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Time Out: Gianluca, Tour Guide and Ambassador By Giovanna

Roseto TV interviewed Gianluca on June 2 outdoors at Cabana Park, with the beautiful Adriatic Sea in the background.  The segment, entitled “Gianluca Ginoble:  Il Lockdown, Le Passioni, L’Abruzzo, La Musica, Il Volo,” reached YouTube and Il Volo Italian’s Instagram page a week ago.  Gianluca was quite comfortable with the interviewer, Luca, an Abruzzo native he knows well, and was willing to open up about his non-professional life. 

If you listen to the link, you’ll notice that late in the interview, the two are sometimes talking right over each other.  As I listened, I realized that Luca wasn’t always asking questions.  He was pontificating, with pauses for answers, and as soon as Gianluca started speaking in the pauses, Luca would cheer him on, finishing Gianluca’s sentences, talking at the same time.  If you’re Italian or have been around Italians, you know that’s normal.  

I’m not sure exactly where in this post Jana or Pat will place the photos.  So, I will not refer to any photo being “above” or “below” my text.  You’ll just have to find it.  It’s more fun that way. 

Daniela, from the Flight Crew, agreed that Gianluca seems to be the most active in the media of the three Il Volo guys. 

Ignazio for a long time preferred not to post a lot of images, but rather, occasionally used Instagram as a form of musical air time.  You may have noticed he has recently been posting tantalizing clips and snippets of his vocals, accompanying himself on piano or guitar, or singing with other performers, or promoting his compadre Siciliano, Nico, whose work he produces.  Igna is an industrious, creative, high energy sort.

Piero protects his privacy and home life more than Gianluca does, but still frequently posts shots and videos of his workouts at home, in the gym, or outdoors in the sand.  I’ve even shown some of his past pictures to the trainers in my gym, who liked his workouts and sometimes even copied them.

L’Intervista (On to the Interview)

Luca explains it’s June 3, 2020 and he’s with Gianluca Ginoble, a Rosetano from their beloved Montepagano, an internationally known artist with Il Volo.  He welcomes Gian and asks him:  How have you spent the quarantine period for the COVID19 Coronavirus emergency?

Gian: Despite all the negativity of the situation, I have tried to find positive things.  For example, I have re-discovered passions that I haven’t exactly abandoned, but, well . . .   For one thing, I have started playing the piano. I became passionate about books and literature, about being with my family, things that you well know get set aside when we are away eight months per year on tour.   You could say that this quarantine hasn’t really been completely negative, because I have been close to my family and have rediscovered passions that I didn’t even know I had.

Luca: That’s an interesting reflection because I think that the issue of rediscovering one’s roots and one’s family, and having personal time, is an important message.  

He then asked Gianluca how he passes his days, in the so-called Phase 2, where there’s some freedom to go out (still respecting social distance) with masks no longer constantly required.  He asks what Gianluca’s up to, now that he’s is free to take get out and do some things.

Gian: Because of the COVID we’ve had to cancel our series of concerts through October.  So, for this time I’ll still be at home.  We of course have some filmed interviews and televised get-togethers, as we’ve done during the quarantine.  But I’ve been relaxing. I’ve started playing tennis.  I’m enjoying the seashore at Roseto d’Abruzzi.  I don’t go to other places, even if you can go outside the region from today on.  So, I’m staying here.  Yesterday we were at Rocca Calascio.  Every week my family has a regular date to go hiking in the mountains.

Luca: That’s also a wonderful lead in, because I remember that for several years you’ve been an official ambassador both of Abruzzo, and of Roseto d’Abruzzo, your great love.  Yesterday, I saw the photos of you at Rocca Calascio, where they filmed “Ladyhawke,”so this in itself is a great way to inspire future tourism. 

Back to the Intervista

Gian: Look, Luca, with you, apart from the relationship of respect and friendship we have, going beyond this interview, I’ll tell you as a friend.  You have to have the ability, how can I say it, to set and achieve goals, even when you’re as young as I am.  But at the same time, I’m trying to maintain my roots, and my connection to that normal guy I used to be, who wanted to live a normal life.  It’s like I’m a on a train track and every now and then I can jump from one rail to the other.  It’s really great to be able to live life like this.  I can always return here, stay home, and enjoy my family and my hometown.

Luca: Those who know you also know that one of your trademarks, one of the things that makes you very much loved, is that you have remained humble. The world of concerts, as you already said, is on hold.  How much do you miss that world, given that on an international level, for 10 years Il Volo made world tours, virtually continually for the entire 10 years since you started?  How much do you miss that life, since it has been such a fundamental part of you?

 

Gian:  I miss all the people, our fans.   I miss tour life.  And above all, I miss singing. When I’m on a bicycle I’m singing. When I’m in the shower, I’m singing.  When I’m in bed, I’m singing.  When I work out, I’m singing.  When I’m on the beach I’m singing.  Because that’s my life.  It’s my relief valve.  It’s the way . . . it’s something, that truly makes me feel good.  Fortunately, this passion is one of those things that you can do anywhere, even while you’re eating! 

Luca: During this break, as we noted, you’re thinking about your roots, and things you put aside.  What makes you keep giving your best? Despite the fact that you’re only 25 years old for one thing, and have already won San Remo on the first attempt; you’ve won the Latin awards.  You’re Il Volo everywhere.  In Tokyo you’re Il Volo; in NY you’re Il Volo; In Texas you’re Il Volo.  What do you do to always have that grit that for 10 years has kept you at the world-class level?  I can imagine that even with this planetwide success, when you sit down, or try to sit down, what is it that keeps you from really sitting down?  [That’s an Italian expression for laying back, taking it easy or giving up].

Gian:  Truly, you need to have the awareness, the slight fear, that it could all end.  You really don’t recognize the value of certain things unless there’s some risk you could lose them – not just in the work environment, but in relationships with people.  Truly, life has granted me so many things, the emotions and the experiences, at such an early age.  When I was still so immature, at 14 years old, I already started to travel, to be familiar with marvelous places and sights, to meet people, to sing in front of the president of the Republic, and in front of the Pope, for example.  Because it all started at such a young age, I didn’t have to make any great sacrifices to achieve success.  Really, the success and the emotional experiences came over me like a tsunami.  Surely, the part [of me] I need to cultivate is to restore that little boy who dreamed of becoming someone but knew it would take perseverance, who knew that at times the effort was going to be more important than talent itself.

Luca: As they say in Russia, talent is like a basket of diamonds in the rough. Without hard work they don’t become diamonds.  You spoke earlier about Pope Francis, about [Sergio] Mattarella President of the Republic, and I could add, Bill Clinton, Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones, who helped create the phenomenon of Michael Jackson.  You don’t have to mention Quincy Jones to anyone who loves music. There would be too many anecdotes to recount from what I’ve heard about, but the most relevant since we are in Abruzzo, if you want to tell us about it, is when you had the assignment to traipse Woody Allen all over Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. 

Gian: [Laughing] I would have wanted to speak in different dialects.  Every now and again I get to speak in other languages:  Chinese, American, it’s lots of fun.  But that time though, we chose not to, because we were at dinner with other people.  Next time, though, I’ll do that.  [Note: Can you imagine Gianluca and Woody Allen swapping languages and mimicking accents together?  I’d be in pain from laughing.] 

Luca:  Yes, I saw you with the nice soldiers in the Galleria in Houston [apparently joking in English].

Gian:  I did get to explain to him [Woody Allen] some things about Montepulciano.  I asked him ‘Do you like wine?  In my native region, Abruzzo, we have the best wine in the whole world, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.”  He told me “Montepulciano, I love it, I know it.”  [Note: I know every Italian thinks the best wine in the world comes from his own specific region of Italy, but Gianluca was telling the truth about Abbruzzo’s fine specialty red – the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  It competes with the Barolo from the Piedemonte and the Brunello di Montalcino as one of the top reds in all of Italy and the world.]

Luca: That was more valuable than a thousand ad campaigns.  Like when Lebron James shared some of his favorite wines several months ago on Instagram and generated a hundred thousand “likes” for a local winemaker in Abruzzo.  How lucky that winemaker was.  [Note: Basketball star LeBron James is a wine afficionado and fills his Instagram page with pictures of bottles from his cellar.]

Luca: You’ve talked much about how important your hometown is to you, but I know you also like the ancient village of Montepagano.  I’ve seen you walking around now and then taking photos.  I know you live in a marvelous place where you can even enjoy the view of the sea from above.  I know you’ve never wanted to lose connection with your roots, and this, I imagine, gives you strength.  But if you had to describe this to someone who doesn’t know you, what would you want to say?

Gian:  Every young person, every child, needs to grow up with the knowledge that their roots are the most important thing:  like their family, their dialect.  We need to raise children this way, and young people my age, especially those who already have children, need to teach real values, including their own dialect. I’m ashamed that I even see people who are actually embarrassed to speak their own dialect, as if it were a bad thing, instead of a fine thing.  Even if you only speak it to make jokes or when you get angry.  Without it [understanding your own dialect], you make no sense.  So, I am really proud to be Paganese, Rosetano, and Abruzzesse. “Abruzzo Forte e Gentile” [“Abruzzo strong and kind” is the local byword].  Every time I go to Belvedere [another historic spot inland from Pescara, Abruzzo], it’s emotional for me.  When I’m on tour, I show pictures of Montepagano and Roseto to everyone.  Because, look, [he turns around to show the seashore behind him] this is maybe one of the most beautiful places on the entire Adriatic coast.  You have to be really proud. 

Luca joked a little bit about local dialect and that when you teach the hidden meaning of some expressions, to a Milanese or to an American, how wonderful it is when you see them explode into a smile.  He also added that there are some things, expressed between locals with one word of dialect, that would otherwise take an Italian five minutes to hatch (explain).

Luca; What projects do you have?  We know your passion for tennis, know you are practicing the piano, and like to draw.  Talk to me though about your desire to act.  [Gianluca responds about music right here, and about acting further on].

Gian: My musical tastes vary.  I rarely listen to opera, because I like great musicians, guitarists like John Mayer, and great singers.  I’m glad you asked, because I want people to know that I like the full 360-degree range of musical styles.  And you know that I have a passion for all genres of music, including the type our group sings in concert, but in the future, who knows.  Il Volo is the main priority, but I adore artists like Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra.  I even like Led Zeppelin, a fact that unfortunately was mis-represented by journalists who sometimes write anything to get “clicks” and “likes” in the media.  I like them all: Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, I like this music.  Another thing that really moves me is the music of Georgio Gaber, of Fabrizio De André.  Dad passed on to me a passion for these singers. 

Luca:  Your father has very refined taste even in songwriters.  This is a Gianluca that has never come out, so it’s right to emphasize this, and I’m happy you brought it up with us, because you’ve often been misunderstood before.  So, you love music in the fullest sense. 

Gian:  On Facebook I published a list of the songs I like best with text, like the French song interpreted by Franco Battiato, a song about old lovers that melts you, it’s so heartbreaking in parts.   So, there are so many projects.  I’d would like very much to act, I’d like very much to be an actor, maybe to go to Rome to study; I don’t know.  There are so many projects, and for this year that we are inactive, I’m focusing mostly on improving myself.

Luca:  Days off are constructive time.

Gian: Then, with Il Volo there are so many projects.  We have a very beautiful musical project we’re working on, but for now I can’t tell you too much about it.  In the future, we’ll see.

Luca:  Of course.  But I’m happy to assure the many fans of Il Volo that, as soon as the situation allows it, you’ll return stronger than ever.   So, you’re working on this project; and it’s something important.  It’s also important that you miss your fans and, as you’ve said, you’ll be back with them as soon as you can.

Luca:  One last thing.  What is your idea of happiness?  What is happiness for this 25-year old who has remained humble?  Define happiness for Gianluca Ginoble. 

Gian:  That question was certainly profound enough.

Luca:  The tough one came last.

Gian:  Happiness for me is to live my passions, “mano a mano” all my life.  To have a wonderful family, to have friends you can talk to about things, to let your problems out.  Even when there are problems, knowing that there’s someone you can vent your problems to, who listens and understands.  For me that’s happiness, knowing that I don’t feel alone.  It’s also the feeling [I get] when I’m on the stage and sing for thousands of people.  For me that’s also happiness.

Luca:  So, with this beautiful reflection on happiness, which I really appreciate, I thank you Gianluca Ginoble of Il Volo.  Thanks, Gianluca, and obviously, I wish you a great and successful life with the many things we talked about, and with your many projects. 

Gian:  For doing this interview, Luca, you’re number one.  I said it to you and I’m saying it even looking into the camera.

Luca:  Thank you.  You’re too good.  Thank you also for your friendship.

Grazie – Giovanna (Jo Ann)

Giovanna in Taormina & Lecce 2019!

Finalmente il Primo (e il Secondo) Concerto (Finally, the First and Second Live Concert)

By Giovanna

After Italy and our planet recover from the current viral onslaught, the world may be different.  As Gianluca said in his live videocast last week, when this is over, it may be hard for many people and many things to go back to the way they were.  But we can still look forward to the fact that music and laughter are universal and unstoppable.

In my last submittal, I promised to describe my first Il Volo concert(s) from 2019.  But first, I wanted to recount a funny story from my 2018 trip to Sicily.   That was my fourth hiking or cycling trip in Italy. Due to the travel dates, I knew I would not be able to hear any Il Volo concerts.  I spent the time becoming addicted to the Mediterranean and Ionian coasts of Sicily.

When we first arrived a few days before the start of our hike, I had trouble calling our bed-and-breakfast host near the Palermo Vucceria.  So I ended up pressing the citofono and climbing stairs looking for his suite.  A middle-aged guy in the street, who was a friend of his, called him on the telefonino (cell phone).  While on the phone this buddy was ribbing me in Sicilian, telling Claudio that he better come down quick, because his guests “si stanno impazzendo” (are going crazy) and every other tease he could think of, winking the whole time.  My helper was a typical Sicilian – extraordinarily courteous and kind on the one hand, and ‘nu sperto (smart aleck) on the other.  Then he hugs us and tells us his name is Piero.  I burst out laughing.  Of course, it is.  What else would it be?  (But it’s a common name, right?) 

Even wilder was the historian/guide at Segesta a few days later.  He was a little bantam rooster of an athlete in his 20’s.   Black jeans, dark curls, trim beard, soft eyes, deep dark voice, movie actor face.  He announced his name was Gianluca.

I was in tears laughing at this point, and just had to ask him if he sang tenor or baritone.   He pulled me aside and we promptly got into an argument (‘na schariatina) in Sicilian.  Two Sicilians arguing – what else is new?  He insisted that our driver, Maurizio, lied when he said we were Americans.  As short as I am, and with my left hand in the air for every other word, I had to be Italian.  I also learned that this particular Gianluca refers to himself as “Sicilianissimo” (ultimate Sicilian) and considers himself an expert in recognizing his own kind. 

I’ve had this happen in a number of places in Italy over the years, where Italians sometimes confuse me for an Italian, not an American.  A few examples:

Near Catania: “Si pare dalla faccia” (It shows on your face).

Rome: “L’accento si senti”  (I hear your accent).

Giardini, Sicily after two days of swimming in the Ionian Sea: “Una verissima Siciliana – nera, nera come ‘na magrebina” (A real Sicilian – dark as the rest of us Mediterraneans.)

Storekeeper in a negozio in Florence:  “You remind me of my mother in Calabria.  I’ll take off 40 euros if you come in the back with me for an espresso e una chiacchierata” (some conversation).”  I told him the last thing I wanted to hear from a handsome young Italian is that I looked like his mother.

Our driver outside Cefalu: “How long since you emigrated from here to the States?”  My answer, “Non ho mai messo piede qua!” (I’ve never set foot here!).

Near Milano:  If you’re a ciclista, you’ll know who the great designer Ernesto Colnago is.  He refused to make me a custom road racing frame years ago.  “Sei Italiana, ma sei troppo bassa. La bici uscira brutta!” (You’re Italian but you’re too short.  The bicycle will come out ugly.)

Eventually I gave up arguing. 

I didn’t meet any Ignazios in 2018, but I didn’t need to.  I have two Sicilian-American cousins called Ignazio.  One’s tall, one’s funny.


Despite following Il Volo for years, and even going back and forth to Italy, I never attended a live concert until 2019.  As I mentioned, I returned to Italia to hear them on their home turf in Taormina, Sicily and Lecce, Puglia, both shows in July.  It gave me an excuse to be around the beaches, the white marble architecture, the restored synagogues, and the marketplaces of eastern Sicily and southern Italy for a month.  Americans haven’t discovered these areas, but the northern Italians flock there for vacanze and ferragosto.  I was delighted not to hear a word of English for a month.  Siracusa and Ortigia, with exotic fruit, baking hot sunshine, blinding white marble, noisy markets, singing in the stalls, street signs in Greek and Hebrew, the sparkling Adriatic visible at every turn, make me ubriaca di gioia (drunk with pleasure).  I finally found a place I feel really at home.

Besides, there’s nothing like Sicilian pasta al salmone, and the Pugliese really know how to roll their dark bread dough in black sesame seeds.   And where else do the vending machines along the beach have bottles of Inzolia Sicilian white and Nero d’Avola red instead of Coca Cola?  Antonio, one my limo drivers, told me that Italians have a name for a meal without wine.  They call it colazione (breakfast). E magari, a volte… (Even then, sometimes, too).  Using wine all day is not the case for every Italian since, for example, Piero Barone, and even my landlord in Giardini, sono astemi (don’t drink at all). 

Ora Arriviamo al Dunque (Now We Get to the Point)

Jana, Daniela, Pat and others in the Flight Crew reviewed last year’s concerts as they occurred.  I wanted to tell you about some things that didn’t make the web pages or the blogs.  These things will not change, even if the Meet and Greets, Wine and Dines, and whatever else they’re called, come to an end.  I’ve never been to any of those things, anyway.

Aside from their voices and their stage presence, in the short time I was around the Il Volo concert setting, I was most impressed with the humanity and grace of these young men, and what veri gentiluomini (real gentlemen) they can be, when they choose to.  Non fraintendermi!  Don’t get me wrong!  I raised an Italian Jewish son exactly their age.  With young guys, including mine, sometimes they are delightfully charming, and other times “it gets real.”  I suppose these three guys are the same as mine.  Here are some examples of what they can be:

First, my all-time favorite, and Sicily’s greatest mystery writer, Andrea Camilleri, died the Thursday before the Il Volo Taormina concert.  If you’ve ever read Il Commissario Montalbano Mysteries or watched them on TV (starring Luca Zingaretti, Cesare Bocci and Peppino Mazzotta), you know who Camilleri is.   I didn’t hear the news until I went up to Taormina that Friday to buy some paperbacks in the tabbacheria and catch the local gossip in the cafés on Corso Umberto.  Those of us who are Sicilians were still lamenting his death a few nights later at the Il Volo concert.  (Sicilians are really good at that).   During the concert, Piero and Ignazio, Sicilians both, had the extraordinary sensitivity to ask for a few minutes to honor the memory of our Sicilian hero with a farewell aria in the middle of the show.  Lots of hugging and swaying in the audience – but well deserved.

Second, some of you may have seen the 2019 Taormina concert photo of Piero holding a teenaged girl at the left side of the stage, late in the show.  I think I even saw the picture on the Flight Crew page.  What wasn’t obvious is that this very disabled young lady, in her prettiest summer dress and barely able to walk on her brace supports, spent the length of two songs being held by Piero, while he sang his parts.  To take care of this young lady who had trouble standing, Piero had to crouch and sit at the edge of the stage to hold her so she wouldn’t fall, as her caregivers temporarily took her walking equipment away, and he stayed that way a long time.  This brave young lady didn’t want any crutches in her arms; she wanted Piero in her arms, and he obliged her.  I was really touched by the look on his face afterwards, as he sighed with compassion, moved by what this young girl went through to get near him, and watching her struggle on her supports as she left him with her helpers around her.  I didn’t expect a young star to be that human.  In Yiddish we would say What a mentsh! and in Italian Che persona! (What a person he is!)  But of course, if he’s like his coetani (guys his age) there are probably other sides to him. 

These are Flashes of Memory and a Few Things to Look Forward to When Italy Recovers

 Snapshots from Taormina Concert

  • Ignazio teasing that every time Gianluca tries to speak Sicilian, he growls like a Mafiusu.

  • Ignazio doing a fake Italian TV commercial with a dial-in phone number to raise money to save Piero’s home village of Naro. Every time the other two interrupt him, he starts the “tape” over.

  • Piero charging up the center aisle to sing at the back of the amphitheater, then unable to get back to the stage because he’s nearly covered in girls.

  • Gianluca completely cranked up, running victory laps back and forth at the front of the stage hand-slapping all the young kids, while everyone in the audience is standing and singing “Volare.”

  • Late night after the concert, people singing Il Volo songs up and down Corso Umberto, even those who didn’t go to the show.

Snapshots from Lecce Concert

  • After centuries of never having public entertainment in the Piazza del Duomo, watching as the stage was being built up each day across from the archbishop’s palace – for Il Volo,

  • Gianluca accidently delaying the show because he left his stage clothes at the hotel. Ignazio joking that they decided to wait for Gianluca’s clothes because it didn’t seem right to make him do an entire concert in front of the Archbishop of Lecce in mutande (in his underwear).

  • Gianluca personally thanking Archbishop Michele Seccia “chi mi ha dato la crisma” (who gave him the oil of anointing at his confirmation 12 years ago), because look what happened to his life since then.

  • Folks watching the show for free from the roof of their apartment building above the piazza teasing Ignazio. Ignazio, always in fine form, yelling at them to go buy a ticket.  

  • Gianluca doing a goofy American accent to make fun of how badly Americans pronounce “Arriverderci Roma.”

  • People in front of me betting on whether Gianluca could make it to the end of the show without climbing off the stage to play with a small boy down front. (He didn’t make it to the end).

  • Piero describing how ten years ago they were so young that they were this short . . . except Ignazio, who was this wide . . .

Che Dio vi benedica tutti voi, e anche i ragazzi e le loro famiglie.

May God bless you all, and the guys and their families, too, during this time.

Some pictures….

They need more publicity than this
They needed more publicity than this!

Taormina The light crew can do wonderful things on that backdrop in the Teatro Antico
Taormina – the light crew can do wonderful things!

String bending on a Fender Stratocaster Brownie
String bending on a Fender Stratocaster Brownie

Lecce Gianlu got his pants back but he may be noticing his shoes are different.
Gianluca got his pants back, but notices shoes are different?

Alessandro Quarta actually wore a T shirt long enough to cover his belly when he bends backwards
Alessandro got a shirt long enough to cover his belly!

10th anniversary thank you poster
10th Anniversary thank you poster…

This is how short I am. I cannot even reach the floor.
Yours truly – my feet do not touch the floor –  kind of like an Il Volo concert!

 

C’è di più.

There is more to come. 

Jo Ann…