Harmony in Coreglia Antelminelli

‘Orchestra Filarmonica’ in Italy may mean one of two things. The standard international Philharmonic orchestra may at first spring to mind but to many Italian ‘la Filarmonica’ means primarily their own town band which is largely based on wind instruments, some brass and percussion. The nearest instrumental equivalent in the UK would be the military band – certainly not the traditional colliers’ brass band.

A short time ago BBC radio broadcast a selection of some of the best filarmoniche of Italy and, indeed, these orchestras have a unique sound and a long history. Such great Italian composers as Verdi began their career conducting and arranging music for their local Filarmonica. There are clear traces of ‘Filarmonica writing, especially in his earlier operas with their march-like rhythms and oompah-accompaniments. Puccini even wrote a march for this instrumental combination: ‘Scossa Elettrica’.

Here is Puccini’s brilliant piece, dedicated to the telegraph operators of Volta near Como and played here by the Banda di Bracigliano d’Amato from Campania

Sadly, in many cases the Filarmonica has died out in several towns. For example, all we have left of our local Benabbio Filarmonica are their instruments. Its members just became older and older and without new blood to invigorate them they expired and became memories. Fortunately, in the hands of a good direttore (conductor) many filarmoniche have carried on this great tradition of Italian music making which invigorates special civic occasions, religious solemnities and summer events.

In our own area we have the meritable Filarmonica di Corsagna, for example, which dutifully presents itself at most of the religious feste in our Val di Lima. Presumably, our valley had once its own Filarmonica but alas it’s no more.

On Thursday evening we joined friends for an evening concert by the piazza Del comune of the Coreglia Antelminelli Filarmonica titled the ‘A Catalani’ Filarmonica after the great operatic and instrumental composer who sadly died young of the dreaded tisi (TB). (For more on Catalani see my post on him at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/catalanis-calamitous-life/ )

Coreglia Antelminelli’s ‘A Catalani Filarmonica’ has the privilege of having been conducted, indeed, rescued by a remarkable now retired Englishman who did the same sort of things with expiring wind bands largely manned by ex-pats in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. I met him briefly that evening at Coreglia and he seemed very pleased at the way the band was carrying on its good work. Now, of course everyone can join the band no matter what age or gender and this is one of its delights. I particularly enjoyed the announcer’s introduction to the pieces. She was also principal clarinettist.

The concert itself began with the Italian national anthem which, for your attention, doesn’t start with the main tune of ‘Fratelli d’Italia’ but with a brief orchestral fanfare. Anyway, everyone eventually stood up.

The operatic strains of the Italian national anthem have words by Goffredo Mameli, (Genoa 1827, Rome 1849 – died of a an infection from an accidental bayonet wound inflicted by one of his friends during the battle of the Roman republic), music by Michele Novara (Genoa 1818-1885). Interestingly, the anthem was temporarily adopted in 1945 and only officially sanctioned as recently as 2012 after much disagreement as to what the national anthem should be, many preferring Verdi’s noble ‘Va pensiero’ from his ‘Nabucco’. With its mixture of march-like exhortation and operatic exaggeration the anthems does not exactly confer that dignity which the previous ‘Marcia Reale’ possessed. Continuing with the Royal March after the monarchy had been deposed in the 1946 referendum did not seem, however, very appropriate.

My favourite national anthem ‘La Marseillaise’ was, in fact composed by an Italian and was not originally destined to become a national anthem. It was composed by Piedmontese violinist Giovanni Battista Viotti in 1781 and simply called ‘Theme and variations in D major’.

If you don’t believe me then hear this:

Here are some views of the Filarmonia:

The C.A.’s filarmonica’s concert continued with its own signature tune.

Further items included marches, wartime songs (this one from the first):

a delightful Irish rhapsody and a convincing arrangement of probably Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best tune, ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’.

The summer concert of Coreglia Antelminelli’s Filarmonica was accompanied by shouts of children playing in the steep cobbled streets and conversations from the bar. It all added inimitably to this most Italian of musical institutions, ‘La Filarmonica’. May it long thrive!

A Dynamic Evening at Pian di Coreglia and Ghivizzano

The question to ask about one’s car is not so much when it will break down: this is surely bound to happen at any inopportune moment according to Murphy’s Law but where it will break down.

Although our little road from Bagni di Lucca to Longoio is not of the same calibre as some dirt track in the upper Mongolian steppes it’s still a little scary when the car suddenly conks out on a stretch of narrow unsafety-barriered road verging onto a ravine in pitch darkness just before a bridge and a couple of bends, with pelting rain and mountain fog to add.

It’s even more worrying when a new battery has just been installed in the car and suddenly refuses to provide energy. The problem revealed itself when the red generator ‘spia’ or warning light was switched on. The battery wasn’t charging and with lights and wipers on the engine died rather quickly.

Fortunately we are members of ACI, the Italian automobile service who have a very good rescue service (if one is patient enough to sometimes wait more than an hour.)

Fortunately, this time the rescue van arrived in a little under an hour’s time. With a special booster the battery was recharged and our little Cinquina sprang into enough life to get us home. Grazie ACI!

The following day, however, we had to sort out why the dynamo wasn’t working. We took the car down to our trusty mechanic, formerly near Conad in Bagni di Lucca but now in a smart new warehouse at Pian di Coreglia. I’ve mentioned our mechanic at my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/cinquina-bambina-mia/ and have now updated his address in that post.


The dynamo brushes were well and truly worn out and the whole unit had to be dismantled and new parts found which, fortunately they were, cannibalised from other parts. It would be a two hours work, however, and what were we going to do in the meanwhile?

Get a haircut perhaps? Our mechanic suggested a female and male hairdresser at nearby Ghivizzano which was just a fifteen minute walk away. Their facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/I-Franceschini-Parrucchieri-410444482481370/?ref=br_rs

The hairdresser certainly took our mind away from the delicate surgery being inflicted on our Cinquina’s dynamo and my wife especially was well pleased with the results. The advice given was excellent and the price which included shampooing was very reasonable. We exited from the venue as transformed people and hoped our car would emerge, in its own manner, in the same way.

Success! The reconstructed dynamo worked and was now able to charge the battery. In fact, last night it took us to the circus (more of that later). So don’t moan if you’re stuck at a mechanic’s garage for two hours in a remote location: there could always be hairdressers nearby!

Fiery Combats at Coreglia Antelminelli’s Festa Medievale

How did I spend my birthday yesterday? In the morning I went down to the orto with ten litres of desperately needed water for the few tomatoes and courgettes which are surviving the prolonged drought.

Later I was joined by my wife followed by one of our cats, Carlotta, and we relaxed by playing a game of boules. Carlotta joined in the fun though I was lightly reminded of the game of croquet with flamingos in Alice in Wonderland. Carlotta was very good at estimating which boule was closest to the winning post.

After a light birthday lunch (it’s difficult to eat anything more than light in this weather)

we were given the most wonderful weather present in a rainstorm. We rushed out just to feel the cool water drip over us and have our first shower for some days. Sheer bliss!

It’s medieval festa time in Italy and we decided to visit the one at Coreglia Antelminelli and meet up with friends there.


There were stalls and even a mediaeval dentist who we definitely wanted to avoid even though he seemed cheaper than your standard high street one.

Everything was beautifully organised. Entrance was free and we only paid for what we wanted to eat which in our case included an antipasto and a sweet.

Every mediaeval festa has it special highlights. For Coreglia Antelminelli these were four groups of Sbandieratori or flag twirlers. Their virtuosity and choreography were of the highest standard. As everyone knows Gallicano’s Sbandieratori always win national prizes for their displays but even Coreglia’s own group, mainly consisting of girls, was excellent.

A somewhat fiery combat between two knights then took place.

An amazing act involving a fiery girl followed.

Some wonderful bird of prey were on proud display:

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Stories were recited:

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Fortunes were told:

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And, to top it all the evening ended with an absolutely spectacular fireworks display.

We didn’t hold a birthday party in our orto this year. It was just as well since our village hadn’t had water for two days and it was still uncomfortably hot at 5.00 pm. Instead, we had a glorious time just with ourselves in the morning and with one of our cats and, in the evening, with our friends in the fabulous pageantry of Coreglia Antelminelli’s superb Festa Medievale.

Again, crowds were just the right number and the navetta (shuttle) service ensured that there were absolutely no traffic jam when we returned home around 1 in the morning to arrive at a village wonderfully cooled by the storm.

There are plenty more mediaeval feste in Italy. There’s, of course, our local one at Gombereto and the highly picturesque one at Nozzano Castello but what we saw last night would be a hard act to follow.

It’s easy to miss the feste. There are just so many of them! Apart from the local tourist office you could start looking on the web at http://www.inforapido.it/web?ts=go&q=feste+medievali



(Photographs also by courtesy of Alessandra. Thanks!)