Oi che bèl felice incontro (book + CD)

Il canto tradizionale a Ponte Caffaro, volume secondo
by Lorenzo Pelizzari

Private publication, no number

This is the second volume of songs from Ponte Caffaro, produced by Lorenzo Pelizzari - a work which started in 2001 with Anderém di là del mare (book + CD), reviewed in these pages.  As with that first volume, this is a delightful labour of love celebrating the traditional songs still being sung in this Brescian valley town in northern Italy.  Yes - still being sung!  The recordings were made at 26 separate recording sessions, mostly in bars in the town, from October 1998 to August 2013.  The title translates as: Oh what a beautiful happy meeting.

One great difference between the two volumes is that the CD with this one is an MP3 CD, and contains 128 songs!  A note in this volume cites the first as containing 'around 70 other' traditional songs from the valley - so one must assume that they are all different!1  Given that the Carnevale dance tradition in Ponte Caffaro has some 30 traditional dances and their tunes, plus around a dozen associated tunes (see links below), I find it hard to imagine another small town in the 'developed' world, in the 13th year of the 21st century, being similarly endowed with such a wealth of traditional song and music.

I have no way of knowing whether Lorenzo read my review of Volume 1, but the concerns I raised that 'the book tells me nothing about the singers but their names and date/place of birth' or that 'there is nothing but the briefest of notes about a handful of the songs' have certainly been addressed in Volume 2.  Here we find mini-biographies of 21 of the principal singers, and details of the 26 recording sessions (where, when, who was there and sang what) - though there's still nothing in the way of the sort of song notes one can expect to find in British CD booklets these days.

However, as I wrote in the earlier review, this book and CD is not produced for the likes of us, but for the community from which all this song tradition springs, and in which it endures.  In truth, the book is just a nicely produced object celebrating and reinforcing the community and its culture.  Which, of course, is exactly what the songs, music and dance do too!

And I don't think I should end without letting you hear some of the singing.  Here are one of the older of the Ponte Caffaro singers, Maria Lombardi, aged 77 in 2001 when this recording was made (and still singing strongly at 90 in 2013), Gaetano Salvini, the Capo of the carnevale dancers, and Lorenzo Pelizzari, our author, singing El gh'era trè sorèle - just a few of the nine verses!  And to bring us right up to date, Sofia Fusi, aged 84, singing Ti scrivo della frontiera in July 2013.

The book begins with an introduction by ethnomusicologist Bruno Pianta, and is completed by several indexes and appendixes making it a simple task to find almost any information you might want.  There's even a page detailing the pronunciation of the Caffaro dialect words - because most of the songs are in dialect, not Italian.  Lorenzo Pelizzari must be complimented on a superb piece of research, seven years in the making.

If you're interested in the Carnevale dancers of Ponte Caffaro, there are two articles to be found amongst these pages: one from 1996 and another from 1998.

Rod Stradling - 28.11.13


Lorenzo Pelizzari has pointed out that my numbers here are slightly incorrect.  Although recordings of them all don't appear on the two CDs, the actual number of transcribed songs from Ponte Caffaro are: 84 in Volume 1; 132 in Volume 2; plus a further 45 not transcribed because they are too well-known.  Making an astonishing total of 261 songs known and still sung in this small town!

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