When the guys set out for the Auditions at Via dei Gracchi there was no way they could have known that they were on a Road Trip to Stardom.
Along the way, the guys had to be thinking about how this will all play out. I think they were thinking, “How do I present myself?” I’m sure they already had their music prepared but, they must have been thinking, “Is this the right song? Does this song really show them who I am….and what my voice is about?” They have to be wondering what will take place. “Do I just go into a studio and sing and…. will they ask me to sing other songs too?” Great pressure for such young boys. But they did have many things in their favor. For one their voices. It was certain that beyond the three there would be no voices to compare to theirs. As to Gianluca, he sang with the choir and so this would be his first experience in a competition. As to Piero and Ignazio, they were used to competitions so for them it was just another competition, or was it? I think if anything, Piero and Ignazio had a better feel for what they were up against. It was more realistic because they knew the ups and downs and all the drawbacks.
When they arrive for the audition at Via dei Gracchi in Rome their story and the Audition begins. Let’s listen to what Gianluca had to say about his experience….
I’m sorry for Piero and Ignazio, but I did not have to wait for a phone call to know the result of the audition for Ti Lascio Una Canzone. Via dei Gracchi in Rome, I remember very well. It is in a fairly central area, in the Prati district and not far from the Vatican, a very long street full of very beautiful buildings. From Montepagano to Rome, the distance is not much, just over an hour. We got in the car in the afternoon, calmly. There was the complete family: dad at the wheel, mom sitting next to him, I in the back seat with the two Ernesto of the house, my grandfather, who was proud and satisfied with that trip even if we did not know yet how it would end, and my brother, who at the time was only seven years old.
“How much is missing? (Are we there yet?)” I asked my dad. And after five minutes: “And now how much is missing?”. And after another five minutes: “And now how much is missing?” Fortunately, the road was short, or I would have made him mad. I was very anxious I had never done anything so important. Already for me to go to RAI, in short, it is not something that I can explain in words.
When we entered, I realized that I would not be alone to support that audition. There were many other guys, all with their parents, a long line of people, but I was not worried because I was there just for fun, it was already an adventure.
When they called my name, I entered the registration room. Roberto Cenci was there. It was the first time I saw him. The impact was a bit ‘so, because he has a very tough character, does not convey much sympathy at the first meeting. But the essential thing is that I start to sing: “I wanted to be a little alone to think, you know ….” I had chosen The Voice of Silence. I remember it perfectly. I was thirteen – the first audition was in November 2008 – and I already had this deep, baritone voice.
I sang in the recording room and saw the others on the other side of the glass. There was Roberto Cenci, my grandfather was there with my mother, my brother, and my father, all in the other room. So, I sing and at one point, Roberto stops the music and says: “Stop all”. “What happens?” I thought. From where I was, I did not understand anything, I saw only the faces.
“This boy” continues Roberto, addressing my family, “he was kissed by the Lord”. All I could see were only the faces of my parents and in my head, I kept asking “What’s up?”, And at a certain point I did not make it anymore and I opened the door, I went to Roberto and in the meantime, I repeated: “What’s going on?” I was small, I could not realize. My father, made a face, I do not forget, he looks at me and says: “Nothing, good!”
“Congratulations” Roberto tells me, hugs me, makes me sing another song, calls all the others on the staff. “Feel this baby, you feel like singing.” I remember these scenes very well. I see it again. And I was very excited, I was very happy, I could not even sing, at one point I even stuck. Because I did not expect such a positive reaction from Roberto Cenci and all the others, producers, technicians and I do not know who else there was, that day, because Roberto had called everyone.
My mother and father never stopped smiling. My grandfather was very happy, if possible, more than when we left. My brother was small, but it was clear to him that it was a party. In the end, do you know until how late we stayed in that hall? Until nine in the evening, because Roberto Cenci called me back even after the audition to make me sing some more songs, to start making me try some duet. In short, when we said goodbye, I was exhausted, but I was bursting with joy.
From that day in Rome, I remember very well Ignazio’s mother. I do not remember seeing either Piero or Ignazio, but Caterina yes. During the audition they made us sing in a recording room, outside in the queue was Ignazio’s mother. Caterina heard the voice of someone singing, and she had listened to me. When I came out, she looked at me and said: ‘Congratulations! Bravo, very good!’ She heard me sing and she thought Andrea Bocelli was in the recording room.
Bravo for Gianluca. Let’s see what Ignazio has to say about it….
But I did not really believe it. I remained as usual with my feet firmly planted on the ground. I must admit it: at first it was a bit perplexed at the idea of going to audition because it is so, I am always the pessimist, but then, we talked about it in the family, as we have always been used to doing, and we said to ourselves: “Why not?” So, in the end I went to do the auditions in Rome, funded by mom and dad, who in the meantime were continuing to make great sacrifices for me.
I arrived in Via dei Gracchi, where the auditions were held, with mum Caterina and dad Vito. There were many guys like me who were hoping for something positive without expecting anything, trying not to have too many illusions.
At the beginning I was also quite calm, it could not be much different from singing on stage. Anxiety began to rise as my turn approached. And here they call my name: “Boschetto?”.
I get up and go into the studio where the boys were singing. There he was waiting for me, Roberto Cenci, who looked at me and asked me: “Dear Boschetto, what are you letting us hear today?”: I had chosen ‘Ti Cerchero’ ‘by Gigi Finizio and Melodrama by Andrea Bocelli.
‘Thank you very much’ was the only thing Roberto Cenci told me when I finished singing. All there? But how had I done? Was I okay? I had no idea but, climbing the stairs, Pannocchia, who was the manager who accompanied us, tells me that I have to study a song within thirty minutes. What song? ‘The Winner Takes It All’ of ABBA. To help me there was Luca Pitteri, a vocal coach who collaborated with AMICI and who at that time worked for Ti Lascio Una Canzone.
They gave me a CD player and I started to listen and study the song, and after exactly thirty minutes they called me back, we went down again in the studio and Roberto Cenci was still waiting for me. ‘Please, start’ he said, and the base started. I cannot say if I sang well, I do not remember anything other than the fact that somehow, they let me guess that I was inside the program, I had succeeded, but I tried not to build too many castles in the air as we returned home. What I did not know was that while I was inside singing the Winner Takes It All, outside my mother Caterina and Pannocchia spoke and he said: ‘Ignazio is in the program, madam!’ But they did not even tell me. Of course, I had a positive feeling, but how positive is the presentiment of one who is pessimistic. After a few days they called me back telling me that I had to go back to Rome. I did not know why, but already only the phone call, it filled me with joy. Maybe I had to take another test? I know it may sound strange, but I really did not know what to expect. Then in reality the reason for the summons to Rome was to tell me that I had been taken, I was in the cast of Ti Lascio Una Canzone.
Bravo, Ignazio, you’re in! What does Piero remember about the Audition….
What do I remember from the audition?
I remember that it was in Via dei Gracchi in Rome, that I arrived there with La Voce Del Silenzio and the unfailing Un Amore Così Grande and that with the suits that my father bought me, I felt like a king.
‘Mr. Barone, we’ll let you know’ they told Dad when I finished singing. After five days, the longest of my life, they call and say: ‘Prepare these five pieces for the next audition.’ Those five tracks were:
Sei Nell’Anima of Gianna Nannini,
La Voce Del Silenzio,
Un Amore Così Grande
Voglio Vivere Così
Domenica E’ Sempre Domenica
The aim was to test myself on different genres, of course, to understand which one was the most suitable for me. So, I get to the recording studio in Rome and start singing. Only shortly thereafter, they stop the music. The first so, the second so and I was already demoralized: if a test does not make you even to the refrain is not a good sign. The first thing I thought was that I did not go well. At the third track I attack the refrain, ‘Un Amore Così …….” and they stop the musical base. When I left the recording room and arrived in the mixer room, I found dad with my brother and a friend who had come to Cosenza with us at the Tour Music Fest, all three beautiful smiling, quiet. I died and they are happy. There is something wrong. Roberto Cenci looks at me and tells me: “Bravo, Piero: you are inside the program.” But I really believed it only when they brought me to the seamstress.
Bravo Piero you’re in too. Actually, thinking back, did anyone ever doubt they would get in with those three amazing voices.
So what happens next is like watching a train go by. Everything is moving fast and coming into place. The competition has begun, and people are starting to understand who these three boys are. Not just some kid who came to a competition with hopes, no they were three kids with voices that could knock you out. The producers, directors everyone around them is feeling something special. The next thought is what do we do with amazing voices like theirs?
To see where this is all going, let’s return to Piero who will begin by telling us what happened with the Rehearsals….
Ti Lascio Una Canzone was aired in the Ariston Theater in Sanremo, but the first rehearsals for the transmission we made in Rome starting in March.
Upon landing at Fiumicino, there was a coach from the editorial staff waiting for us. We were still just a group of kids who did not know each other, we came from different parts of Italy, and we were different ages. I did not know what to expect.
I get on this bus and the first person I immediately notice is a nuisance who sang (sang from morning to night, in continuation), who screamed, screamed, was never silent, never stopped. It went on all the way, I cannot forget it, especially because from Fiumicino to Rome center there is about an hour’s drive. All that time talking, screaming and singing, damn him.
Arrival at the hotel it was not difficult to start meeting other guys. But do you know how certain things go? It was easy for people in the same room to communicate with each other. But I wanted to get to know the others, so alone, I went down in the hall, and I found Luigi Fronte, who was a little one for me because I was fifteen, Micaela Foti and the guy who was singing on the bus.
‘Hi, pleasure, I’m Piero’, I introduce myself.
‘Hi, I’m Manuela.’
And this other one? ‘I am Ignazio, presents himself.’
With Ignazio from the first moment, a strong relationship has been established. What do you mean? We were looking for each other. We were always together: I, him and Luigi. Luigi was the mascot, the little one who was with us. We rehearsed with Ignazio, we talked, we joked. Maybe because he was Sicilian like me. Gianluca, I did not know him right away, there was not a great bond from the beginning, he built himself with time.
From that very first Wednesday of trials, I remember perfectly because I seemed to see the same images of the choir: I and Ignazio sitting on the left and around a lot of females. I sang, ‘Non Ti Scordar Di Me,’ at the first episode and ‘Mamma’ at the second, ‘Granada’ at the third.
We sang on Saturday night on Sunday I had the flight back to Sicily. Monday, Denise was preparing all the things to learn, she told me the pages to study, ‘Of history, do this.’ ‘I have stressed the words to remember.’ I arrived at school on Tuesday morning, I did all the interrogations and left the following day.
When I got to the rehearsals, we had to have already prepared the pieces that had been assigned to us. The editorial staff sent us all Monday and we had to study them at home for the next installment.
On Monday, between the end of the third episode and the beginning of the fourth, I get the text of ‘Un Amore Così Grande’ to sing alone – so far, all normal – and of ‘’O Sole Mio’ divided into three parts. What will this thing be?
In which it is said that alone you can go far, but in company even more. And it’s even more fun.
Piero, I think you boggle Ignazio’s mind. Slow down for a minute and let the others tell what happened to them. Ignazio seems to have some other concerns….
How much do you run Piero!
He is already on the fourth installment and I’m still here thinking about how nervous I was that night. It was April 4, 2009, the evening of the start of the program. Who had ever faced a television experience? It is also true that this agitation of television I only had it at the beginning. Yes, we were all aware that this was television, but for the ingenuity we had at that age, for us it was like singing in the home theater. And then, I had already seen theaters and stages. The thing that made me understand that there was something different was to see all the famous guests. But for the rest, we realized little of the difference.
Even stranger was that until then I had arrived as quiet as usual. Perhaps also because in the previous week I had the opportunity to meet my fellow adventurers, and I had immediately linked with Veronica Liberati, Sonia Mosca and Piero Barone, a Sicilian boy like me who did a little the kind that belonged to me. I had also known Gianluca Ginoble but I attended him less because he was part of the group of ‘jocks’ (even today we take it around because some remained so!)
‘La Nostra Favola’ was my debut song on the first episode, I even got the words wrong, but it went very well. On returning to Marsala, I clearly felt that things were changing, people recognized me, but I tried to take everything with great humility. The first rule for me has always been to keep my feet on the ground. The more weeks passed, the more people recognized me, but I tried to remain the same as always.
To get ready for rehearsals, the week before the episode, they gave us the songs to study for the evening. And at the third night I get the songs that I would have to sing the following Saturday, at the fourth episode. There was something strange. There were songs that I would have done alone, but also ‘’O Sole Mio that’ I would have to sing with two other guys.
What news was that?
Okay, so it seems Ignazio has it together. He understands the situation and what is expected of him. Actually, not very different from what he was used to in competition except for the special guests and this strange trio thing. And what did Gianluca think about the rehearsals….
Ignazio, I do not believe you were amazed by that news! In my opinion, the earthquake-Ignazio was not astonished, but he surprised others. At the audition, I told you, I have no memory of having seen neither he nor Piero. But once the selections were over, we were all put together in Rome, I do not remember in which hotel, from where we started by coach to go to rehearsals with the RAI orchestra.
Here, from there it was impossible not to notice Ignatius. We were a total of about thirty kids with their parents, and he was screaming, singing, making a mess, he alone seemed to be the choirs of the southern corner of Rome (football team) all together. Ignazio has always been like that, even today he is, he will never lose this way even at the age of fifty, and that’s what makes him special.
And Piero? Of him, I’m sorry to admit it, I have no particular memories of that period. We were all in the same hotel, but we were many and I tied up with other guys first. But there was a nice climate, we all have a lot of fun together.
Of the Ti Lascio Una Canzone period, I also remember another emotion, that of the long journey I did every week by car from Roseto to Sanremo.
My week was organized like this: on Monday and Tuesday I went to school, I was doing the eighth grade, and on Wednesday morning between six and seven we went to Sanremo with my father. The time to arrive and the tests were announced for three days, until Friday. On Saturday there was the transmission and on Sunday morning we left for Roseto. It was a long journey, a bit for the many hours in the car and the miles we did every week, a bit because I was away from home, in the hotel, away from the rest of my family and all my friends. But I’ve never been sad, I never complained, because I was so happy to sing.
On the first trip to Sanremo I remember the arrival. What do I mean? The first episode of the broadcast would have aired on Saturday 4 April. I arrived at the hotel on Monday, March 30th, while everyone else arrived on Thursday. There was nobody, the desert. Of the other trips I remember Andre Bocelli. When in March we started the rehearsals in Rome, I spent Tuesday afternoons, strictly only after the homework, to listen to his CDs, and I continued to do it also in the car to Sanremo. That’s how I learned all his repertoire. ‘Do you know this?’ they asked me to see how far I could know his songs. ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I know all of them by heart:’
Among other things, from mid-January to mid-March of that year, ‘TV Sorrisi e Canzoni’ had published every week a disc of the discography of Bocelli, consisting of ten CDs. Every Monday I went to the newsagent and bought the newspaper with the attachment. Imagine a child of thirteen who goes to the newsstand, punctual and excited because I was very happy, to buy a CD of a musical genre that his peers do not even know exists. But I was like that, I was really in love with that music. At that time, we say that it was as if each of us three had a role in transmission.
Piero was the Claudio Villa of the situation, Ignazio was Massimo Ranieri and Albano, and I was Bocelli. It was like having entered a little in one part and I became even more passionate about Bocelli’s music, which had become for me an idol and an inspiration.
My idol, however, was absolutely forbidden on school days, Monday and Tuesday, the only two who were free from the commitments of the TV. Ti Lascio Una Canzone started on 4 April 2009 and ended on 30 May, a period that coincided with the school months in which I had to prepare for the eighth-grade exam. Before that, there had been rehearsals in Rome throughout the month of March.
From March to the end of May, it was impossible to study on the days dedicated to rehearsals. I did homework and school questions on Monday and Tuesday, before returning to Sanremo. I told you, at school I have always been a lazy man, but despite all that year I managed to keep my average, in some matters I had the capacity six and some other seven. At the school interviews with the parents before the exams, my father heard the same thing from all the teachers: ‘All right, he kept the average.’ They were not telling me that I was a genius, I never was, but I managed to do well despite my commitments. So, my dad was satisfied.
From May 30th, when the broadcast ended, I had time to prepare for the eighth-grade exam, which went well.
If I really have to tell it all, what hurt me at the time were the comments of some of my peers in the country, who said that I was promoted only because I went on television. Imagine: I was thirteen, I had lived a dream, I had committed myself to be able to meet all the deadlines at school and then those comments come. Fortunately, that summer took another turn.
It started taking it on Monday before the episode of April 25, 2009, when I got the songs that I had to prepare and I saw that there was one, ‘’O Sole Mio,’ divided into three parts. Of course, a little strange it seemed to me. Almost all of us had made duets in transmission, but no trio had been composed until that moment.
I had no idea what to expect. Maybe I did not even ask. The important thing, I told you, was to sing and have fun.
So, The Audition is over, but the Rehearsals go on. Soon everything will change. No one could even imagine what would happen next.
That was quite a journey from home to Via dei Gracchi and on to Sanremo. The thoughts of how it would be are now in the past. Now it’s time to concentrate on what will happen next. The guys are in place to meet their destiny but are they prepared for what lies ahead. And are their families ready for what will happen in their lives and the lives of all their family members. It’s all moving to fast now. The train has left the station and it is now in high speed. Next stop Stardom. See you there!
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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*Excerpts from Il Volo, Un’avventura straordinaria, La nostra storia.