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Piping hot sounds

by Fabio Bonvicini last modified 2008-06-20 15:12

We go to Molise for an unusual music festival and discover not everyone wants to pipe in the new and that real men know their reeds

Piping hot sounds The road to Scapoli is long and winding. It follows the Trigno river through the Molise region, passing Isernia and Venafro before you arrive at destination. At every twist and turn of the road we come across someone playing music: zampognas (the traditional reed pipes), barrel organs, tambourines and ciaramellas (double-reed oboe). Inside the old shops locally made pipes hang on the wall beside their manufacturers' brochures, souvenirs and old well-played instruments. The streets are a-buzz with musicians, would-be musicians, and the plain curious all anxious to try out one of the famed pipes. We watch them as they lift the pipes to their lips, their faces turning purple in the effort. Music not yet in the making.
You've guessed, we're at the 2001 edition of the
Zampogna Festival. In the evening musicians from all over Europe regale the audience with their piping abilities: zampognas, Surdulinas, Bagpipes, Uilleann pipes, Pivas, Baghèts and Gaitas, they're all here.
Loyalties at the bar are not divided between left and right-wing political factions, nor rival football teams but rather advocates of traditional reed pipes as opposed to the new generation of hi-tech plastic pipes. Real reeds versus the GM variety. Castelnuovo al Volturno, just three kms down the road, is said to be the innovators' den whereas stalwarts of the traditional pipes Have their headquarters in Scapoli itself. The competition between the two camps is electric throughout the festival.

When night falls we head for the food stalls selling local specialities. And with a bottle of red wine costing LIT 3,000, home-made bread 1,000, spicy sausages 3,000 and sheep's cheese 3,000 we've certainly made the right decision.
After dinner I drop in on Enzo Miniscalco, one of the pipe makers who isn't afraid of using modern materials along with the more traditional. Then it's off to the hear I Musetta from Piacenza playing at the evening concert. I go backstage after the concert to congratulate them. And over a bottle they tell a little about themselves. "You know — says Bani the piper - Attilio and myself (on accordion), we've never really practised together. We used to play sessions together in the pub until the early hours of the morning. There's not much need to practise after that."
We round off the evening listening to Paddy Keenan on the
Uilleann pipes. The Irishman, who started playing the pipes when he was just six, has seven generations of pipers in his family and is one of the greatest contemporary pipers around.

The next day we wake up in pipers' heaven. All the pipers of the area and nearby Campania and Basilicata have gathered to play. We ask two local pipers if we can join, and off we go with out barrel organs marching through the streets of Scapoli. Onlookers lap and children squeal in glee. Pino Salamone from Terranova del
Pollino, the renowned piper and pipe maker, joins in. There's no time to exchange pleasantries, there's tunes to be played and music to be made.
In the evening another great concert awaits us. Riccardo Tesi directs a 12-piece band made up of all possible instruments and colours. New melodies mix with old favourites and stirring orchestra pieces follow haunting solos. At the end everyone is on their feet to applaud the world premier of these wonderful musicians.
As daylight approaches the party draws to a close. Some struggle towards their beds, others set off on their journey home while a few play the last few notes with the dawn chorus. We make our way back to our tents sure in the knowledge that we'll here again next year for the last weekend of July. Who knows, you may come too . . .

The Festival - : The official website of the Festival
Molise - : Find your way around the Molise region

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