left,

and only five returned,

and the other twenty-two?

and the other twenty-two?

Twenty-seven of us left ,

and only five returned,

and the other twenty-two

are all dead at San Donà.

 

At Nervesa at Nervesa there is a cross

my brother is buried there,

I’ve written Ninetto on it,

I’ve written Ninetto on it.

At Nervesa at Nervesa there is a cross

my brother is buried there,

I’ve written Ninetto on it,

So that mum can find him

 

Dear nurse, dear nurse I’m wounded

I won’t make it to tomorrow,

if my mum’s not here,

if my mum’s not here.

Dear nurse, dear nurse I’m wounded

I won’t make it to tomorrow,

if my mum’s is not here,

bring her a beautiful flower.

 

The Piave of course is that river on the front turned red by the blood of massacred canon-fodder and declared “Sacro alla Patria” on the road signs approaching its bridging points.

Here is that moving (anti) World War I song as performed that evening on my somewhat shaky camera video:

The words of one of the other songs, “Alpini in Libia”, harking back to the 1913 campaign, and slightly more optimistic, are as follows

 E la nave s’accosta pian piano,
salutando Italia sei bella;
nel vederti mi sembri una stella,
oh morosa ti debbo lasciar.

Allora il capitano m’allungò la mano
sopra il bastimento, mi vuol salutare,
e poi mi disse: i Turchi son là.

E difatti si videro spuntare,
le nostre trombe si misero a suonare,
le nostre penne al vento volavano
tra la bufera ed il rombo del cannon.

E a colpi disperati, mezzi massacrati
dalle baionette, i Turchi sparivano
gridando: Alpini, abbiate pietà.

Sulle dune coperte di sabbia
i nostri Alpini, oh Italia, morivano,
ma nelle veglie ancor ti sognavano
con la morosa, la mamma nel cuor.

E col fucile in spalla, baionetta in canna,
sono ben armato, paura non ho,
quando avrò vinto ritornerò!

I won’t translate this one – you can do it instead  for your homework! But here is “Alpini in Libia” sung that evening:

The applause at the end of the concert was deafening and there was well-merited a standing ovation for Bacci’s choir. The audience was truly captivated.

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It was, indeed, a lovely occasion and deservedly rounded off with a good square meal of refreshments: pizzas, salamis etc. washed down with rough but honest local wine and mouth-watering cakes in the newish parish hall.

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PS Here is that evening’s programme.

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2 thoughts on “Moving mountain melodies

  1. Pingback: Another Global Village of Music | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and beyond)

  2. Pingback: Requiem for an Era | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and beyond)

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