Celebrating a very special event in Sulmona on Sunday, March 6th
Like so many Italian-Americans, I grew up hearing about the birthplace of my grandparents, and at a very early age, I decided that I would one day pay a visit. That happened on August 14, 1979 when my wife and I (aged 23) visited the village of Raiano in the Abruzzo Region. I was the first person from my large Ohio-based Italian family to make the pilgrimage. It was a truly amazing visit… looking for birth records in the municipio, trying to find the names of my ancestors in the cemetery, enjoying an authentic regional lunch of spaghetti alla chitarra, visiting with two of my distant relatives, drinking their homemade wine, etc, etc. At one point, we even found ourselves in a VW Beetle with the village priest as he took us from one house to another looking for additional relatives. That was my introduction to the “homeland”. Little did I know then how important Raiano and the surrounding area would become to my life some 29+ years later.
Fast forward to 2008 when, on October 27, 2008, I (aged 53) arrived in Sulmona for the very first time. My attempt to book a hotel in Raiano had been unsuccessful due to the size of the village, but clearly, Sulmona had some very nice places to stay. I would use Sulmona as my base for a return visit to the area. Compared to Raiano, Sulmona is a large town, and I was immediately struck by the lively Corso Ovidio, the medieval aqueduct, the Piazza Garibaldi, the beautiful churches and the magnificent natural setting (Sulmona is surrounded by mountains!). I remember thinking that Sulmona was a place where I could spend quite a bit of time.
As a professional musician, I decided to investigate Sulmona’s cultural scene and introduce myself to some of the artistic leaders. That led me to the Camerata Musicale Sulmonese and internationally acclaimed saxophonist Gaetano Di Bacco. I remember walking into the palazzo where the Camerata is located and seeing that it was built in 1420! Up the steps I went until I reached the inner door and suddenly found myself in a beautiful large rehearsal hall. What a pleasure it was to meet Gaetano, and how patient he was with my poor Italian. I think most of our conversation was actually in French at that first meeting!
Gaetano and I quickly discovered that we were kindred spirits, and our friendship has led to many wonderful performances and interesting projects in the USA and Italy. My Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Strings (2010) was written for him, and we have a long list of ideas for future collaborations in various parts of the world. Together, we formed the Associazione Musicale Peligna in 2011, a non-profit organization that is designed to use the performing arts to benefit the people of the Peligna Valley. It has been very rewarding.
My love affair with Sulmona continued. Quite soon, I was visiting three or four times a year. The application for (or rather… the recognition of) my Italian citizenship took 3.5 years, but once I had my citizenship, the logical next step was to purchase an apartment in Sulmona… something my wife and I did in 2013.
In keeping with Italian law, my birth and citizenship documents are officially recorded in Raiano. I receive notices about voting there when elections are held, and I can’t even begin to describe what it feels like to walk in the village of my maternal ancestors. Raiano was the home of my nonni, and it is now my “Italian birthplace”. However, Sulmona has become my home away from my American home, and the famous words of Ovid could well be my own. Sulmo mihi patria est . . . Sulmona is my homeland.
On Sunday, March 6th at 17.30, the Camerata Musicale Sulmonese will present a concert of my music in the Teatro Comunale Maria Caniglia in Sulmona. The “Incontro con il compositore Larry Alan Smith” (“Meeting with composer Larry Alan Smith”) will provide me with an opportunity to demonstrate just how important Sulmona and the Abruzzo Region has become to my life during the past eight years. These annual concerts are reserved for Italian composers, and being asked to participate this season is an honor that means a great deal to me as a proud citizen of both the United States and Italy.
The great Italian composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) had an Italian mother and a German father. He added his mother’s maiden name (Ferrari) to his own surname in 1895 at the age of 19. Following his excellent example, I will proudly be Larry Alan Smith-Di Pietro for the March 6th concert in Sulmona!
The program will include the following:
- Four pieces for flute (a solo, duo, trio and quartet) featuring flutist Sandro Carbone and several of his students from the Music Conservatory in Pescara
- A work for piano trio that I will be performing with violinist Stefania Franchini and cellist Massimo Magri (Maestro Magri is the Director of the Music Conservatory in Pescara)
- A new set of solo piano pieces inspired by three bronzes I saw in Mexico City last February
- Four new works for female choir to be performed by Coro Sine Nomine di Teramo and their director Ettore Sisino
Two of the choral works are sacred and two are secular. One of the works will be sung in Italian (three poems by Michelangelo) and three will be sung in Latin. The program will end with a setting of eight lines from Ovid’s Tristia. That excerpt includes the words Sulmo mihi patria est. The work is dedicated to the “Citizens of Sulmona”.
Five of the works on the program will be performed for the first time. These world premieres will make a special performance even more meaningful for me.
For more information, contact the Camerata Musicale Sulmonese office at +39 0864 212207 or visit the Camerata Musicale Sulmonese.