Bolognana, in the comune of Gallicano, is a village easily missed since it is surrounded by unappealing factories and is, usually, always by-passed. It has, in fact, a pretty centre which seems miles away from the industrial landscape surrounding it
It also has a very attractive parish church, kept in mint condition and presided over by Don Emiliano who, until January 2006 was parish priest of San Gemignano and, thus, our own twin hamlets of Longoio and Mobbiano. (See my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/vocational-crisis/)
Over the chancel of the church are the Latin words “Terribilis est Locus Iste”, which Don Emiliano was keen to point out to me doesn’t mean “This is a terrible place” but instead is to be translated as “This place deserves respect” and relates back to the Bible passage in Genesis 28.17, where Jacob dreams of a ladder ascending into heaven with the same words inscribed at the top. (Pace readers of The Da Vinci Code please!)
In the “rationalisation” of parishes Don Emiliano now has to preside over the following:
Bolognana – (s. Margherita m.)
Brucciano – ( s. Sisto ii papa m. )
Calomini – ( s. Tommaso apostolo )
Cardoso – ( s. Genesio m. )
Fiattone – ( ss. Pietro e paolo apostoli )
which is quite a tall order but, as I have stated before, there are plenty of job vacancies if one wants to apply as a parish priest in contemporary Italy!
This year Don Emiliano commemorates twenty-five years of priesthood and presented me with this imaginetta. He has also had to overcome a serious tumour and I was very glad to see him in such good shape for a very special event last night in Bolognana’s church, dedicated to St Margaret.
It was the fifteenth Rassegna Corale (Choral festival) of sacred music to be held at Bolognana and it was the first time our choir had been invited. All voluntary contributions for the Rassegna went to AIRC, the Cancer Research institute. The lovely church was packed and the programme was this:
I felt all the seven choirs at the Rassegna passed my one-star rating, which stands for “competent”, and most of them even reached two-star rating which stands for “good”.
These choirs included Bolognana’s own Schola Cantorum Don Carmine, conducted by Maria Monica Vick, whose recital included a Kyrie and Gloria from a composer I’d never heard of, Mons Egidio Corbetta from the Bergamo region who only died in 2009.
The Corale S Cecilia di Diecimo, conducted by music school teacher Lia Salotti, performed Perosi’s Mass very fluently including the Gloria (not shown on the programme)
I loved the way Lia’s little one came towards her to hug her and give her full support for the whole time she conducted the excellent choir – truly growing up in a musical environment! Lia’s little daughter will, no doubt, be as good a musician as her mum.
The Corale Del Duomo di Barga followed directed by Roberta Popolani. I felt this choir could have had more impact and more members as it does come from a cathedral. However, all its pieces, dedicated to the Virgin in this Marian month, were sung with true devotion.
Don Fiorenzo Toti (an international authority on polyphonic music) and his choir stunningly raised the evening’s standard, concluding their recital with a wonderful rendition of Spanish renaissance composer Tomas Luis De Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium.
The choir’s intonation, voice balance, timing, and sheer musicality were a total pleasure. I have no hesitation in declaring it one of the best in the whole Serchio valley (if not in Lucca province) and worth travelling miles to hear.
The Schola Cantorum Fornaci di Barga followed, accompanied by our own Andréa, again singing its pieces with good balance and fluency
At this point our choir had to file out to get ready for our bit and so I have no photos of the following choir from the Pieve di Loppia e Tiglio and, of course our own Coro SS Pietro e Paolo di Ghivizzano. Loppia’s choice of pieces from Mendelssohn and Haydn were ambitious but the choir sailed through the music’s difficulties with conviction.
As far as our own happy band was concerned, judging from the strong and heartfelt applause, our first appearance at this festival went down very well and conductor Andrea appeared rather pleased with our effort.
There is something quite remarkable about the music life in the province of Lucca. With a population of just 372,244 it manages to create so many choirs of good standard and certain choirs of outstanding quality, in addition to its soloists, orchestras, chamber music groups to say nothing of its gospel singers, and practitioners of other genres of music including folk, jazz and rock.
In contrast (sadly, I have to say) the borough where I used to live, the (now) Royal Borough of Greenwich has only a slightly smaller population of 254,557 and just one choir of international repute although, undoubtedly, with the Trinity school of music now installed in Sir Christopher Wren’s fine buildings, it is receiving an injection of new musical life.
There is, clearly something about mountain-based communities that generates good choirs (rather like those famous Welsh Valleys) and there is also something about the nature of Lucca’s great musical past that continues to feed into the new generations and invigorates musical life here to a remarkable degree.