January 21, 2015

Research Project: "Furore D'una Banda"

The Tradition of the Italian Wind Band (Feast Band) in the US
The late Michael "Red Mike" Acampora, leader of the Red Mike Festival Band
Photo courtesy of www.redmikefestivalband.com
Many of us who grew up in Italian American enclaves have an attachment to certain types of music; such as the Neapolitan songs of Jimmy Roselli and Phil Brito, Lou Monte's novelty songs such as "Peppino the Italian Mouse," the tenor voice of Mario Lanza, the jazz great Mr. Louie Prima and many others.
Another type of music for which we have a great affection is the Italian wind band, or in Italian American laymen's terms "The Feast Band.” This music represents the heart and soul of our Italo American feast day celebrations.
Using brass and woodwind instruments, this type of band does not play and march as if in a football game halftime show or a Memorial Day parade. This type of band strolls slowly in processions behind the images of the Madonna and our beloved patron saints. They also play symphonic and operatic pieces on stage at evening concerts. So I can say the Italian feast band is also traditionally known as a concert band.
The Italian concert band has a long history in the United States going back to the turn of the twentieth century. Those were the days of the great "Creatore.” Contemporary and rival to the renowned John Philip Sousa, the celebrated Neapolitan band conductor Giuseppe Creatore wowed the American public across the country with his brilliance and flamboyant style.
The Saint Cono Bande of Inwood, Long Island
When playing at Italian religious Feast processions, the Italian concert bands would dress in their dignified military or nautical type uniforms and perform the type of music, which distinguishes them from the bands of other ethnic groups. They play what is called the Symphonic March (in Italiano "La Marcia Sinfonica"). This type of march bridges elements of popular march music with classical symphony. These "Marce Sinfoniche" belong to a lovely, melodic yet triumphant sounding genre of music. Many of the grander symphonic marches are also concert pieces. One called "Inglesina" or "Little English Girl," was written by Davide Delle Cese (a native of Pontecorvo, Italy), and is considered one of the top ten internationally known marches in the world.
In America the US Marine Corps and US Army bands play these types of marches when they perform, but only about twenty of this particular type of Italian band still exist in the United States today. They are concentrated mainly in the Northeast, from Boston to Chicago and about as far south as Maryland.
Researcher Mark Pezzano labels himself a “fanatic affectionato” of the feast band, and has done much research on the tradition as well as maintains a collection of recordings of historic bands such as Giuseppe Creatore’s band and Salvatore Minichini's Italian Royal Marine Band. Mr. Pezzano also has recordings on CD and cassette of some of the existing bands, such as the Caliendo Banda Napoletana from Chicago and the Banda Rossa from Utica, NY.
The P. Cosentino Italian Band of Omaha, Nebraska
Pezzano explains why it is important to collect information such as histories, photographs, live recordings and other types of memorabilia of past and existing bands. We want to make sure the legacy of this music is not lost. We also want it to be documented in the annals of Italian American history. He states that the greatest thing would be to bring about a renewed interest. Mr. Pezzano is trying to document as much as he can. He says, “At the close of this labor of love I would like to donate all info to respected academic institutions and libraries so this information will be available to present and future generations.”
Mr. Pezzano also plans on putting together a program consisting of a lecture and audio- visual presentation to be scheduled for academic institutions and Italian American organizations. We want to help in any way we can so we are reaching out to the community for material as well as any information that is available. If you have knowledge of Italian band music, have a story of an old feast band, had any relatives involved, or have memorabilia you would like to share (recordings, old programs, photos etc.), Mr. Pezzano ask that you contact him. He also needs information on existing bands, so if you lead or belong to an existing band please contact Mr. Pezzano so your band can be documented and known to future generations.
You can contact Mark Pezzano by Telephone at (516) 931–2016, or e-mail him at italo61@aol.com