Most of the time, the Flight Crew uses this blog to bring Il Volo to their fans. This time, I’m going to use an article to bring some of the fans to Il Volo. It’s my hope that when one of the guys or their parents occasionally check our blog, as they sometimes do, they’ll get to know about some of you. I had the good fortune of meeting so many great people before and after the Atlantic City Borgata Casino concert, I needed to introduce some of them here. I will also add a few more notes from the show in this post, just for fun and spice.
I have Ignazio to thank for this article, in a way. As you know, his birthday was on October 4. Since the Atlantic City concert was in late September, I made the beginnings of a birthday card for him in Italian, written on the back of a Lavazza coffee poster. When I was carrying it around in the Borgata Casino, many folks who saw it, even strangers, asked if it was something that was going to be sent up to Ignazio on stage. When they heard it was something that would end up in his hands, many people wanted to write and sign and send blessings and birthday wishes to him. I talked some of the others into it, but it wasn’t difficult. So, I got to meet dozens of new people while they wrote their greetings to Igna.
The first few people I interviewed were my Aunt Florence, from Holmdel, NJ, and her friends who had come down together from central Jersey to Atlantic City for the weekend and the concert. This photo is my aunt and her crew of friends. It was easy to learn their names. My aunt is on the front right, the person on the front left is Marianne Sciuto, and everyone else is named Marilyn. Well, all except my buddy in the back, Biagio Vincenzo Schettini.
Aunt Florence told me she loved visiting Firenze (Florence), Italy because the Florentines treated her special, since she shares a name with their home. Aunt Florence is typical of many long-time Il Volo fans: it’s hard to remember exactly when she first heard them, exactly what songs they performed, or how old they were. But like most folks, she does remember where she first heard them. Any guesses? It was on a PBS special.
In my travels throughout the casino, I found there are a few things most people agree on.
1. The overwhelming majority of people first heard of Il Volo, just like my aunt did, from a PBS special. My aunt’s friend Marilyn Barrett from Aberdeen, NJ is one of the many who encountered them this way. She recalls watching a PBS concert not too many years ago when the guys were in their early 20’s (not those very first PBS concerts when they were little boys beating each other up backstage). Her favorites are Mamma and Nessun Dorma. She wants to hear them do a rendition of Time to Say Goodbye from Andrew Lloyd Weber.
2. More than one lady told me they want Gianluca to meet their granddaughter, so he can become their grandson. Marianne Cirasuolo Sciuto from Holmdel, NJ was one of those. Marianne is another who first heard Il Volo on a PBS special. It’s funny how many people, including Marianne, even if they can’t pinpoint what year they first heard Il Volo, can remember that Piero was still wearing red eyeglasses, Igna was chubby, and Gianluca, well, was Gianluca.
Marianne’s favorites are Be My Love, the Great Caruso, Il Mondo and Il Volo’s version of O Sole Mio that blends in It’s Now or Never.
While Il Volo sang that at the Borgata show, Ignazio got down from the stage, danced with someone in the front left of the stage, grabbed her and wouldn’t let her out of his arms, and insisted she had to kiss him while he sang the verse “Kiss me my darling…” So typical.
3. To most people, Piero’s voice is nothing short of astonishing. Marilyn Mazzochi Fortunato from Holmdel, NJ was one of those who told me how impressed she was with his voice’s power. She first saw Il Volo on one of their PBS special fundraisers about seven years ago. Like me, one of her favorite songs is Nessun Dorma. She would like to hear them someday do Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World or maybe Vicin’ ‘O Mare, from Patrizio Buanne. Like many of us, she can cite the many times she heard Ignazio tease Gianluca about being short. When I met her in Atlantic City, that was her first live Il Volo concert. Igna did not tease Gianluca at that show. Gianlu teased Igna about his pancia, for most of the show.
Photo by Giovanna
4. For so many, Ignazio is the son or grandson they want to feed. As I mentioned in my last article, some of them actually do feed him right on stage.
5. Most preferred Gianluca’s look before he shaved off his Italian scruff. But they’ll take him any way they can get him. Here are both looks so you can choose. As I mentioned last time, whatever was troubling Gianluca during the Atlantic City soundcheck, by the time he reached the stage at showtime, he got over it. Check the photo on the right.
Right photo by Giovanna
6. Many fans decided it’s attractive when the guys wear dress suits and designer shoes senza calze (with no socks), Italian style. I make no argument.
7. Several said they would travel to Italy to hear Piero’s first opera performance, if and when he finally does that. I’m hoping it will be Cavalleria Rusticana, which he’s been studying.
By the way, while Piero was visiting with us during the Atlantic City soundcheck, he spent most of the time accovacciato (in a deep squat) just like this so he could get down close to us to talk. I told you previously how much I enjoy his mellow speaking voice when he’s up this close. I was ordered not to use my soundcheck photo, which looks much like this one, so I borrowed this one from the web.
8. “When they open their mouth, you don’t expect what actually comes out.” This is how Andrea Casaburri Babajko from Old Bridge, NJ expressed it. She and her husband Edward last saw the guys at the Wind Creek concert in Bethel, PA on Gianluca’s birthday in February 2020. She always enjoyed how Ignazio and Piero used to do their comedy act on stage while Gianluca watched from the side. Gian is her favorite; for her as for many, he defines cute. She told me a bit of her past that many Italian Americans can identify with. Her parents were first generation Americans. When she was young, her parents and grandparents wouldn’t teach her to speak Italian. They apparently wanted to have a language they could use when they wanted to say things that they didn’t want the children to hear. Today, when she would love to understand what the Il Volo guys are saying, she can’t. Well, that’s what we Flight Crew people are here for.
Speaking of a comedy act, Igna and Piero did add in the “See you later alligator” bit which was achingly funny when Ignazio tried to say, “After a while crocodile” as he left the stage for a break. He just couldn’t pronounce the “crocodile” thing with his accent.
Photos by Giovana
SOME MORE THINGS I LEARNED
1. It’s not just women who follow the guys; guys follow the guys.
My auditorium seat neighbors, Sandra and Bob from Delaware, told me that they have followed Il Volo since their first New York concert 16 years ago. Bob is as much a long-time fan as his wife. They told me that the first show they saw was in a theater in New York that started with the letter “A”. Do any of you readers know what theater that might have been?
My friend Biagio Vincenzo became acquainted with Il Volo on a PBS special or two, just like many others. He did not have to be asked twice to come hear them live when the opportunity came.
2. Along for the Ride.
One of the most exciting things for me was my Aunt Florence’s friend Marilyn Ratel from Aberdeen, NJ. She told me she was a fan of Dean Martin. She’s in good company because Gianluca is also a Dean Martin fan. Why was I excited for her? Before this trip, she never heard of Il Volo, never heard a single performance or recording, knew nothing about them, and came to Atlantic City because the other ladies talked her into it. She walked into the concert “blind” as it were, having no idea what she was going to hear and be part of. She described herself as “along for the ride.” What a ride she got!
Gianluca, plus hat, receiving a Dean Martin award from the Abruzzo community.
3. Some American fans had to leave the US to even hear of Il Volo.
I met Rita Fries, from Philadelphia, while we were in line to get our postponed tickets printed. She and her husband never heard of Il Volo until they vacationed outside the US five years ago in . . . Aruba of all places. Someone in Aruba was the first to tell them about Il Volo, whom they checked out on YouTube. Rita has since joined every on-line Il Volo group she could find including Facebook groups, fan clubs, and Flight Crew. The first time she and her husband heard Il Volo live was in this very same Borgata Atlantic City auditorium on Gianluca’s birthday weekend in February of 2020. She said Piero stole her heart, right down to the look and the glasses. She told me that following them on PBS specials is not enough for her; as long as she lives, she will go to every concert she can get to. This Atlantic City concert was her first soundcheck and first VIP ticket. She picked a good one to attend her first soundcheck, since Piero took so much time with us.
Catherine Land from Philadelphia, who has been to the Borgata before on Valentine’s Day in 2018, gets the prize for how an American fan first heard of Il Volo. Her family is from Campobello di Licata, Sicily. That’s not far from Piero’s home in Naro, and is north of the summer house I had rented in Sicily in 2020 before Covid shut down my trip. Here’s her story. It happened when she was in Italy 11 or so years ago visiting family in Sicily. She was watching television and, not planning exactly what she wanted to watch, came across a talent show on live TV. Guess which one? Yes, Ti Lascio Una Canzone. She saw a certain three little boys at the same time the rest of Italy first saw them. She can actually say she’s been with them from Day 1.
During the Borgata concert, after they finished singing I Wonder Would She Even Know Me Now from Cinema Paradiso, Piero asked the audience if they knew how Il Volo met. As a joke he offered free tickets to the next show to whomever knew the answer. There were so many people yelling Ti Lascio Una Canzone, they would have to give away most of the seats in the auditorium. I think they should have given a prize to Catherine.
4. Some European fans had to move to the US to hear of Il Volo.
Maria Atanasova, from Fairlawn, NJ, was born in Bulgaria. She did not become acquainted with Il Volo until she came to the US, when someone showed her a YouTube video. She was aware they have played in Bulgaria, but that’s not where she saw her first concert. Atlantic City, the day I met her, was her first concert. Her favorite is Ignazio, and not just for constantly being a rompiscatole, as he calls himself. (I’m not going to translate that). She prefers his stretched lyric tenor voice. Her favorites are Il Mondo and Grande Amore.
5. Some fans have met every one of the guys’ parents.
I met Joanne D’Angelo from Philadelphia, PA when she heard me speaking Italian in the upstairs hallway. She has studied Italian for over 20 years. She was actually at the very first Il Volo US concert at the Borgata Atlantic City and remembers the exact date, September 24, 2011. Yes, Ignazio was chubby, Piero had the funny red glasses. But none of that mattered. Since the 2011 show she has been to 18 concerts, many of them in Italy. These include one in Naples, and the 2014 Pescara concert where she met Gianluca’s father, Ercole, in Montepagano afterwards. She has met every one of the Il Volo parents before or since.
6. Il Volo does reach young Americans.
I actually met some of them. My friend Biagio took me to visit his sister, Elvira, the weekend of the concert, and I got another surprise. When his nephew and his nephew’s fiancée, Christian and Kimberly, both 28-year-old young professionals, heard us talking about the show, they immediately joined us from the other room, explaining that they were big fans as well. Before the visit was over, these two were asking how to find tickets for the New York City show the following weekend. I don’t know if they ever got them. I do know it’s not always the case that the young lady discovers Il Volo first and coaxes their spouse or partner to listen. In this case it was the guy who got his girlfriend to listen in. How’s that for a change? These folks were kind enough to write what they wanted the rest of us to know. Here they are in their own words to prove I’m telling the truth:
Photo by Giovanna
Christian Schettini, from Staten Island NY: “I first listened to Il Volo when they were still teenagers about 8 or 9 years ago. I was searching YouTube for O Sole Mio and came across a music video featuring teenage boys. I was incredibly impressed and have been a fan since!”
Kimberly Bellido, from New York, NY: “My first time listening to Il Volo was on a road trip to Toronto. It was on the road trip playlist that my boyfriend made. I absolutely loved their song Il Mondo.”
So, you see, it wasn’t ladies first this time.
Thank you to everyone who spent some time with me and my note papers, cell phone and camera. The next time I’m at a show I will try to get to know more of you.
How about some of you readers telling us how you first heard of Il Volo, especially if it was some unusual way, or tell us what song you’d like to hear Il Volo perform someday. Hopefully, one of the guys, one of their parents, or Barbara Vitale, or Michele Torpedine will notice and maybe make it happen.
Credit to owners of all copied photos.