Russian Symphony in Sannio Hills

More than one person has asked me what Jack and I do in a teeny, tiny Southern Italian village.  The implication being that we must be bored to tears.  Usually, I give a snarky response like – the laundry or pick tomatoes.  The reality is, we are involved in more cultural activities here than we are in New Jersey.  Italians have a passion for and a commitment to the arts.  The arts are part of the fabric of who they are and their lives.  Yesterday, after doing the laundry – no – not really, I got a text from my friend Adele.  She alerted me to the free symphony orchestra concert in neighboring Morcone.  Jack and I were absolutely in!  We love classical music and until we got there didn’t know or care who we were hearing.

I expected students from the music conservatory and was surprised to see the Grande Orchestra Sinfonica Russa della Repubblica di Udmurtia. ( I just googled Udmurtia to see what part of Russia it was – they breed great musicians!)  Their conductor, Leornardo Quadrini, is not only Italian but is committed to sharing the music of the world with the people in our Sannio Mountains.  I found out that some how he donated the concert to Morcone!  He has been recognized with a load of awards for his commitment to the Province of Benevento.  The maestro has conducted for places like La Scala and a variety of other opera houses.  Not too shabby!  Maestro Quadrini is also gorgeous and has a larger than life personality.  The orchestra entered in dress black, he bounded into the space on his cell phone giving directions to someone.  Folks in the audience were yelling out additions to the directions.  When they were finalized – all applauded!  He beamed and then looked down at his clothes – “it’s hot and I didn’t have time to change – do you mind?”  No one minded – including the musicians who obviously adore him.

Morcone is one of those towns that appear in guide books.  They seem to have been dropped onto the side of a mountain and by some magic of construction defy gravity and don’t slide down.  The historic center is at the very top of the town.  My friend Adele grew up in Morcone and can bound up the steep steps to the top like a gazelle.  “Are we there yet,” I would wine as we wended our way up another flight.  “How do people bring their furniture up here – or groceries?”  Jack poked me and said keep walking.  Suddenly, we were in this incredible piazza.  Piazza San Bernardino sits in front of the municipal theater.  There are stone buildings on three sides and than a view of the valley.  It was beautiful and incredibly well kept.  We walked a wee bit further to the bar – I thought someone picked up a 1970’s West Village NYC bar and dropped it here.  If there weren’t a million steps to get there, I’d become a regular.  The owner was as unique and charming as his space.  After a glass of wine, it was time to secure seats.

Not that many people still live in the historic center of the town, but lots of people came to the concert.  It was a NYC kind of crowd – well dressed people mingling with a younger set in jeans or bermuda shorts.  Aging hippy garb sitting next too a silk suit dress ensemble.  No matter who they were they became one with the music.  Some people even hummed along!  The concert started with a Russian composer – I thought he said Rimsky Korsakov but I could be wrong.  They then played Verdi, Rossini, Bizet and more.  Ending with a rousing tarantella that included the Maestro conducting claps in the audience.  Una Bella Serata!  No one wanted the night to end.  The applause and shouts of bravi insured an encore.

 

Next time someone asks me how we fill our time in a teeny tiny Italian village, I might just say – I put on my glamour rags and go to the symphony.

Ci vediamo.

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Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo, Stops Along the Journey - Sites Off the Tourist Track | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Our Genealogist on TedX Talks!

Rich Venezia is my favorite genealogist – not just because he is handsome and witty but because he really knows his stuff.  He was researching for clients with roots in Southern Italy and popped into visit Jack and me.  He has been researching Jack’s Irish heritage so they had lots to talk about.  (I hope Jack is from a town that makes fabulous Irish Whiskey.)

While we were having a 4 hour pranzo, Rich casually mentioned he had done a Ted Talk.  WHAT!  I bellowed – did I mention we were eating at Borgo Cerquelle, my favorite agriturismo so lots of folks turned and peered at our table.  What, I said a little gentler.  Rich Roots, his firm, is in Pittsburgh and Rich did a TEDx Talk there.

I watched it and was so caught up in broadcast that I knew I had to share it.  Every generation needs to listen and learn from this –

 

Researching With Rich

Rich Venezia is a professional genealogist based in Pittsburgh, PA. He specializes in Italian, Irish, and immigrant ancestry, and NJ/NYC and Pittsburgh-area research. He also assists clients with dual citizenship applications. He has worked on two genealogy TV shows (including PBS’ “Genealogy Roadshow”) and is available for client research and speaking engagements.  His website can be found at richroots.net and he can be reached at rich@richroots.net. 

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Grazie Ri-Ualanegli Pontelandolfo

Grazie Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo –

Thank you for decades of insuring that the cultures and traditions of Pontelandolfo live on.

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Thank you for being a world class dance company and bringing those cultures and traditions to cities around the world.

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Thank you for insuring that the children of Pontelandolfo know their heritage.

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Thank you for producing dance festivals in our village that entertain, enlighten and expand our horizons.

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Thank you for the hard work you do providing housing, food and entertainment for the global companies that you bring to Pontelandolfo.

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Thank you for this year’s festival, July 31, August 1 and August 2.

Thank you to all of you that visit Pontelandolfo this week and enjoy dance companies from Italy, Poland and Serbia.

 

 

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Folk Festival to Stream Live!

Ri Ualanegli knows how to produce a Folk Dance Festival!  If you can’t get to Pontelandolfo – and I encourage you to get here – you can see the festival streamed live on Pontelandolfonews.com and on FaceBook Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo.  Save those links!  Save the dates – July 31, August 1 & 2. At the end of the blog there is a complete schedule of events – don’t forget the time difference if you want to catch the live stream.  The commercial will wet your appetite for folk dance and if that doesn’t work, read on about the two other Italian companies that will be in the festival – Urbanitas and La Pacchianella.

Associazione Culturale & Folcloristica Urbanitas

Based in the town of Apiro, Urbanitas, formed in 1933, shares the rural traditions and culture of the 19th-century Marches.  This was a period of abject poverty.  There were rare occasions for festivals.  Because they were rare, the festivals were incredibly unique and intense.  The peasants of the Marches, accompanied by sprightly music enjoyed themselves dancing that bordered on the phrenetic.

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The company was included in the filming of Dino Risi’s Straziami ma di Baci Saziami, starring Nino Manfredi.  They have also been seen on both regional and national television.

Since the 1970s, Urbanitas has collaborated with the town of Apiro and produced an annual international folkloric festival, Terranostra Apiro.

La Pacchianella

This folk group claims to be one of the oldest – founded in 1923 – and most famous Italian group.  They come from  Monte Sant’Angelo in Foggia – noted for the white line of terraced houses and in the Christian world for its ancient rocky shrine where in 490 The Archangel Michael appeared.  I thought it was interesting that their costumes hint of Spain and reflect the Spanish rule of the area.  Lots of color, tons of gold – bling personified – is fun to watch and adds panache to the dances.  They have toured the world and made a number of films including one by Disney on folk lore.  This video has them dancing in front of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower!

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Passing the Cultural Torch

The other day I visited la mia sarta, my dress maker, Rosa, and found her working on the smallest pair of traditional boys britches I had ever seen. “Are they for a large doll”, I stupidly asked.  Cara, questi sono per il più giovane membro di Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo!  What she meant was – “you silly cluck – it is dance season and I make all the costumes.  This is for the youngest member of the company – a two year old!”  Many of our village’s kids are learning about their heritage by performing with the dance company, Ri Ualanegli.

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Not only do they learn the dances, but they explore the stories behind the dances.  Learning about the contadini, serfs and farmers, who worked the land and just how they worked it. Extended families still live together here and children see their elders planting gardens, harvesting olives, pressing tomatoes into sauce and still eating and cooking in a traditional way.  Through the dance company, these piccolo dancers gain an even greater understanding of who they are and what life was like in their home town.  History lessons are a natural part of the dance lesson!   My Arts Educator brain just took over – think about it – these kids are having fun, learning about their culture and have the opportunity to grow as self confident, creative problem solving adults!  Yeah for Dance!  YOU CAN SEE THESE TALENTED KIDS LIVE – HERE IN PONTELANDOLFO – JULY 31, AUGUST 1ST AND 2ND. Here are a group of kids dancing in 2014 – wade through the introduction and you will get to the dance – note the older kids helping the babes in dance along –

Other children are fascinated with the old sounds and music that accompany the dancers. It makes my heart burst with joy to see the little guy learning the musicality of the fisarmonica – accordion – from the old masters.  This instrument, featured in the folk group Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo and other Italian folk companies, looks a small accordion.  These kids who rock out the local Tarantella don’t know it yet but they too are accepting the responsibility of passing on the culture of their village.   The traditional music reflects moments in our historic time line. The songs are of joy, fear and love. I was delighted a few weeks ago to listen to a recital done by a group of young musicians.  The traditional music of the Sannio Hills will live on through this and ensuing generations.

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This past week, a group of Pontelandolfese men made sure that the sport that I never heard of before I came here was passed down to the little men who would make up the teams of the future.  These kids began by strapping cord to their arms, loading up a wheel of cheese and letting it fly!  Welcome to ruzzola del formaggio – cheese rolling.  Actually, this weekend was our Festa di Formaggio with competitions for children and adults.  Of course, there was also the tasting of yummy local cheeses.  This was the first annual Festa di Formaggio so plan on being here next year for it!

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These wee cheese rolling wonders were working with adults who have been part of Pontelandolfo’s award winning team. Ruzzola del Formaggio competitions are incredibly serious.  The winner gets to keep the cheese – it does get eaten!  There are teams from all over Italy.  Those teams would not exist and that tradition continue if villages didn’t keep the sport alive.

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Passing the cultural torch is important for all villages and equally important for families.  Share those tales.  Write down those recipes. Dance the dances your grandparents danced. Let your children learn about who they are and where their roots are.

Don’t forget to come to Pontelandolfo on July 31St!  Explore our culture and enjoy our art!

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Serbian Dance Company in Pontelandolfo

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I went to YouTube and entered JEKA, the name of this Serbian company.  The first video I saw reminded me of the Rockettes in perfect Radio City Music Hall formation.  Then the music got faster and faster and the formations kept going and going.  I was exhausted, but enthralled.

If you are in Italy – or a cheap plane ride away – come visit Pontelandolfo this July 31, August 1 & 2.  I’ve seen a number of folkloric festivals over the years but this one, produced by Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo offers incredible diversity.  (I did an earlier post on the group from Poland and more are to follow.)

The folk dance group Jeka is from Obrenovac, Serbia.  They have been performing since 2010 and have over 200 dancers, musicians and singers working together.  I wonder if they will all be in our little village?  Jeka performs dances from all regions of Serbia, including central Serbia’s popular Sumadija and Kolubara. The artistic team includes – ethnomusicologist Biljana Konjevic (folk orchestra and folk singer group), choreographer, Jelena Stanisic and president, Nenad Mandic.

A typical form of Serbian folk dances is “kolo”.  This is a chain of dancers holding each other – this is what I started watching.  The dancing is ideally in a circle. After “kolo” comes “lesa” – a single chain in line or in two parallel lines, moving left and right, back and forth.  Sounds simple – but you try to keep 30 people in two exactly parallel lines.

 

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I read that Serbian folk costumes have a distinctive place in the tradition of the Serbian people. Their role throughout history, as symbols of ethnic identity, was of great importance. Every region inhabited by the Serbs had a distinctive folk costume. The outfit revealed not only someone’s origin, but in multicultural regions it was a recognizable sign of ethnicity.  You will see hand-woven skirts and vests filled with colorful designs and patterns.

Note that I said, “you will see”.  I sincerely hope you an make it to the 2017 Folk Festival on July 31, August 1 & 2 in Pontelandolfo (BN).

 

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Ci vediamo!

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

See Polish Folk Dancers in Pontelandolfo!

 

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Thank you Associazione Culturale Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo for bringing an international Folk Dance Festival to Pontelandolfo!  Timing in life is everything, and I am incredibly lucky to be here this summer.  Ri Ualanegli is bringing some of the best folk dance companies in the world to our corner of the universe on August 31, July 1 and July 2.  Since, Ruth St. Denis invaded my body (mother of modern dance in America) 40 years ago, I have been a dance junky.  As such, I couldn’t just write about the festival – I had to – needed to – felt compelled to write about each of the companies that will be performing.  No matter what your heritage, you will appreciate feeling the music, spirit and passion of these companies.

Polonia folk

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The Polish Folk Dance Group Przygoda was created in 1972 and has been on the road ever since.  Their home is Rybnik city in the Upper Silesia. Like many folkloric companies, they strive to encourage not only youth but the world at large to understand and appreciate the traditions and culture of Poland.  One might think pierogis seem a lot like ravioli but they are as unique in their flavor as this company is to the Italian folk companies that will be performing.  The Polish dance company has shared its heritage in places like Canada, Denmark, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, South Africa and now Pontelandolfo!

Przygoda performs the dances and the folklore of Poland’s different regions.  As is important to the Polish tradition, the company sings and dances, maintaining a balance between the two.  The musicians play violins, violas, flutes, clarinets, bass and of course – the accordion. To enhance the regionalisms and make sure the dancers fully understand their heritage,  all participate in making the costumes. The costumes are all handmade -including the embroidery.  Natural materials, appropriate to the given region, are a must.

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Just because they have been winning international awards from Chile to Romania, isn’t the only reason you should come to Pontelandolfo to see Przygoda perform.  You should come, because the opportunity to see companies of this caliber performing in the same festival is something that doesn’t happen often.  You should also come because this dance junky wants to see a huge audience for this festival!  Be there – I’m taking attendance.

Ci Vediamo – July 31, August 1 and August 2 in Piazzo Roma, Pontelandolfo (BN).

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Dov’ è Pontelandolfo?

Non lo so. I don’t know.  Perchè?  Why?

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Can You Read This Sign? – This is Why!!!

Tourists – whether they are Italian or from abroad – will have a hard time finding our village because the street signage is terrible.  The Province of Benevento and the Region of Campania apparently doesn’t give a tinker’s damn if the road signs are bent, twisted, painted over or if the weeds grow so high around them that they are invisible.  This confuses me greatly.  We drive all over Italy and I’ve noticed that in the North – oh no here she goes with that North versus South disparity again – the signs seem to look like signs. Not like twisted pieces of art created by first year sculpture students.

We need the signs fixed!  At the end of the month there is an international folk festival in our village and I want outsiders to find us!  Currently, I am researching just who in the Province has the responsibility for the signs.  I am looking forward to sending that person the following video.  If someone out there knows who the right person is to lobby for better signs – PLEASE LET ME KNOW!  Feel free to send a copy of the video yourself.

 

PS – If the signs don’t get fixed you can always follow the brown and yellow signs to our Great Pub – Landulphi.  The owners made sure you could find our village.

 

Categories: Any Day in Pontelandolfo | 3 Comments

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