Behind all the Gothic portals and Renaissance facades is an amazingly musical group of people. Sulmona’s musical heritage goes back over 500 years to the time of Alessandro Capace, the 16th century composer and madrigalist, who was Chapel Master here in Sulmona.
Since that time the Choir of the Cathedral has remained strong and their tradition of regular concerts, of both religious and secular music, continues under a succession of talented directors – currently Maestro Alessandro Sabatini.
But it’s not just church music which we can enjoy now. The breadth and variety of music performed live here for the benefit of the local residents and visiting tourists is really quite outstanding. You can take you pick, almost any week of the year, from one of the following:
Now in its 8th year, this music festival runs for 3 weeks from the end of July through until the middle of August. Principally based in the village of Introdacqua, about 15 minutes by car from Sulmona, concerts are generally outdoors and are now spread over a variety of other venues including Anversa degli Abruzzi, Bugnara, Campo di Giove, Pratola Peligna, Prezza and Villalago and also as far away as L’Aquila. Concerts are often free and cover a variety of genres not just Jazz. In 2013 the acts included a trio from Denmark, a Neopolitan Flamenco performance, a John Coltrane tribute band and Jazz star Stefano Bollani. Check their website at this link: http://www.muntagninjazz.it/index.php?lang=en
DisCanto play ethnic Abruzzese and southern Italian music on a variety of traditional instruments such as the guitar, mandolin, violin, cello, accordion, percussions and traditional Italian bagpipes. They play locally throughout the summer and have also toured all over Europe and the US where they have a big following amongst the descendants of emigrants amongst others. Founded in 1997 by Michele Avolio; lead singer, guitarist, percussionist and composer, the band also seeks to preserve the musical patrimony of this region with a a series of educational initiatives and projects. They have recorded many CD’s including ‘Ride la Luna’.
Camerata Musicale Sulmonese
This non-profit organisation, founded in 1953, presents a season of concerts from October until the end of March every year at various local venues including the Cinema Pacifico on Via Roma, the Auditorium of the Annunziata and the Maria Caniglia Theatre. During the 2013/14 season the association welcomed performers from the Ukraine, Hungary and Russia and numerous other Italian soloists, groups and orchestras playing a variety of music including classical, Jazz and Swing. The Artistic Director of the organisation is local classical saxophonist Gaetano di Bacco. Maestro di Bacco is also an international performer in his own right, both as a soloist and as part of various groups and orchestras including Dr. Otto Sax. You can buy a season ticket, or pay for each individual concert, and there are reductions for under-25’s. Check their website for a list of upcoming events.
Maria Caniglia Opera International Singing Competition
Maria Caniglia was one of Italy’s best loved Opera singers from the 30’s and 40’s and this competition, now in its 31st year, awards the best young soloists from all over the world. The competition is held in September and the various eliminations rounds, plus finals, are all performed in front of an audience.
Maria Caniglia Theatre
The theatre in the centre of Sulmona, built between 1931 and 1933, is the largest historical theatre in Abruzzo. It was re-opened in 2014 after some internal restoration with a fabulous performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto. It’s a magnificent venue and has a varied programme of both music and theatre running throughout the season.
The theatre is located on the crossroads with Via Antonio di Nino and Via Angelone.
Venerdì Santo is, of course, Good Friday and although neither group nor venue it is characterised by its music almost as much as its innately religious purpose. The ‘Procession of the Dead Christ’ which takes place in the centre of Sulmona on the evening of Good Friday, is dominated by the singing of the Miserere funeral march by the 100+ members of the all-male voice choir of the Confraternity of the Santissima Annunziata. Tradition states that during odd years the Miserere performed is that by written by Scotti and in even years that by Barcone. The lay brothers wear a red tunic with a white bib – a symbol of constraint and humility – and tread softly and rhythmically along the route from their church on Corso Ovidio, down to the Duomo of San Panfilo and then back up through town in a rite that lasts many hours until well after midnight. It’s a very moving experience for onlookers of all faiths and creeds. A quintessentially Sulmonese event not to be missed.
Local Pop Princess Nicole, who was born in 1995, was runner up in Italy’s 5th series of ‘The X-factor’ in 2011. Massively popular amongst the young Sulmonesi, she plays live here whenever her schedule allows. Currently part of an Italian girl trio called TRE.N.D. she is signed to a Canadian label and spends a lot of time on the road, when not pursing her studies at Pescara University. Here’s a YouTube video link of her debut song ‘Go Away’ with TRE.N.D from September 2013.
Rota Temporis are all local boys. They play a curious fusion of Folk, Celtic and Gothic original compositions and cover versions. Primarily instrumentalists, they have their own sound blended from a variety of instruments including bag pipes, horns and drums. They look a little like Scottish extras from The Pirates of the Caribbean dressed in Carnaby Street. Unique. Rota Temporis tour Europe every summer and are particularly popular in Germany. Their latest album is called ‘Lux Ad Mundum’ with ‘Sic Parvis Magna’ also in the pipeline. You can check them out on their own YouTube channel here, or listen to their music on LastFm.
Every September, usually just before the schools go back, Sulmona’s centre hosts an all-night music festival. 2014 will be its 4th year and every year the organisers attract an ever better and broader range of performers – from classical and jazz musicians to tribute bands and DJ’s. There’s something for all age groups plus plenty of opportunities for eating and drinking. The weather is also usually still very mild at this time of year so it’s a very pleasant night on the streets.
Brand new for 2014 is a live music venue right here in the centre of Sulmona. Opened in February 2014, the ‘bar with stage attached’ has proved popular right from its opening night and has an impressive programme of live music and events running weekly thoughout the year. So far we’ve had a Pearl Jam tribute band, an evening of Country music, a quiz night, plenty of different DJ’s plus they also show the big football and rugby matches on their BIG, BIG screen. Called a ‘Spazio Sensoriale’ it is fast becoming the place to be. They are on Via Alessandro Volta on a side road by the Villa Comunale, rumors are they will move to a new outdoor location with swimming pool for the summer season!
The Canadian Opera Singers in Italy organization (CO-SI) brings a group of 30 or so young, aspiring singers over from Canada every year to train and perform here in Sulmona and other local venues. They usually stay at least 3 weeks in June and July and stage a succession of free, mostly open-air musical events . The 2014 programme runs from June 22nd to July 21st and their repertoire will include Puccini and Monteverdi. If listening to the sweet sounds of opera classics within the balmy breeze of a beautiful courtyard is your idea of an evening well spent, then make sure you don’t miss out.