Music of Sicily
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The Music of Sicily refers to music created by peoples from the isle of Sicily. It was shaped by the island's history, from the island's great presence as part of Magna Grecia 2,500 years ago through various historical incarnations as past of the Roman Empire, then an integral part of the Kingdom of Sicily, and, finally, as region of the modern nation state of Italy.
Sicily is home to a great variety of Christian music, including a cappella devotional songs from Montedoro and many brass bands like Banda Ionica, who play songs from a diverse repertoire. Harvest songs and work songs are also indigenous to the agricultural island, known as "Italy's granary". Sicilian flute music, called friscaletto, is also popular among traditionalist Sicilians, as are Messina's male choirs.
Franco Battiato, Fratelli Mancuso and Ciccio Busacca are among the most popular musicians from Sicily. Busacca has worked with Dario Fo, like many Italian musicians, but is perhaps best-known for his setting the poems of Ignazio Buttitta, a poet who wrote in Sicilian. Fratelli Mancuso (with brothers Enzo and Lorenzo Mancuso) have fused traditional Sicilian peasant songs (lamentazioni), monodic chants (alla carrettiera) and other indigenous forms to create a uniquely Sicilian modern song style.
Sicily has the most vibrant jazz scene in Italy, based in Palermo and including Enzo Rao and his group Shamal, who have added native Sicilian and Arab influences to American jazz. Sicily is also home to Franco Battiato, a popular musician and composer who fused rock and roll with traditional and classical influences, beginning with 1979's L'era del cinghiale bianco, a popular landmark album.
Sicily's historical connections lie not just with mainland Italy, but also the ancient Greeks and more recent Normans, French, Spanish and the Maghreb (Arab) cultures and occupiers. The result has been a diverse and unique fusion of musical elements on the island. American musicologist Alan Lomax made some historic recordings of Sicilian traditional music in the 20th century, including lullabies, dance music, festival music, epic storytelling and religious music.
Sicily is home to several different types of folk music instruments, many of which can also be found in other parts of Southern Italy. The Sicilian ciaramedda is a type of Italian Zampogna (Bagpipe) that has two equal length chanters and from two to three drone. All the pipes use single cane reeds made from Arundo donax. Also made out of Arundo donax is a small end blown flute called a friscaletto or friscalettu. The jaw harp, known in Sicilian as "marranzanu" is heavily associated with Sicilian folk music. Since its invention in the early 19th century the Organetto, a diatonic folk accordion is also prevalent in traditional Sicilian music. Percussion instruments include tambourines and other frame drums as well as the cupa cupa, a unique sounding friction drum.
In 1975 Luciano Maio founded the band Taberna Mylaensis and initiated the recovery of the great traditional music of Sicily.
Carmelo Salemi is the best-known performer of traditional Sicilian flute music, friscaletto.
Other traditionalist Sicilian musicians include Giancarlo Parisi.
Musical and theatrical venues
The region of Sicily has 9 provinces. They are Palermo, Agrigento, Caltanissetta, Catania, Enna, Messina, Ragusa, Siracusa, and Trapani, (each named for the largest city and capital of the province). By province they offer these venues and activities:
- Palermo: the theatrical tradition in Palermo goes back the 16th century and the visit of Charles V. Currently, there are about a dozen theaters in the city of Palermo that feature live music. Among these are the Teatro Massimo, the Teatro di Verdura a Villa Castelnuovo (an ex-Bourbon hunting lodge for the royal family of Naples on the frequent trips to Sicily), the Teatro Politeama Garibaldi, the Teatro Biondo (specializing in modern and contemporary music), the Teatro Santa Cecilia, the auditorium of the Vincenzo Bellini music conservatory, and the Salone dello Steri (seat of the Inquisition in the 17th and 18th centuries and currently home to the Antonio Il Verso Association for Ancient Music). The town of Monreal in the province hosts a Sacred Music Week on the premises of the cathedral;
- Agrigento: the site of an important folk festival, the Sagro del Mandorlo in Fiore. The city also has the Teatro Luigi Pirandello and an archaeological museum that hosts concerts amidst ancient ruins.
- Caltanissetta: the recently reopened Teatro Regina Margherita sponsors the concerts of the Friends of Music Association as well as the "finals" of the Vincenzo Bellini music competition.
- Catania: the city is the site of the splendid Teatro Massimo Bellini, built in 1890 and still decorated with the original architectural allegories to the works of this "favorite son" composer.
- Enna: the cathedral of Enna (from the early 14th century) is the occasional site of music performances; so it is the medieval castle (13th century), one of the biggest fortresses in Sicily, which has hosted for decades the so called "Closest theater to stars", name due to the altitude of the castle and town of Enna (more than 950 m on the sea level).
- Messina: the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele in Messina hosts concerts sponsored by the Laudamo Philharmonic Association. The Cathedral of Messina was heavily damaged both in the great earthquake of 1908 and by the bombings of WW2; it has been restored to its original Norman style and is the frequent site of classical music concerts. Messina is the site of the Arcangelo Corelli music conservatory.
Moreover, in Taormina there is one of the most charming music venues of Italy, the well-preserved Greek theatre which regularly hosts a season of concerts every summer.
- Ragusa: the cathedral of San Giovanni Battista hosts classical music concerts; in the town of Modica, there is a library and center for popular arts and traditions, including music.
- Siracusa: the greatest of all sites of ancient Magna Grecia. The city of Siracusa has the San Pietro al Carmine auditorium as well as a large ancient Roman amphitheater (within an even earlier Greek setting) that hosts concerts.
- Trapani: spread around various sites in the region are the July Music Festival and the International Opera and Youth Festival (both in the city of Trapani), the International Week of Medieval and Renaissance Music (in Erice), the International Opera Festival (in Alcamo), and the International Piano Competition and the Mario del Monaco Opera Competition (in Marsala). The Friends of Music in Trapani sponsors a very active concert season (see "external link," below).
- Much of the information on the music activities, theaters and other venues for music in this region is taken from Guide Cultura, i luoghi della music (2003) ed. Touring Club Italiano.
- Taberna Mylaensis: Sicilian Music, folksongs, folklore dance, ballade, poetry and instrumental songs on traditional instruments
- Concerts today in Sicily
- Sacred Music Festival, Monreal
- Palermo music conservatory
- Friends of Music, Trapani
- Messina music conservatory
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