If I must tell the truth, this is my least favorite holiday! To me it’s a sad day because we remember all those who we lost over the years and we think of them in a different way than we do on other days. We think that they left us too soon and this year too quickly! I, like many of you out there, suffered many losses this year and I saw many people I love suffer!
Halfway through the year, I was speaking with my aunt, who turned 100 this year! I said, “Aunt Christina, you’ve been around a long time. What do you think about what’s going on?” She replied, “Susan, I remember grandpa saying every 20 years we have to have a war to clear out the old and start fresh again. This is our war!” I guess she is right. This war we are fighting is different, it is a war with an invisible enemy that haunts each of us every day!
What made this year different? The one thing that was really different was we were all in this together. You woke up every morning and turned on the news and no matter where you lived New York, Italy, Germany, Russia, Australia, the news was the same – Wash Your Hands! Wear a Mask! Social Distance!
As to the guys, they certainly did a great job of reminding us to do these things! And when they weren’t talking about this, they were working to help people in Italy and around the world. They took us along on all their journeys in support of these people. We joined them for Altismo Live! In support of Latin American farmworkers. We enjoyed circling Italy through project Italians 4 Life with the wonderful song Ma Il Cielo è Sempre Più Blu (But the Sky is Getting Bluer and Bluer). And, of course, O Sole Mio for UNICEF!
So, we’ve come to the end of the year that was, and now we have to take time to reflect on what we are leaving behind! Yes, there were lots of bad things that happened but there were also some good things. Having a hard time figuring out what they were? Let’s take a look at some of the good things that the guys did! They came to us live every day! So, let’s start there.
LIVE FROM IGNAZIO’S HOME STUDIO
The announcement that came from Ignazio on May 16th kept us sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what this project would be. We knew it would include the Il Volo musicians but what was this big surprise. Ignazio gave us a hint!
Ignazio said: With this video, I would like to thank many people. First of all, the doctors who during this time made their lives available to others. Here it is, altruism. I think it’s one of the most important things in the world.
For me, this is one of the most important songs,this song makes us understand that we are all part of this world and everyone has a piece of the universe. And so, I decided to propose “Almeno tu nell’ Universo” . (At Least You in the Universe)
What we got was a production straight from Ignazio’s soul! The drama of the black and white video along with the most intimate, passionate rendition of “Almeno tu nell’ Universo” we ever heard left us speechless. His amazing voice brought us to a universe where there is no limit, and we could float along on his magnificent notes, reaching unbelievable heights! It brought us all to tears.
Ignazio along with Giampiero Grani on piano, Alessandro Quarta on violin, Bruno Farinelli drums, Pierluigi Mingotti on bass and Gino De Vita and Andrea Morelli on guitar, set in split screen, gave the performance of a lifetime. The arrangement and video mix were so perfect it seemed hard to believe Ignazio did it all from his home. Genius at work!
LIVE FROM PIERO’S TERRACE
We could hear the silence of this small beautiful town and the only sound in the background was the chirping of the birds. Then suddenly, Piero began to sing “Nessun Dorma” and his voice rang out over Naro inviting his neighbors to come out on their terraces to listen to him and applaud his magnificent voice. And how did Piero react, the same way he does in concert, with that beautiful smile he greeted his neighbors and thanked them for their applause. And then, he gave us a birds’ eye view of Naro from his terrace explaining about all the baroque buildings and structures in the town including the history of it all. Jovanotti was just as thrilled and impressed as we were. Piero showed us around his terrace pointing out his cactus and taking time to tell us about his antique coffee mill. What a treat to share this special time with him!
And what about his beautiful “AVE MARIA” that warmed our hearts.
And then there were the:
LIVE PERFORMANCES FROM GIANLUCA’S HOUSE
Gianluca really perfected his piano playing in quarantine! We listened to him sing while looking out over his beautiful garden which looks down to the Adriatic Sea and the beautiful beach of Roseto degli Abruzzi. Picture postcard perfect, it was amazing and we were all wishing we could be there with him! And he spent lots of time walking on the beach with Luna and playing out in the yard with her.
But the most exciting of all was listening to Gianluca’s very romantic voice which touches every one of our senses. He sang so many beautiful songs for us while playing his piano with Luna at his feet. It gave us a warm and happy feeling which left us feeling very secure!
And then the summer began and, the quarantine was over and, the guys came together after being separated for months. And what did they do? They took us on another journey. First, we watched them take on a new appearance with their Dolce & Gabbana wardrobe. Their mini-Concert for Dolce & Gabbana’s women’s line of clothing and the presentation of the men’s line of clothing at the Campus Parade in Milan. It was wonderful to see them back together and listen to them live.
Then they went to Monte Carlo for their first concert in five months followed by their appearance at the Taormina Film Festival where these three gorgeous guys appeared, dressed like three Princes, in their Dolce & Gabbana Tuxedo’s. They were so handsome they took our breaths away. And their performance at the festival representing the film “Devotion,” the story of Dolce and Gabbana, was amazing. Just seeing them back at the Greek Theater in Taormina made us feel everything will be okay from now on. After all, this is their theater, the heart of who they are.
And if that wasn’t enough, we got to spend a Special Day with the guys in Polizzi Generosa celebrating the opening of “Devotion” and Domenico Dolce’s 62nd Birthday! What an extravaganza! The parade, the costumes, the musicians and dancers. What can I say it was just a fantastic day and it was All Live for us to see on Instagram and Facebook.
As they stepped back on the stage at the Verona Arena, for the reopening of the music industry with their presentation at the Seat Music Awards, we remembered their last performance there in 2019. Spectacular then, spectacular now!
Then came the announcement that they would pay tribute to Ennio Morricone with a Concert in Piazza Pio XII next June 5th!
Il Volo with Roma’s mayor.
Which brings another thought to mind! Do we ever take the time to consider what goes into their performance? We see them on stage and we are in awe of them but, what it takes to get them there is amazing and a lot of hard work. In January they will start preparing for their June 5th Concert. It doesn’t start and end with the concerts. There’s lots of preparation and rehearsals. Everything has to be just perfect because, after all, these three young men are perfectionists!
And then there was their final performance for 2020, their mini-Concert at Piazza Pio XII on Christmas Day. And here the guys sent us their final greeting for the year!
Gianluca: On this special day when we all feel close from afar, we wanted to find a way to wish you all happy holidays.
Ignazio: And we did so in the way that best suits us, through music from this gorgeous square where we feel like we are enveloped in a welcoming embrace.
Piero:We hope this holiday season may bring a smile to your homes and warm your hearts. On this “Oh holy night” we wish to dedicate every single note and every single word to you all.”
Yes, there was so much that was bad about this year but, I just wanted to show you that there were some good things that happened too.
As we approached 2020, I thought with a number like 2020, this will be a year of vision. What was my vision for the year? I thought it would be my best year in ten years. I had so much business and the future looked so bright but, we all know how that turned out. But I never could have imagined, when it all began, that I would spend my whole year doing what I love best, writing! Thirty years ago, I walked away from a career critiquing films. Who could imagine that I would turn back the clock and start writing again! And above all writing 40 stories about our three amazing guys, Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca!
The guys spent the year inspiring us, kept us company and certainly took the time to tell us what they were doing and what we needed to do to stay safe. In a recent interview they were asked what they missed most this year. They replied traveling. It is their life after all. And we are very much a part of that life. Hopefully we can all get back to it soon.
Finally, how do I sum up this year? Every morning when I get up, I sing. What do I sing? “Smile!” Is it because of the guys? Well, I certainly love when the guys sing “Smile,” but no, I’ve been singing this song since I was a child because I believe no matter what happened yesterday, today has the possibility to be better, so, “Smile, just Smile.”
Yes, Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca are our family! Why do I call them family? We’re their fans, yes, but, we are more than fans. We certainly do all the things that fans do but it goes deeper than that because our guys are different than other entertainers. The difference is the guys think of us as their extended family. Why? Very simply because they grew up with us. They spend more time with us than they do with their families. And they show us their love in everything they do. Think of how they treat us! When you meet them they embrace you. Most entertainers just want your praise and accolades. Not our guys! They want to know about us! They ask about our lives and our families. They listen to us and do things to please us. And think about how you spent your last nine months listening to their music and feeling secure with every song! So what is family? Family are the people who are there when you need them. When you’re sad you can always feel their love and their encouragement! Family is not just blood it’s the people who are there for us!
So let’s take a look at how our Italian family spends their Christmas.
The Christmas season starts in Italy on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary which is also a holiday in Italy. This is the day that many Italians put up their Christmas trees and the cities light up their streets with colored lights. Why? Because Mary is the mother of the Light, Jesus! But there are other traditions that are celebrated on this day!
Let’s go to Naro, Piero’s city, to see how they celebrate the Christmas season.
Every year, on the 7th, 8th and 9th of December, every inhabitant in Naro stocks up on muffuletti. Muffuletti is a bread which is stuffed with meat and vegetables. Some people go to their local baker to buy them and some people prepare them at home. The tradition is linked to religion. Naro’s sandwiches are blessed and distributed in Churches at the end of the Mass on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. The bakers donate the muffuletti to the Churches as a gesture of generosity towards their fellow countrymen but, above all, of love towards “a bedda matri ‘Mmaculata”, the Most Holy Immaculate.
During the month of December, the Christmas markets are held in Naro. The Fair is set up inside the cloister of the Town Hall. Many people go to the Franciscan cloister where, every evening, to the delight of the children, there is a special snowfall that whitens the baroque courtyard. On the final evening there is a concert of Sicilian folk music and an award is given for the best photo taken at the large Christmas tree in Piazza Garibaldi.
During this magical period the streets are colored by many Christmas lights and everyone visits the living nativity scene of Borgo Castello. There is Mass on Christmas Eve and between hugs, kisses and best wishes there are a thousand good intentions. And then, on Christmas day, the family gathers together for a dinner laden with many local delicacies.
And what would Piero do on Christmas day? Most likely, he will walk around Naro and visit some older people and his friends. He certainly would have decorated his home so I’m sure he will make a video for all of us to see. He will most likely sing at the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Mass. And I’m sure he will spend time singing with his grandfather, Pietro. Most importantly, he will spend the day with his family!
Christmas in Bologna! How does Ignazio celebrate Christmas?
Unlike Piero and Gianluca, Ignazio and his family live in a big city and like cities in America there are many events.
The Christmas tradition in Bologna has deep roots. The Bolognese Nativity Scene (Presepe) goes back to the middle ages. The tradition of the Presepe dates back to the 13th century and one of the oldest Presepe in the world is preserved in Bologna. What makes the Bolognese Nativity different? It is life size and includes clothes that are different from the traditional Neapolitan style. They are dressed in a medieval style. In Porretta Terme in the Emilian Apennines another Presepe which is one of the oldest Presepe in the world is kept in the church of Capugnano.
I’m sure Ignazio will visit the Christmas Tree in Piazza Nettuno. It is a Bolognese tradition. The beautiful tree is a welcoming and bright place to meet friends and feel the warmth of Christmas.
So, what will Ignazio’s family eat on Christmas? I’m sure on Christmas Eve there will be fish on the table. This is the tradition in every Italian house on “La Vigilia,” Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, there is another tradition. Lunch is the main meal and Pasta in brodo (pasta in broth) will certainly be served. In Bologna, it’s all about meat-filled tortellini in capon broth. These, small, ravioli, are filled with a mixture of meat, mortadella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese but you will find in Bologna every family has its secret ingredient for them. You’ll recall in a recent interview, Ignazio mentioned his family buying Tortellini every Sunday.
The soup will most likely be followed by a roast and the meal will end with a traditional dessert like Certosino (or Pan speziale) which is made with almonds, pine nuts, dark chocolate and candied fruits. The recipe has its origin in the Middle Ages where Certosino was produced by pharmacists and later by Certosini Friars. Certosino is very popular in Bologna.
Having said this, I will say, since Ignazio is vegan, there are certain parts of this meal he won’t eat. He will certainly eat the dessert! What I do know is by tradition, Ignazio will join his family to celebrate Christmas Day!
So what will Gianluca do on Christmas?
A Montepagano tradition is the Nativity scene. At the end of the last century a famous living Nativity play was started in Montepagano which is a real theatrical performance, with a director and a narrator.
In the Abruzzi region, there is a tradition that bagpipers, so called zampognari come into the towns and play their flutes and bagpipes for the people. They symbolize the shepherds who come in search of the new born baby, Jesus. The bagpipers were once shepherds, today they are musicians who walk the streets of the cities, playing Christmas music. Often they are in pairs and one plays the zampognari (bagpipe) and the other the ciaramella (which is similar to a small piccolo).
For certain Gianluca will celebrate December 24th, Christmas Eve with a meal of fish including shellfish because he lives by the sea. As far as food traditions are concerned, on Christmas Day, the typical dish of the whole region of Abruzzo is spaghetti alla chitarra (which is prepared on a particular instrument called a guitar, because it is made of wood with metal strings) but most likely Gianluca will eat Lasagna. The second course will be arrosticini, which are pieces of meat, traditionally lamb, strung on long sticks, similar to a kebab. And for dessert, they will most likely have the traditional Christmas cake, Panettone.
Gianluca will surely spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with his family including his Grandpa Ernesto!
If you’re wondering where Santa Claus is, in Italy he is known as “Babbo Natale,” Father Christmas,who brings presents to children on Christmas Eve but, in true Italian style, gifts are exchanged on January 6th the day of Epiphany when La Befana comes to Italian homes in search of the Christ Child and leaves gifts for the children. This is a tradition that is celebrated in the central regions of Italy. La Befana is an old woman, with a hooked nose, badly dressed, with a handkerchief on her head, grumpy but good, she is not a witch. On January 6th, riding through the sky, flying on a broom, La Befana lands on the roofs, enters the houses from the chimneys and descends from the fireplace, leaving gifts and sweets in the big socks that the children place in front of the fireplace. If they were good, they get sweets. If they were bad, she leaves coal in the form of a sweet black candy. I’m sure there will be many sweets for Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca!
I would like to mention an important member of Il Volo’s family. Michele Torpedine! His family is originally from the region of Puglia. He moved to Bologna when he was twelve years old. So he will celebrate Christmas with his family and the celebration would be similar to Ignazio’s!
I would like to thank two people who contributed to this Christmas story. Maura PucciandGiovanni Granaro. Their knowledge of the regions of Montepagano and Naro and the different Christmas traditions made this story come to life!
In closing, I would like to thank two ladies who make all my stories come to life! Daniela Perani(a/k/a Sherlock Holmes) who is my second pair of eyes and provides all the photos and videos for my stories and Patricia Ward who does the layouts and final uploads for the stories.
I want to wish all of my Christian friends a Merry Christmas and all my Jewish friends a Happy Chanukah! And all my other friends, All the Happiness and Joy of the Season!
And finally I’m sure you will join me in wishing Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca and their families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with many Concerts!
I’m sure by now you figured out that Piero loves Pasta. So, I will make Pasta with Tomato Sauce.
In Sicily they use a very rich tomato sauce. But, before I get to the recipe, let me tell you a little bit about the town Piero lives in.
Naro is a small medieval town in the province of Agrigento,not far from the Valley of the Temples.
The hill town offers stunning views of the surrounding hills, all the way down to the sea.
This monumental city has a very ancient history, dating back to theSicani, the most ancient inhabitants of the island. According to ancient Greek writers, Sicans, where the original inhabitants of central Sicily. The Greek historian Thucydides believed the Sicani to be Iberians from Spain who were driven out by the invading Siculi into the central parts of the island. (From Sicans and Siculi derives the name Sicily.) They were also invaded by Arabs, Normans and Swabians. We can find remnants of their presence everywhere: from the ancient city gate, the only one left from the seven gates, to the mosque which was transformed into a Norman Duomo. There is also an ancient Jewish quarter and the Medieval Chiaramonte Castle which rises high above the city.
The monuments, also, tell us about Naro’s important history. The city received the title Fulgentissima (Splendor) and had a seat in the Sicilian Parliament. There are many churches, in particular, the Church dedicated to Maria SS Annunziata (Our Lady of the Annunciation). Within the church we find many treasures including the statue of the Madonna of the Chains by Antonello and Giacomo Gagini.This beautiful church also has a medieval baptismal font.
Note:When the Spanish invaded they brought along Empanadas which Piero mentions in his story and calls by its Sicilian name “impanate.” This is how Piero described them, “Impanate are rolls of pizza dough with vegetables inside, a typical dish of my area.”
In Naro, there is an old tradition which says, “The righteous, before going to paradise, take a tour of the island to say farewell to seven ‘special’ places in Sicily: the Castle of Naro, which is windswept day and night;Caltabellotta,coiled up around the rock; Mount Erice, that looks towards Africa; Ustica,a small island in a green colored sea; Stromboli,the volcano that mingles with the waves; Ortigia,the ancient Greek island…” (I count six – I checked and couldn’t find seven). Piero, do you know what the seventh one is???
The most important event for the inhabitants of Naro is the Feast of San Calogero, the black Patron Saint, who is celebrated on 18th and 25th of June. In nearby Sciacca you can visit the Sanctuary of San Calogero.
Now to the Tomato Sauce.
I’m going to give you two recipes. One is the actual recipe with whole tomatoes. It’s wonderful if you want to do the work. The other is a simpler version which is very easy to make. The sauces in this region are very rich.
Tomato Sauce from the region of Agrigento
2 1/4 lb. of ripe tomatoes (you can use vine tomatoes or plum tomatoes)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion sliced thin or diced if you prefer
fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
pasta of your choice
Wash and dry the tomatoes, cut them in half and crush them. Put the tomatoes in a saucepan together with garlic, (If you were making this for Piero, you would have to leave out the garlic because he’s allergic to it.), onion and basil. Add a small amount of water. A half cup should do. Cook for about 15 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and puree them. I’m sure you don’t have a mill to puree so, I suggest you take a colander and place it over a saucepan. Add the tomatoes to the colander and crush with your hands. Be careful it’s hot. You could use a spoon to do this.
This will allow the sauce to flow through and what will remain are the skins and seeds. Next, put the tomatoes back in the saucepan, add oil, salt and pepper and heat over a low flame to thicken the sauce. Cook for 30 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, boil the water for pasta. Add salt.
When the water boils, add the pasta. Follow the cooking instructions on the box. Try to have the pasta ready when the sauce is ready.
Before I get to the simple recipe, I want to mention Strattu. Strattu is Sicilian word for tomato paste. The Sicilians jar their tomatoes in the summer for winter use. While doing this, they take some of the tomatoes and spread them out on a ceramic or wooden tray and leave it out in the sun for two – three days, constantly stirring it, to turn it into tomato paste. It takes about seven pounds of tomatoes to make one jar of strattu!
The first sauce I gave you the recipe for is a plain sauce that would be used alone or with fish. When making a pork (ex. sausage) sauce or any meat sauce (meat balls) you would add strattu (a couple of tablespoons) to it because pork will thin your sauce and, strattu gives it a thicker consistency.
Simple Tomato Sauce
In place of ripe tomatoes use one can of plum tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes with your hands.
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion sliced thin or diced if you prefer
fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
pasta of your choice
In a saucepan heat the olive oil, add onions, garlic (remember Piero is allergic to garlic) salt & pepper. Sauté a few minutes and then add tomatoes. Now add the basil. After the sauce bubbles, lower the flame. Let it cook for 30 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, boil the water for pasta. Add salt. When the water boils, add the pasta. Follow the cooking instructions on the box. Try to have the pasta ready when the sauce is ready. If you want to make a meat sauce add tomato paste (two or three tablespoons) as a substitute for strattu. Serve with red wine. Of course, my choice, is always Montepulcino d’Abruzzi.
Nine years ago, PBS introduced America to three teenage Italian boys, Il Volo.
Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca grew up on PBS. From their first concert on October 27, 2011 at the Detroit Opera House, they won the admiration of the American people. These three teenagers stole the hearts of the American people and they continue to do so today. They have done 6 concerts with PBS over the past 10 years. Their last concert in 2019 in Matera, Italy was to celebrate their ten years together as Il Volo.
They introduced America to a new style of music. Operatic pop and classical music! A very different kind of music for teenagers. Il Volo’s aim was to show young people how good this music is. They won over the children, parents and grandparents. They were an immediate sensation. America fell in love with them.
On the Ninth Anniversary of Il Volo’s concerts on PBS, let’s look back at how they started on this road.
Over the last year I have shared Il Volo’s life story with you, their fans. Now it’s time to go back and see how they landed on this road. Let’s travel back in time to where it all began in Naro, Bologna and Montepagano!
Piero’s best memories as a child were his Sunday dinners with his family which included every family member from his great grandmother, Lina, all the way down to his cousins who were more like brothers and sisters. And he recalls summers in the countryside with his entire family. Piero says, “I swear they were perhaps the most beautiful days of my life, and I will never forget them.”
Let’s take a closer look at one of these stories.
Piero’s discovery starts in the Garden of Pietro Ognibene’s (Piero’s Grandfather) house.
As was his custom, Piero’s grandfather Pietro, would come out on the terrace every morning and find a cool place to sit. Pietro always had a recorder with him. He has been blind for many years and he uses the recorder to record music, recite poetry and compose songs. Piero says, “When I think back to the first images I have of him, he is sitting on the terrace in the country with a stereo in his hands.”
On this morning Piero is the garden on the Altalena, an old fashioned swing that is hanging from a mulberry tree, and on the terrace, Pietro is preparing to record a song. It’s just a little song. The song is only two lines and it is pure Sicilian. Pietro begins to sing. E lu suli talia, talia, talia. Sopra ‘sta petra luci ci duna, that is and, the sun, look, look, look, to this stone gives the light.
Piero recalls, “I was swinging on the swing, I was about four or five years old, I was really, very small. I listened to him a little and at a certain point, when he stopped singing, I started: E lu suli, talia, talia, talia. Sopra ‘sta pedra luci ci duna. What can I tell you? It just came out like that.”
His grandfather turned off the recorder and called his wife. Rina came out on the terrace and he asked her, “Unni è Piero?” (Where is Piero?)
She replied, “In Altalena” (He is on the swing)
Pietro asked, “Ma cu cantava? Iddru?” (But who was singing? He?)
She replied, “Eh, si.” (yes)
He told Rina to call him.
So, Piero got up and went to his grandfather. Pietro lifted him up and put him on the table next to the recorder and told him to “sing the song again.” Piero sang the song exactly as his grandfather sang it. He listened to Piero sing the song and then he made the decision to go to his friend Antonio’s house to record it.
Antonio a friend of Pietro had in his home what was called at that time a “recording studio”. It was not very big but, it did have a bigger stereo and a microphone. So, that afternoon they recorded Piero singing his grandfather’s song in Sicilian. But it didn’t stop there!
The meeting with Mimmo Riolo, in the Garden of the Riolo House.
The next day Pietro and Piero went to the countryside to the Riolo’s house. Piero’s grandparents had a country house and the Riolos were their neighbors. Pietro had a good relationship with Mr. Riolo, they were family friends. At the Riolo house, they all sat together under a carob tree because the air was always fresh under that tree. While the men talked, Piero ate prickly pears.
Pietro said to his old friend, “You know, Mimmo, yesterday I discovered that my grandson has a nice voice.”
Mimmo thought about it for a moment and came up with an idea. “I want Piero to listen to one of my favorite singers.”
Piero recalls, “And this is how I listened for the first time to Un Amore Così Grande by Mario del Monaco. And I learned it right away, but right away. My grandfather was very proud. And something told me the next day we would go to record Un Amore Così Grande at Antonio’s house.”
The day after they visited Mr. Riolo, they went to Anotonio’s house to record Un Amore Così Grande.
That evening the family met for dinner in the countryside, as was their custom, in the summertime.
In the Garden of Piero’s Grandparents House
This evening would be the beginning of Piero’s journey to stardom. After dinner all the kids played soccer while the adults went outside to chat and enjoy the cool of the evening on the terrace. But this evening would be a little different.
On the Terrace of Piero’s Grandparents House
When they finished dinner, Pietro called his wife. “Rina, get the recorder.” Rina brought in the recorder and placed it in front of Pietro. The recorder was already prepared with the cassette. Pietro turns to Piero’s dad and says, “Listen to this voice, Gaetano.” He pushes play and starts the recording of Un Amore Così Grande.
Gaetano is amazed, like he has just heard a good thing, and he says, “It’s beautiful, who is it Daddy?” (he calls his father-in-law Daddy.)
Pietro says, “Piero.”
Gaetano has a questioning looking on his face “How did Piero?”
Pietro says, “So”.
On that night Piero’s life changed!
In Ignazio’s story, I found out that he is an excellent writer. He is the only one who wrote his story. Ignazio is very articulate. His words just fly off the page. Ignazio’s mother says and I agree, “Ignazio is very serious and responsible.”
Let’s see how Ignazio views this time in his life.
Ignazio says, “My story is not a fictional story even if it seems to be one of those dreams that you never want to wake up from.”
Ignazio learns to play Nina’s piano
Ignazio remembers, “When I was three or four years old – I played with the piano my parents had given my sister, Nina. My mother says I was one years old when I played. Nina taught me to play Happy Birthday with one finger.”
Ignazio’s School in Bologna
Ignazio says, “I do not remember the first day of school, but I certainly did not take long to get noticed. If you’re thinking of scenes of me being put in the middle of the class to sing, forget it. I had a passion for music but, I had an even greater passion for pranks. I tell you, since I started talking and walking, mine was an escalation of agitation.”
Ignazio Joins the School Choir
“With the passage of time, I found something good to do at school, that is, an activity that was able to hold my interest enough to prevent me from slipping into some disaster. I joined the school choir. I always liked to sing, to be ‘in the middle’ of the music. And more and more passionately I began to understand how to make better use of Nina’s famous pianola. I learned how to start the musical bases and flip through them. And that’s when I discovered La Donna È Mobile. I liked it so much that I sang with the base and invented words. I don’t remember the words but, it certainly was a song about Pavarotti. Having seen Pavarotti on TV, I knew he always had a big handkerchief so I would invent text and sing on the air La Donna È Mobile.”
In 2004 at the age of 10, Ignazio’s family moved back to Marsala and opened a Pizzeria.
While the pizzeria grew, a passion grew within Ignazio. It was a passion for electronics and music.
Ignazio’s mother opens Pizzeria dei Desideri in front of their house.
In 2005 Pizzeria dei Desideri was completed and, within a few months Caterina already had regular customers and since the pizzeria was right in front of the house, when Ignazio sang, the customers heard him.
One day a gentleman said to Caterina, “You know, my daughter is studying singing, why don’t you come with your son once? Even just to try.”
Ignazio’s Meeting with Lilliana Andreanò in Marsala
Ignazio recalls, “I remember it as if it were yesterday…. I was eleven. I wore a yellow shirt with green stripes, fashion was never my strong point. Arianna, the daughter of the pizzeria customer, who had heard me sing, and her mother and I waited in front of the school for more than twenty minutes for Liliana Andreanò, the singing teacher. Lilliana Adreanò, arrived in a grey Opel Astra. She got out of the car and immediately entered the school.
Ignazio says: “I was worried, almost embarrassed. Hard to believe, right? Even as a child I’ve never been the type to be speechless. Lilliana begins to talk about music, what kind of songs I like to sing. It was already a strange thing because usually I just sang, no one asked me why and how. You know, Liliana I like to sing Giorgia’s songs.”
Lilliana said: “Strange for a kid to sing this kind of song.” She asked, “And which song of Giorgia would you like to make me listen to?”
Gocce Di Memoria (Drops of Memory), Ignazio said. “I didn’t even have a doubt. I start singing and Liliana was amazed by my extension but asks me to try a male song too. I thought a little bit and then I said to her: sometimes I even sing Con Te Partirò by Andrea Bocelli. I started singing and, when I finished Liliana told me: ‘Ignazio, this is your musical direction’.”
Ignazio continues: “From that first lesson I began to study songs like Il Mare Calmo Della Sera, Un Amore Così Grande and all those that came to mind, and I liked it. It approached that genre that was not lyrical, it was modern music but with something classic. With Liliana I found myself, very comfortable. We understood each other immediately because she is a sociable person, simple, as are all of us in my family.”
After several lessons, Lilliana proposed that Ignazio take part in a bullfight (competition) organized in Paolini.
Ignazio says: “I wasn’t completely convinced that I wanted to get on a stage. Until that moment I had only thought about singing, but I had never seriously thought that all that singing one day could bring me into the spotlight.”
Ignazio performs in his first Competition in Paolini
Ignazio says, “I was about to get on the bullfight stage. My legs were trembling, the butterflies in my stomach were no longer butterflies but crazy swallows.
I decided to participate with the song by Bocelli Con Te Partirò (Time to Say Goodbye), a song that I had studied and re-studied with Liliana, but as soon as the music started I had a terrible fear of forgetting the words. So, what did I do? I looked down all the time. So, the audience, the place, what happened around me while I was singing, it’s not that I do not remember anything, I just do not know because I only saw the tips of my feet.
Fortunately, however, I remembered all the words and it is not so obvious because sometimes it happens that I forget the words even today now that I have become professional, the emotion continues to take us despite everything and.… I came in third.”
Once the ice was broken and the stage panic was over, that ended up being just the first of many competitions for Ignazio.
As to Gianluca I was surprised to find out he was such a romantic. Everything that is important to him is a passion. He invests himself in what he loves and believes in: Family, Music, Country and Soccer! Above all, Gianluca loved to sing. Music was his whole life! Gianluca said, “Singing makes me feel good.”
Garden of Gianluca’s house facing the beach of Roseto degli Abruzzo.
Gianluca says, “I am from the town of Montepagano, Abruzzo. To be precise, I grew up, in Montepagano, on a hill two hundred meters as the crow flies and ten minutes by road from the sea, and Roseto degli Abruzzi.”
Gianluca continues, “My life as a child seems so far away. I remember very little of my childhood! I’m not like Ignazio I was born and raised in Montepagano. I was traveling only with dreams. What made me dream? Music naturally. Dad and mom realized that I had something special in my voice when I started to sing at the age of three or four years.
Town Square of Montepagano
My parents tell me when I was three years old I sang O Sole Mioin the town square in front of all the elderly gentlemen friends of my grandfather who, sitting around the bar table, were listening to this little boy with such a particular voice.”
Gianluca continues, “This was my first audience but, of course, I don’t remember it. My grandfather wanted me to study music, he always told me: ‘Gianluca, study the piano, study an instrument.’ I’ve never done it. It would be a dream to sit down on the piano and start playing and singing.” (Since this statement, Gianluca has studied piano and now he plays quite well.)
While his grandfather made him listen to classical music, Pavarotti and music from the Fifties-Sixties, his father made him feel Fabrizio De Andrè, Francesco De Gregori, Giorgio Gaber, Antonello Venditti and, as he grew older, he became more passionate about singing, including the great American classics, first of all, Frank Sinatra.
Gianluca says, “I never, never would have thought that…. I could make music my life. I only sang because it made me feel good. Then what happened? I do not know exactly, because everything happened very quickly.”
The phone call that changed it all!
“It was 2008 when my father received a call from Licia Giunco.”
Who is Licia Giunco. She’s an incredible woman, known throughout Italy for being the creator of an annual event called Sport for Life, a great international ice-skating gala. For the gala, skating champions come from all over Europe to participate. The reason for Mrs. Giunco’s phone call was Gianluca’s performances with the choir.
“We have a great talent here in Roseto,” Mrs. Guinco told Mr. Ginoble. I would like to bring him to RAI (Italian TV Station).”
Gianluca says, “My father had never thought about it. My parents had never even imagined that I would participate in competitions, let alone send me for an audition for television.”
“Let’s try,” Mr. Ginoble replied, “It would be a great opportunity.”
Each boy has now been set on the road to PBS so where did they go from here?
Over the years, each boy approached his musical education in a different way.
After his discovery in the garden, Piero embarked on a classical music education. He began piano lessons at the age of 8. At 10 years old he joined the Little Singers of the Philharmonic Association – Santa Cecilia of Agrigento. And then he began the competitions around Sicily.
Ignazio continued his singing lessons moving on to other teachers as he progressed. He took three years of piano lessons. His relationship with Lilliana Andreanò continued. She advised him every step of the way right up to his audition at Ti Lascio Una Canzone which she convinced him to do. But I’m getting ahead of myself!
Gianluca, unlike Piero and Ignazio, never had a singing lesson or piano lesson. Gianluca joined the Piccolo Choir of Roses. At one of their events, he was discovered.
As you know, the three teenage boys came together on the Ariston Stage in Ti Lascio Una Canzone for the performance of O Sole Mioand stepped off the stage and embarked on the road to stardom.
They came in first, second and third. Gianluca, Ignazio and Piero. But the biggest prize was becoming Il Volo.
They signed a contract with Universal and recorded their first album.
In 2010 when they arrived in America, they took it by storm. After their performance on American Idol, they sky rocketed to the top of the Billboard charts.
What happened next? And, so, we arrive at PBS. But let me turn the story over to the guys. They will tell you about what happened after Ti Lascio Una Canzone.
“Spotlight” Producer Paul Larson just minutes before going on stage at Place des Arts in Montreal, Quebec spoke with the guys about their career after their performance on PBS. So, I invite you to watch this amazing video and listen to what the guys have to say about their beginnings and their future!