Patroni di Puglia
 
theMusic
 
of Maria Sportelli
 
 
It is about midnight, the great illuminations lighted to honour the Patron Saint of Conversano (Bari), the Madonna della Fonte (the second last Sunday of May), floodlight the small square in front of the Town Hall. Devotees and curious people, the ones with the others just like a unique and big family, wait for the band to get off the Soundbox in order that the rite that marks the end of the feast should take place. A rite that recalls to mind the gesture of a tradition, symbol of the sense of belonging to a land, Apulia, made of bread and black olives. The sound closed inside the dummy walls of the soundbox is now free, travels at the musicians’ fast pace who, dressed in their beautiful white uniform make a niche for themselves among the surprised faces of those who, for the first time, have gathered the essence of the tour band.  Here is Vita Pugliese, notes of a symphonic march (by Maestro Giuseppe Piantoni) that brings inside it the history of the people of Conversano, that has “the band in the head”, meaning that they are band maniacs. It has been confirmed by the councillor in charge of the Cultural Politics, Pasquale Sibilia who, in order to enhance it, has developed a three-year project with the two historical town bands: the “Grande Orchestra di Fiati Gioacchino Ligonzo – Città di Conversano” and the “Storico Grande Concerto Bandistico Città di Conversano - Giuseppe Piantoni”. The projects will end this year with the opening, expected by the end of September, of the “Museo delle Bande”: it will contain the collection of the Musical Cultural Association “G.Piantoni” (president Ruggiero Chiummo), photos and audio-video material collected by the Grande Orchestra di Fiati “G. Ligonzo” (Maestro Angelo Schirinzi). Everything has just started, it does not matter from which town it has started its travel, Lecce, Squinzano (LE), Manduria (TA), Franca Villa Fontana (BR), Acquaviva delle Fonti (BA), where we can find other important band realities, the tour band brings in itself, all around the town in Italy and abroad, a piece of Apulia and it is sufficient to pay their respects to the “nomads of the stave”, as Bianca Tragni, first historian of the Apulian tour bands, poetically defines the bandsmen.
Today, they are professional musicians, once they were craftsmen, countrymen, tradesmen educated by Kapellmeisters to play the great music that for the first time goes off the niche and becomes popular. Going back in time, we can remember the band of Terlizzi (1773), we are in the French century when little bands are born on the example of the military bands, but they have not a permanent conductor. The first Conductor arrives in 1780 with the band of Orsara di Puglia (FG), but the first big band in Apulia is born on 1797 in Acquaviva delle Fonti, conducted by an anti-Bourbon Carbonaro, Iacobellis.  “In Conversano, too, there is musical excitement – professor Ruggero Chiummo has explained – the Municipality institutionalizes the band by a notarial deed in 1832 (kept in the historical Archives of Conversano (BA), a copy is presently shown at the Castle), hence the Storico Concerto Bandistico Municipale is born; it is given to the Kapellmeister Vitantonio La Volpe with a precise request: to involve the young and educate to music. Hence the band plays also an educational role.
In 1871 the Municipality makes the first official uniform designed and in 1881, awards the band a grant so that among its members there should be the involvement of particularly gifted musicians from Conversano, numerically not inferior to 30 and that should engage in Sunday concerts in squares or during important religious feasts’. Only the plague and the popular rebellions – from 1884 to 1886 – stop the activity of the band that takes vigour again in 1890 so that, differently from elsewhere the band of Conversano is the only following a one century course, marked by investments and innovations. In 1923 the Probanda association is born to help the Municipality in supporting it. The amateurism period ends, from now on the band is given to excellently skilled Conductors as Franco Galeoni (in the 20s of the XX century) and the great Giuseppe Piantoni (1925). Pupil of Mascagni, he brings the band to glory by a series of innovations: the bandsmen become 60 and rebalances the group increasing the number of woodwind compared to brass. After his death another great Maestro, Gioacchino Ligonzo (1950) succeeds, his heir is Maestro Angelo Schirinzi who, with the new band established by Ligonzo: “La Grande Orchestra di Fiati Gioacchino Ligonzo – Città di Conversano”, has taken the band to a new level (Festival Bandalarga, end of July, beginning of August) aiming at involving a younger audience. “Staging also great operas as Nabucco – Schirinzi explained – the band has started playing the role of protagonist, as in our history”. Following this aim, the Municipality of Conversano will ask the UNESCO for recognition as immaterial cultural heritage of Mankind in order to give value to the whole Apulian band patrimony.
As a matter of fact, the band is a value, not only for the Arts Town but for the whole Apulia.




















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