Traditional Ticinese Instruments
The piva is a very fine sounding bagpipe much different from its Scottish cousin, which dates back to the 15th century. The organetto is a diatonic accordion, the ancestor of today’s accordion. Mauro is a virtuoso in coaxing the most amazing sounds out of this instrument. His finger tips literally fly, dance, jump, hop and strike over the push buttons on both sides of the bellows, at incredible speeds. The twelve-hole clay flute that resembles the shape of a small hairdryer is called ocarina. All of these traditional instruments together with recorder, percussion, voice, guitar, and saxophone are what the two artists bring to the repertoire. They play public concerts and at private occasions; teach accordion lessons and hold folk dance and folksong workshops, always introducing their pieces with a brief background to its history and content.
Last Summer Concert
It’s Vent Negru’s last summer evening concert and I’m driving the winding road into the Onsernone valley once again. The fiery red sun is sinking rapidly behind the craggy mountains, spreading gold and crimson shadows over the hilly land. A burst of light flashes for a brilliant moment as a ray hits the glass window of a stone farm house dotting the landscape. It is darkening quickly and the air has a bite to it as I arrive at the chapel Madonna di Loreto south of Berzona, the village that Max Frisch, Golo Mann and other famous people called home.
I join a hand-full of locals and visitors as Mauro and Esther punctually open the chapel doors, greet every visitor as we walk through. As all churches in the area, the pale yellow stone walls are painted with frescos in blue; the dark woodwork of pews and altar are carved in simple patterns. The cool, peaceful stillness hushes us; candle light wraps us in a warm glow, and into this expectant silence, the duo plunges us into the rhythm and scintillating sounds of the region.
Joyous Dances d’Amore flood my heart with the memory of the rush of first love; traditional soldier songs from Lombardia want to make me march but with the twist that it’s about a young woman, dressed up as her father, following her lover into battle; an ephemeral waltz tune melts me to the core. The lyrics paint vivid pictures: “…the sky which tumbled into the lake this morning…”, “…oh, to travel afar, far away from the church tower, like the swallows beyond the ocean…”
Summer concerts or Riflessioni Musicali are dedicated to the people’s liturgy and traditional ballads which align in text and sound with the chapel space in which they’re performed. Traditional instrument and/or music of similar distinction is added by the artists, for example Boeves psalm by the Swedish accordionist Lars Holmer (1948 – 2008), arranged by Vent Negru (sound sample).