I Canterini di Ortigia at St. John’s University

Arba Sicula was supposed to present Gilberto Idonea’s Angelo Musco Company of Catania in a repeat performance of a Sicilian play in its Spring event. You those of you who were fortunate enough to attend the performance of Gatta ci cova last year certainly remember the great theatrical event. Unfortunately, the fear of war and terrorist activities in the United States were too much of a concern for some of the members of the group and we were unable to have them come to the United States. Fortunately for us, we were able to exploit a golden opportunity that presented itself at the right time. Salvo Bottaro, the head of a well known group from Siracusa, I Canterini di Ortigia, whom I have known for some time called me to let me to tell me that his group was scheduled to perform in Connecticut at about the same week when the play was scheduled to be performed. Knowing Salvo’s talent and professionalism, I jumped at the opportunity to invite them to perform at St. John’s. And so it happened that on March 30th, 2003 about 250 members of Arba Sicula came to Bent Hall to enjoy a marvelous evening of songs followed by our usual meeting of Sicilian minds while enjoying refreshments and desserts.

The show was entitled “Vinni a cantari” (I came to sing) and was billed a a series of vignettes to give an idea of what life in Sicily was like and to keep the images alive. The evening was magical because the it brought the audience back to a time long gone when people in Sicily lived out their lives in the bagghiu, that is, the courtyard. Salvo Bottaro who introduced each musical piece with a vignette that recalled how things were in the “old days” when life was much simpler, when all people needed to be happy was a loaf of bread and a song in their hearts. All aspects of life on Sicily were thus called to mind in words and song, songs of love, of jealousy or religious feelings, of revenge, of melancholy and of joy. The group performed for over an hour and a half, without amplification, but their warm and wonderful voices filled Bent Hall with vibrations that are difficult to describe. It is uncanny how these shows are able to elicit so much enthusiasm out of the members present. Everyone experiences performances of this type in a different way. But the end result was the same for everyone started clapping to accompany the musicians. There is no question about it: the show was a tremendous success and we hope to have them back again in New York.

Arba Sicula members who went to Sicily for the Ninth Tour were fortunate to hear them again in a more intimate setting, with amplification this time, while in Siracusa. The group’s performance was according to those who were lucky to be there absolutely superb. My thanks to the the members of the group: Salvo Puzzo, Daniela Cassia, Peppe Magnano—three wonderful vocalists and the fours players Fabio Barbagallo on the guitar, Corrado Confalonieri on the accordion, Giuseppe di Mauro on drums, and Sebastiano Nanè on the reed pipe and flute, and, of course, Salvo Bottaro artistic director and narrator.

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