Colledoro is a village where people sing and make music in houses during the winter, while serenades and parties are held in spring and summer. Nestled in the foothills of the Gran Sasso mountain, a golden hill of sun-drenched fields and meadows, it is a place where clear traces of ancient love songs still persist, along with stornellate (folk songs) for the harvest, ritual songs for Holy Week, voices telling in verse the stories of the village, the arrival of electric light, the exchanges and friendships, the animals and the nearby woods. The stornelli express the emotions in the first person, intertwining each other’s destinies and creative words, affections and most intimate feelings, doubts and provocations, until the peaceful verses that almost always end them: “Hold me close, you will be happy, you are my heart, I am your hope”.
In the past, in the small community of Colledoro, singing accompanied agricultural work and it was an instrument of dialogue, of conflict and easing of tension in social relations. People sang to alleviate the fatigue, or to transmit information from one field to another about the evening appointments and the venues of parties and farmyard dances, but also to date and even to argue in a ritualized way which was controlled by means of the verse, the irony, and the extemporaneousness of the message.
This particular form of communication channelled through the harvest song called sturnillë is created through an improvisational process developed inside the metrical pattern of a hendecasyllable. Little space is left to melodic variation, which is limited to embellishments (acciaccature, microtonal oscillations, glissandi), but the verbal content is often invented at the time with the help of mnemonic techniques of a “formulaic style”, in which “mnemonic patterns” are used and from time to time adapted to the circumstances and the need to respond to the previous singer according to a logical concatenation of the strophes, in a continuous alternation of provocations, answers and allusions.
The need to cover great distances formed powerful and penetrating voices, which were not lost with time. The “old-fashioned” voices of Domenica Russi and Angelo De Dominicis (‘Ngiulinë) depend on this multi-layered technique learnt during youth, having absorbed the style through listening to the old people of the time. Some genealogies of singing and playing were thus reconnected, giving prominence to some forgotten performers like the old Ilario Ventilii, with whom Angelo spent his days enchanted by the stories that the songs put in musical form, a living repository of a great musical memory; or like the musician Giuseppe Russi (Giose), called lu padreternë [God Almighty], from whom his son Pierino Russi learned most of his songs (suonate). Through their music the families of singers and families of musicians shared a common culture of singing and communication, the expression of a territory characterized by farming, even in the inland areas near the mountains, scattered with farms and a few houses inhabited by tenants and owners, large families committed to the cultivation of the fields, in a system of mutual exchange, help and coexistence.
WATCH THE VIDEO
Domenica and the stornelli
Colledoro (TE), 3 December 2010.
Video footage by Fabrice Bernissan,
Don Nicola Jobbi Study Center Archive/Bambun.
Cultural transmission and preservation
For several decades now, the harvest has been mechanized. Angelo De Dominicis says that “once there were some nice strufette [short stanzas] between Befaro and Colledoro, among those who harvested. Today is the roar of the engine. The tractor, the combine harvester, is the one that sings. When one is working, it is always singing”. The repertoire of ancient songs that have fallen out of use is gradually being reassembled and remembered through a research project which has been conducted in the village since 2007.
In fact, the natural musical propensity of the community of Colledoro gave life in 2007 to a public participation project, entirely financed and promoted by the community and the local Recreational Club, that felt together the need to dedicate to the village and its “sound” heritage an in-depth work of reflection addressed to the old and to the new generations, in an attempt to reconstruct a wealth of knowledge which is still alive but relegated to individual memory in a strictly domestic domain. From this meeting between present and past, a disc entitled “Colledoro: Descendants of songs and sonatas” was produced by the researchers (Marco Magistrali and Gianfranco Spitilli) in close collaboration with the members of the community.
Today the town continues its activity of rediscovery, focused on the repertoires for the organetto and the singing of teams of players who perform mainly in public and festive contexts. The songs linked to agricultural work, although brought to light and to an inter-family circulation, remain confined to the memory of a few elders and are not sung except in the home and in exceptional circumstances by the singers of the time.