Some stories just write themselves and the author stands by with pen in hand, looks down at the paper and says yes, yes that’s exactly what I wanted to say! And you can’t even remember writing it but it’s there and it’s so spot on! Life writes its own stories! Certainly, life wrote this one about three teenage boys. Teenagers! Think of your kid outside playing basketball or soccer. Could you imagine that he would walk off the court and into the limelight? I’m thinking your fondest hope would be that he would clean up his room.
How do you explain three amazing voices coming together on the same stage, at the same time? I have only one explanation. La Forza del Destino! It was fate! It was a plan! It was God’s plan!
Watching the guys recording these last few weeks brought back fond memories of the beginning. Before Sanremo, before Barbara Streisand, before Notte Magica! In the real beginning….
In the beginning there were three guys named Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca. They were ordinary guys!
Piero loved his motorbike! “When I arrived at the roundabout in the center of the city, voom, I did a wheelie with the motorbike.”
Ignazio loved to play soccer. “My main project when I went to school was to get home and spend the afternoon playing football.”
Gianluca, also, loved to play soccer! “How did I play soccer? I was good, come on, I did not like losing, I wanted to score goals by force, I never passed the ball, and when I had the ball, I scored.”
So, yes, they were ordinary kids but, they all had something special. They had a special gift from God. Their voice!
What was it that made them different? What was it about this baritone and two tenors that was different from other tenors or baritones? First and foremost, the delivery of these three voices was equal. The crispness and clarity in each voice was defined. They were alike but they were different. They were balanced! Roberto Cenci recognized these exceptional qualities and understood that they could blend into one beautiful voice so, he decided to put the three voices together. The result was they were an immediate sensation and they caused important people in the industry to stop and listen!
Each one separately was captivating, together, they were a gift that God gave to humanity!
The first meeting!
We have to keep in mind that in the beginning the guys were underage so any negotiations and plans for their future was handled by their parents. It was only after the parents first meeting with among others, Michele Torpedine, that the guys were informed that plans were being made for them. After this meeting the parents met again a month later and signed a contract for the guys to record with Universal.
I think Piero put it best when he said, “The day before, I went to my uncle’s workshop and the next day I signed a millionaire contract with an American label.”
The behind-the-scenes video of the guys recording “Tous les visages de l’amour” and, the recent recording of the Ennio Morricone album inspired me to write this article.
Let’s start by listening to Piero talk about their first meeting with Michele Torpedine.
“The day began well, calm, and quiet. I was having lunch at the hotel restaurant and a gentleman with a sand-colored raincoat and graying hair arrived. I heard footsteps behind me and a ‘Hello, Piero’ with this deep voice. You recognize Michele’s voice anywhere. You know, when I speak of that meeting, it reminds me of things I’ve seen in an American movie. It was from this that we started, three fifteen-sixteen-year-old idiots, and Torpedine, who had already become an icon for me. So, he sits with us and we start talking. After lunch, we got ready for rehearsal.
And, so, it begins!
Being teenagers there was always going to be some antics going on.
Gianluca recalls, “We were three children at the park playing. Ignazio, to name one, poured Coca-Cola on the floor in the dressing room and it ended up on Michele’s jacket. Michele turns and says, “Barbara look,” I still remember it, with a face looking like “Oh my God!”
Piero recalls, “And after the Coca-Cola there were plums. Our first meeting with Michele ends with plums flying from one dressing room to the other and Michele comes out with white hair, indeed no, because he already had white hair. No, he comes out with straight hair saying, ‘Are you three, crazy?’
In practice we threw plums from the door of our dressing room, to the one next to us. We had a mess that night.
What has changed from that day to today? Nothing. On tour, in the television broadcast rooms and sometimes even in the recording room, one of our favorite activities is the fruit launch. The best are the grapes (but we also use cherries). Ignazio throws them from a distance and, I have to take it on the fly and catch it in my mouth. It doesn’t matter if the Pope or Bono is in the dressing room next to us, it doesn’t impress us.”
Listen to what the guys had to say about the beginning of their career.
Piero: “At the beginning it was really a dream, even if I do not like repeating it, because you find yourself traveling the world and doing it, from one day to the next. However, I repeat, always without realizing the importance of the thing, without fully understanding what was happening.”
Ignazio: “So, a dream that Piero, in the clouds, has forgotten to say is the most important thing: it was the first time that Italian singers signed a contract directly with an American record company. But it was not that we signed the contract, the big thing was done, but it had yet to start!”
Gianluca: “Piero forgot to mention that ours was the first contract signed directly by Italian singers with an American label, but Ignazio forgot to mention that the first recording studio in which we entered all three together for our great adventure was called the Forum and it was in Rome.”
The first time in the studio!
Ignazio continues: “For us today there are seven takes to sing. At that time there were thirty or forty. You will say, what language does he speak? English, Spanish and, also a little Italian. So, a take is the recording of the single phrase that each of us sings when we record a song. We continue to redo it until we get the best version. In 2009, our first recording, took almost two days to record a song, until it was good. I remember that I made the absolute record of takes in “Smile,” I repeated my part for fifty-seven times.”
Piero: “…It was nice because it was the first experience. We did not sing well because we had no technique, so it was as Ignazio said. We did a take sixty or seventy times.
At that time, we arrived in the studio and we found everything ready. The songs to sing, the subdivisions, the arrangement, this and the other things. After the third album, we did everything together, we created everything with Celso Valli, our producer.
Those first times we did not have this freedom, everything was prepared for us because we did not have the skills to do it.
Now we have them (the skills) and we share the parts, we know each other better and, in the studio, we help each other. It is also nice to see that each of us now has his way to enter the recording room. Gianluca and I sing with the light on in the recording room. Ignazio, on the other hand, enters and the first thing he does is turn off the light. They are small details, but they mean that we have grown and, we have our own way of working.
Between the three of us, we have split up the roles. If there is a problem with the mixer, Ignazio works on it with the producer to fix it. Gianluca is the one who listens to the songs from morning to night and offers: ‘Guys, I discovered this songwriter,’ ‘Guys, I discovered this artist, what do you think?’ I like the managerial part. I like managing, I like to contact people, I like to propose new things to Michele, ‘Why do we not do that?’ ‘Why do we not try to do that?’ ‘How can we get to this person?’ I like us to put our heads together and think of how we can improve. We have a complete professional balance. We have grown physically, but also professionally. Even if we have a new producer, we do not know, we do not have any problems. We know how to talk to him and tell him what we want. This is the most important aspect: being at the same level.”
After this it was off to America for the guys.
Speaking of America! One year ago, we were enjoying the concerts in America! I saw the guys at Radio City Music Hall! Then the world turned upside down!
What in the world was going on? Literally in the World!
We started hearing about a pandemic. And it seemed the worst of it was in Italy. The guys began to worry. And then, no it was time to leave. Leave now or get stuck in America! It was time! They turned off the lights and went home!
(First message from Il Volo on the Covid situation, sent when they were still on tour in America)
They canceled their last three performances and the next thing we knew they were on their way home. But being true to form, like good children, they checked in with us as soon as they got home and told us they were safe and, they needed to be with their families now.
As you know the guys went into quarantine and stayed there for three and a half months.
Then the quarantine was over and, they left their houses. And something amazing started to happen!
The one thing they wanted more than anything was to get back to work. Well, they did have the commitment with Dolce & Gabbana which gave us a spectacular Sunday event. And there was the concert in Monte Carlo but, something was missing.
At Verona, they showed us what was missing!
But let’s step back a minute!
On the Friday afternoon before the performance, we watched the guys at sound check give a performance to the people who were scattered around the Verona Arena that would rival most concerts. And then later in the evening they returned to the Arena for light check.
Ignazio and Gianluca were making videos with their phones, while Piero was wandering around.
Ignazio get’s Piero’s attention.
Ignazio: “What are you doing?”
Piero shakes his head and asks. “What are you looking at?”
Ignazio (points): “The light that is there.”
Gianluca: “It’s Beautiful.”
Ignazio: “The gorgeous light. Gorgeous! Gorgeous!”
Of course, Piero pulled out his phone and started to video.
But what was it about the lights that got Ignazio’s attention? Well, they were as Ignazio said, “La Luce Stupenda!” “The lights were gorgeous,” but I think he was thinking about the last lights that he saw on stage.
That Saturday night when the guys were entering the Arena before the show they were stopped and asked this question by a woman reporter:
Reporter: “You are International entertainers therefore you know how much the live dimension is missing. But above all you have defined the stage as your natural element. So, how is it for you to return to a live performance tonight?”
Ignazio: “It’s like giving candy to a baby. We are happy because we missed it. We missed it to die for but not only for our personal thing but because this is to me the music slowly restarting with safety measures. But we are restarting it all with Italian music. It’s like I am starting again to grow up on stage and hope that it can be a message of hope for the groups, in the cities, in the emerging local areas who want to start making music. We have to continue making music and we hope for full concerts and full live by 2021.”
It was an absolutely beautiful statement that said it all! What I liked best about this statement was Ignazio saying “It’s like I am restarting it all with Italian music. I’m starting again to grow up on stage…” What did he mean? This time he is starting in Italy not America. He finally feels like he is at home! Bravo Ignazio! You are home.
When the guys arrived on stage, they had a message for the world and all the people in the industry:
Ignazio: “2020 will be remembered as the year where the world would be constrained to be turned off.”
Gianluca: “For the music employees the verb “turn off” means the end of the show, when the curtains close and it is the waiting moment for the next show, but this time the waiting lasted more than expected, the silence was unavoidable.”
Piero: “Now, the world is getting ready to start again! Now the moment has arrived to raise the curtain! Now, we will turn on the music!”
This beautiful statement was followed by the performance of the evening. Their choice of “Nessun Dorma” sent an even stronger message. It’s says we may have to perform under these new world conditions, but we don’t have to change who we are or why we’re here. In this ancient Arena we look to the past while following the path to the future.
Click on the photo below to view IL VOLO’s performance of “Nessun Dorma”.
From their first note the whole arena lit up. Their voices were clean and crisp. Their presence was illuminating. Their notes rose above the Arena into the night sky to let the world know music is back! The final note of their song sent the final message. All three voices rose in unison and their voices sent forth a note that took our breaths away! It said We Have Returned! “Turn on the Lights!”
What is so amazing about this is, over the months since they had left quarantine, they had almost single handedly brought back the music industry in Italy. All the work they’ve done since they left quarantine has been to move things forward in Italy. This includes their most important project the concert in Tribute to Ennio Morricone and the recording of their new album by the same name.
Seeing them back in the recording studio, these last few weeks, has been a joy. Listening to them sing “Your Love,” at Sanremo, even under trying circumstances, gave us hope for the future. This preview gave us a look into the new album which we are all anxiously awaiting. But above all, the guys have Hit the Restart Button! They have played a major part in the restart of the music industry In Italy!
Join me next week as I go back Through the Fields of My Mind and open the door to a new adventure!
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Credit to owners of all photos and videos.