One hundred and fifty years of Banda

Author's preface:

The Band is history, culture, socialization. We have the hard task to explain its essence. This is our hope, our target. Because we do not want to tell you about 150 years of victories and defeats, of joys and disappointments, of funny anecdotes and undeletable memories. We want you to understand that the band is, first of all, belonging. It is growing in a group that lives thanks to the presence and the commitment of every single member. We are the band. And looking at the pictures, faded by time, of those who came before us, we find ourselves in those proud and smiling faces. Because the band is ageless, it is history. We want to dedicate this book to all those who came before us and who will come after us.

Follows some articles from One hundred and fifty years of Banda.

05 The origin of bands in the Province of Brescia

The creation of wind and string instruments, starting from handcrafts shops of Brescia (the legend says that the violin was invented by Gasparo from Salò), and the increasing activity of the diffusion of church organs, gave Brescia a European importance since 1500. in 1350 the City Council would pay a group of trumpeters called “Trombetta”, who had the task to accompany a councilman around the city to spread the “shouts” (announcements) of the authorities. The trumpeters would also take part in ceremonies, celebrations, tournaments and fairs.In the XVI century, Brescia was also famous for the number and the BRAVURA of its musicians, called to various Italian and European courts (Mantua, Florence, Ferrara, Milan and Venice, the royal court of Sassoon and Dresda). They were “expert players of trumpets, trombones, hornets, flutes, bagpipes, German flutes and violas”.At the beginning of the XII century, the term “band” defined wandering groups of musicians; in the XVIII century the word defined a musical group raised from the evolution of the fanfares by adding wood instruments and percussions. The band rises to the status of a real entity, made by wind instruments and percussions, at the end of the XVIII century, with the descent of Napoleon to Italy, who arrives in Brescia on May, 27th, 1796. As a matter of fact, it is thanks to France that more ceremonies and fairs are organised, giving more impulses to the bands.The first piece of news we find of a band is on the newspaper “Giornale Democratico” on October, 13th, 1798: it was a military band.During the Austrian occupation we see more and more musical events, like the organisation of free music schools, particularly aimed at the young. These associations, called Philharmonics, had no easy life, because none of these could be set up without the authorisation of the Austrian police. Their main target was to educate the young into the art of music, by a personal constant commitment which would occupy their spare time, avoid laziness, keeping them away from the pubs, which were often the set for moral and physical degradation.The Board of the Philharmonic was formed by a Political Delegate, a director and a deputy, a bookkeeper and a cashier, named by the Austrian police.The Political Delegate had the task of “special surveillance” on the political feelings and directions of the members of the band. In 1835 the Austrian authorities began pressing in order to have the national Austrian anthem played by the bands of Brescia. Consequently some bands suspended their activity not to obey this order.In the valleys the bands developed all the same, in spite of all the limitations imposed.It seems that the oldest band of the Province was the band of Salò, founded in 1818 as City band and which later received the official Approval from the Royal Empire Government of Milan on February, 24th, 1823. By the middle of the XIX century more bands followed this path, like the filarmonica of Palazzolo (1846), Breno (1850), Toscolano Maderno (1853), Pisogne (1857), Orzinuovi (1860), Iseo (1861), Desenzano (1874), Rovato (1874), Gardone Val Trompia (1874), Leno (1879), Calvisano (1880), Sarezzo (1886).
News from “La Provincia” tell us about the birth of more bands in 1887, in Lovere, Marone, Pisogne and Alzano.
A patriotic strengthening of the bands took place with the unification of Italy, when towns founded fanfares and bands to celebrate national events; since then, the bands have been used also for religious celebrations and funerals.The contrast between the Church and the State took place also on band level, where there were several arguments, to the point that in some towns there were two bands (one Liberal – red – and one Catholic – white).Another source for musical education was the school of music, under the name of Istituto Filarmonico Venturi, where there were courses to learn to sing and play several instruments. This school was founded in 1862 by the Council of Brescia with the heredity of Carlo Antonio Venturi, according to his last will.The importance of this institution is in the possibility it gave to the poorest classes to enter the world of music; this social opening will be a leading target of the school for over a century; later, the institution became a State Conservatory in 1971. Among the teachers of the school there were band conductors like Gaetano Tosi and Gentile Vasini, pioneers of the spreading of the bands in the Province of Brescia.

06 Trials for a post of Band Conductor in Breno, 1883

To understand the importance of the bands in the Valley, we would like to report some advertisements of trials from the magazine “La musica popolare” from 1883, edited by Edoardo Sonzogno, among which we find one regarding the band of Breno.

“…A trial for the post of conductor for band and choir in Breno (province of Brescia) is open; the salary of 1.200L. The selection is through qualifications and a test. Applications must be sent to the president of the Council, Duke of Bagnara-Ruffo. Expiry date: end of the month”.

February, 15th, 1883: the trial for the post of teacher of cello and contrabass, annual salary L. 1200, is open for the school of arts of Verona. Applicants should present their applications…”

“The Music School of Brera in Novara is looking for a teacher of hornet, annual salary L. 900 plus benefits. Applications and documents to be sent…”

“The Music School of Padua holds a trial on May, 15th, for two posts in the City Band: one for first clarinet Bb, annual salary L. 425; one for third clarinet Bb, annual salary L. 250”.

“The town of Benfiore del Chiento (province of Macerata) holds the trial for a post of conductor and director of the band, annual salary L. 800. Not to be missed!”.

It is clear from these ads that a good conductor could receive a similar pay as a conservatory teacher, and it certainly was a deserved salary. The trials were in fact organised to choose the best conductors and the better qualified among all the applicants.

Article from “La musica popolare”, 1883, n. 17.

The Iron Bridge 1886-1887

The first iron bridge uniting Darfo and Corna is built, which will be replaced in 1985 by the current cement bridge.The first bridge on the Oglio river was built in 1830-1831, it was made of wood, with six arcades, and it united Darfo with the road Bergamo-Breno, going via Corna.This work ended the isolation of the people of Darfo, opening the way to a commercial and cultural bond with the territory of Bergamo.This bond will intensify thanks to the creation of the road Bergamo-Lovere and the link Lovere-Corna-Cividate Camuno, project from the two engineers Tosana and Calini.

07 Forbidden Othello

The role of the band is that of spreading, among marches and popular songs, also opera music, which used to be an genre d’élite for rich people who could afford going to the theatre. A note from the Government dated March, 29th, 1887 and published on the daily “La Provincia”, forbids bands from playing any score from “Othello”, since this work was not yet a public work. The real reason is that the “Well-thinkers” (regulars of theatres) didn’t like that “educated” music would be played (and according to them, “mistreated” ) by bands with arrangements that were often prepared by the conductors themselves and adapted for the band.These “well-thinkers” had not understood the importance that the band would have had in the diffusion of this kind of music among the people of the lower classes.As a matter of fact, before the spread of radios, televisions, record players, the bands held the precious task of making the works and symphonies of the greatest musicians of the time into popular airs.

08 Music associations of the Province at the end of the nineteenth century

“The Province of Brescia” of May, 23rd, 1889 published a letter for the director from an anonymous citizen of Brescia, obviously a great music lover. With the title of “Our music institutions”, the article opened with this beatiful sentence: “Few towns can compete with our great love of the art of music and its extended culture: few, actually it is probably not an exaggeration to say that in Italy there isn’t any other where so much is given to the development of this beautiful art, in all its forms”. As a matter of fact, the musical activities of the time were hectic: at the Teatro Grande, the “Fair Season” would see famous artists and large choirs holding the greatest operas of the time, among which Verdi’s works. For the artists it was current say that Teatro Grande was the step before being admitted to La Scala.Then there was the “Society of Concerts” who, starting from 1869 when it was founded, would be busy with the art of music in a series of concerts of chamber music which very almost always very successful (by 1889 the society had already held 119 concerts). The society could name, among its members, real world celebrities, who led to the fulfilment of the target expressed in the code of the association: “to promote the art and the pleasure of music, and the best production of the musical works…”. In 1887 the Art Circle also begin its work, holding concerts of chamber music with important musicians from abroad and good native players and directors. The “Circle of Friends” too, one of the many liberal associations of the city, was often promoting musical experiments.As for the Guillaume Theatre, stage for famous artists, is was no less that the “grande”. The shows held there would cover all artistic genres, from prose to plays, to prestige and fortune-telling, or puppet shows, but the most successful events were the concerts of orchestras or choirs, whose dimension was adapted to the structure of the theatre.On the same page of the paper we can read this: “Guillaume Theatre: tonight the very first show of the first baritone Mr Negrini Antonio, in the four-act opera by Master Marchetti: RUY BLAS. After the second act the artist will sing together with the bass Mr Nicolini Alessandro who is kindly going to join in for the duet of “Il Rival Salvar Tu Dei” from the “I Puritani” by Master Vincenzo Bellini”. In those years we see the improvement of religious music, always a difficult field due to the lack of good directors and choirs. The City Band of Brescia is the subject of another article: “…and we think about popular music, it is with real pleasure that we enjoy the shows from the City Band, perfectly trained by the good, clever and passionate Master Forbeck, and directed by that great musician under the name of Baresani”.Finally, we know of several shows of different music associations belonging to the sections of the Army, who would alternate in the barracks of the city. These groups would offer a varied repertoire, from military music to ball music (waltz) and arrangements of opera works. The “Corpo Musicale dei Derelitti” was also very active, and it was formed by the orphans registered to an association under that same name, trained and directed by Master Castelli. All these associations were often helped by good musicians educated at the music school we have mentioned before, the “Filarmonico Venturi”.Such was the musical environment at the end of the XX century in the province of Brescia: its importance and its activities spread around the province and became an example for several associations which were just born at that time.In our Valley this musical echo arrived quite late, because at that time the links with Bergamo were quick and well-established, whereas to reach Brescia it was still necessary to cross the lake; however, it did have an important role in the development of the artistic culture in our territory.

09 The first contests

These years of productive flourishing of bands we see the birth of the first contests among bands, an occasion to compare each other’s value.We know of a contest among the city bands, working and popular bands of Piemonte, Liguria and Lombardy which took place in the days of June, 3rd and 4th, 1888, in Turin.The philharmonic of Palazzolo sull’Oglio won among the bands of Lombardy by obtaining the first place and a medal.In the province of Brescia more contests are organised, among which we have the one in Chiari in 1892, where the bands of Gussago, Bedizzole, Pisogne, Orzinuovi, Bagnolo Mella and Rudiano took part in.The first prize was given to the band of Bagnolo Mella (230 L.). This contest was part of some liberal cultural initiatives to commit upper and lower classes of the city and the province, and at the same time they made the relationship between the Church and the State even worse.

10 The birth of our Band

In 1986 the Council of the band and some musicians bravely decided that it was time to collect all the information concerning the birth and the first years of our Association. This historical research would then be gathered in the first edition of this book, published on the occasion of what we thought would be the first one-hundredth anniversary of the Band.Unfortunately, the documents which could have helped us during our research had all become mud during the flooding of the Oglio river in 1960, which invaded the archives of the band, whose headquarter was then situated in the lowest floors of the primary school. The only document we had was based more on tradition than on history, as the legend wanted that two brothers, Isidoro and Massimiliano Caprinali, had gathered the first musicians around the year 1888.Our target was to find more evidence to strengthen this background, which had been passed on until 1919 only by word from player to player. This research took us to the parish archives of the towns nearby, hoping that we would find some written testimony of fairs or such where the band of Darfo could have been present; we consulted the minutes of the Councils of the oldest bands of the province, where we could have found some link with our band due to the relationship between conductors or directors, to cultural exchanges, to contests…; we went to an important library of Brescia and immersed ourselves in the pages of all the newspapers of the time: “Il Cittadino di Brescia” (catholic) and “La Provincia di Brescia” (the liberal anthagonist), we even looked for some descendant of the Caprinali family…All our efforts didn’t bring any certainty, and with few documents in our hands we could only make hypothesis. We gathered that before 1888, and perhaps even around 1850, Darfo had a group of players, maybe too small a group to be called “Music” (the term used in those years); maybe so unorganised that it kept forming and dissolving, never reaching that level of notoriety to be known in Brescia and being named in the news, where the “Music of Darfo” is actually named only at the beginning of 1900.The reason why this hypothesis was formed is due to the precious help of a priest, Don Lino Ertani, who helped us find in the archives the autobiography of Don Giacomo Margosio, a parish who moved to Darfo on August 4th, 1857, and who wrote “…I arrived in Pisogne and was greeted by the clergymen and the delegations, together with the lords of the town and the sound of the band…”.It was legitimate to think that that band was indeed the “Music” of Darfo. Since at the time we knew, by the documents in our hands, that the only official band of the Valley (the one of Breno, founded in 1850) was divided from the catholic world because of its non-denominational attitude, it seemed fair to think that the musicians of the Band the priest talks about were part of a group of the band of Darfo that had gone to Pisogne to welcome the new parish.The doubt remained that those players could be from Bisogne or some other town, hired for that occasion by the people of Darfo. But then we thought that if such a group had existed before, and being a group that could be hired for any occasion, it would have left some trace on the news of the time, or on other papers that other bands of the Valley had searched before us, in vain.More over, considerino the obvious lacks of the time in communication and transports, and the following difficulty in the organisation of public events (even if they were a lot simpler than now), it was a lot more probable that the band mentioned would be a music group formed by people from Darfo.Another paper supporting this hypothesis (of a band in Darfo before 1888) is an article of “La Provincia di Brescia”, dated September 28th, 1887, where we have news that two days before “…in Angolo, a town at the beginning of the Valle di Scalve,… the celebration of Saint Luis saw the participation of a catholic band, we don’t know from what town…”. The same article mentions the bands of Lovere, Pisogne and Alzano, who took part in a patriotic celebration organised in Lover, on that same day, for the inauguration of the monument for Garibaldi. The journalist stresses the absence of the band of Breno among the ones present at the event, conjuring the idea that it had joined the catholic celebration in Angolo. The band of Breno replied bitterly on the pages of that same newspaper about its total lack of involvement in that “Saint Luis celebration”, and justifying its absence with other reasons.If we wanted to believe these chronicles and the journalists of the time, all the bands that were known in the valley were already busy on that fateful day, September 26th, 1887, thus giving the way for the hypothesis that a group of players from Darfo had left and gone to Angolo to play and make both happy and solemn the event with their music.By way of logic, after getting to know the history of our conscript bands, or those founded before ours, it seemed quite unlikely that a town like Darfo would have a band only after 1888, when Darfo at that time was already a flourishing and dynamic centre for the social and economical development of the Valley, It would have been strange to be so late for our town compared to other towns of the province, for a field like that of music groups which at the time were thought to be the best expression of the culture.Our intuitions were confirmed in 1993, when the historian Marino Anesa, famous for his studies on the world of Italian bands, found a very important document in the State Archive of Bergamo while researching for a book on music for bands from 1800 to 1945.It was the “Regulation of the Philharmonic Society of Darfo”, dated July 30th, 1853.At last it was found what in two years of researches we had always missed because our attention had been wrongly turned on the archives of Brescia and not on those on Bergamo.It certainly was the same band that was active in Darfo in 1888, and this was clear by the names of the founders mentioned, like Gioachino Caprinali, father of the two brothers, Isidoro and Massimiliano, so far thought to be the first founders and directors of our Association.The regulation was structured like a proper code, made of 59 articles which defined aims, organisation, responsibilities, behavioural rules, legal and patrimonial arrangements, fines and whatever regulates a serious and dignified association.It is surprising to see the care and detailed attention for all the aspects of life in the association.The opinion one gets by reading this code is that the writers must have had very clear ideas on a lot of aspects that a musical association must have faced with time, including legal problems (we must remember that at that time Lombardy and Veneto were under Austrian dominion).Probably our predecessors were inspired by similar codes of other associations; the similarity between the first article (and other aspects of the code ) and those of the code of the Philharmonic of Breno dated 1850 is very clear.The aims of the Society are summarised in the first short, but fundamental, article: “This Society is founded for the noble aim of maintaining the dignity of Religion and of the State, and of giving a gentle treatment to the youth, to entertain them and save them from the dangers of idleness”. One of the most interesting aspects was the division of the members in three classes: contributing pupils, pardoned pupils and honorary members. Basically the economical survival of the association was almost completely in the hands of the members of the band, but it would leave the door open for those like the pardoned pupils, who could not afford any contribution.; the monthly fee was set by the Direction according to the economical possibilities of each member who would commit not to interrupt the payment for at least five years.The appendix of the code lists the names of the associates and their monthly fee or the contribution paid for five years. Another important note was the limited number of 25 musicians only, and their duty to be living in the town of Darfo.There were a lot of rules for the members, for their life in the association but also in daily life. Whoever broke the rules (including the conductor) would be fined differently according to what the infringement was.One and a half century later, we can still find a lesson of style in that document, a lesson of sober and severe coherence together with a feeling of human solidarity and a strong will of creating the grounds for a future association, worth the ideals of its founders.Anesa, the historian, found more interesting papers in the Archive of Bergamo: the prospects of the “…private associations of the province of Bergamo. Category 15: recreational associations”, prospects that were redacted by superintendents of the police, or of the Province, of the district of Breno, sometimes completed with the wording “colle notizie interessanti le viste di Polizia di Stato”.On these registers there were lists of all the musical, theatrical, reading associations, active on all the territory of the province.Therefore all these associations were filed by the Police.For each society there was a file with name, location, year of foundation, structure of the direction and names of the directors, numbers of the associates, property of the association, and finally some indications on the registration in the archives or some notes that could interest the authorities.Nothing strange, then, if we think that in those years there were strong ideals spreading on the wave of the Italian Risorgimento against the Austrian domination, and it was an ordinary procedure that the repressive organisms would keep under control all those groups where revolutionary ideas could spread.We were very surprised when we read a date in one of these prospects, corresponding to the Philharmonic Society of Darfo and its “Date of Foundation”: 1852.The following datum gives us the date of registration: August 4th, 1853, number of Lieutenant Despatch n. 16524.The Philharmonic Sociey of Breno was also registered July 18th, 1853, even if we know that there was an official code since 1850.Basically, the regulation found by Marino Anesa was nothing but the necessary bureaucratic carrying out to obtain the governmental authorisation, and the registration of the Society at the archives of the Austrian Police.Another stronger evidence that a music group was already active in Darfo before 1853 is the paper reported in the book edited for the celebration of 150 years of the Band of Breno, where a “…social entertainment and union of the three bands of Breno, Darfo and Pisogne…” is mentioned, “to be held in July 1852 in Boario”. It is interesting to notice that even at that time band gatherings were the trend. It is a striking fact that in 1852 the band of Pisogne is mentioned, who will first appear in the prospects of the Police only after 1857, the year of its registration.Once again the exact date of the meeting of a group of Darfo people, gathered to organise a musical association, was slipping through our fingers For now we are content with this date, July 20th, 1853, well stamped and countersigned on a real piece of paper, by those whom we consider our predecessors and founders.But our researches continue. We cannot exclude that one day or another we will find, hiding in a drawer or on some dusty shelf, a yellowed piece of paper that will make our Band turn older again; who knows if our older musicians will make it for our 200th anniversary.Best wishes to everybody.

14 First steps, first problems

As we have seen, we cannot know when and how the Music of Darfo faced the public for the first time, but we can try to immagine.Perhaps, the musicians first played for their audience playing by heart, and with enough success to push them forward and continue with their commitment to improve. To learn music, now, was just a matter of patience and constant efforts.Perhaps the groups was born from some passionate players who were already used to reading music and playing an instrument, maybe trained by that Master Zucchi (hired, as it is stated in article 6, since july 9th, 1851 and temporary teacher of the musicians of the band of Breno since 1850), thus obtaining successful results from the very beginning.However, there were quite a few details to complete, among which the adoption of a uniform to make the players recognisable; the buying and fixing of instruments to satisfy the growing demand from the enthusiastic people of Darfo who wanted to join the group after enjoying their music; the increase of the music archive due to the necessity to learn more scores and the need of a place where all the musicians could rehearse, the salary for the conductor. Apart from this…money was needed too.The association had just begun, it had to find its identity, and it was premature to ask Institutions for contributions. Apart from some help from philantropists, the musicians had to impose a tax on themselves, a necessary but painful solution, for the people playing in the band were quite poor.As the code stated, the contribution for each player had to be one or more “svanzeghe” (the name of the currency of the time, up to 1857) per month, according to one’s own possibilities.Being a musician, then, was an honour and a duty, a duty in terms of time and effort but also in money; at least not Darfo could count on its own band for any civil or religious ceremony.We cannot exclude that in the first years of activity the band didn’t also go to some town nearby, as confirmed by some episodes we have described before (Pisogne, 1857, Angolo, 1887), and also seeing as at the time there were not many bands (Lovere, 1840, Breno, 1850, Pisogne, 1857).Time passes…and in 1896 we know that “..the Music of Darfo is well formed, well trained and directed by Master Peci from Borno”, whose biography we haven’t been able to reconstruct.The repertoire and the quality of the gigs were rapidly evolving; the conductor was occupied transcribing the scores for each instrument, arranging them from scores for piano that could be found on sales in any town. A musician would then copy the scores for each instrument (what photocopiers do now) and thus the music library would grow richer.In 1900 there were about 30 members, among which the Abondio and the Fiorini brothers; the Caprinali brothers, in their directing roles, would assist the conductor and lead the group with energy, even by anticipating consistent sums of money.In 1914 Isidoro Caprinali’s premature death (58 years) left a hole in the society, but also the will to continue the work in his memory and honour.The beginning of the first world war and the spread of the “Spanish” plague stopped abruptly and upset the whole life of the town. A lot of musicians left to fulfil their duty for the Country, by changing uniform and instrument, while those who were left behind (too young or too old) tried their best to keep the band alive, who was then ready to start back at the end of the war.The group was going back to normality when Massimiliano Caprinali died too, in 1921.By now the association was well defined for the Institutions too, who provided them with someone who could well replace the two directors, thus avoiding the group from dissolving.The first to be nominated were Fortunato Bontempi, together with Giovanni Biondi, the secretary. They were given a letter, in july 1st 1919, with the following wording: “…We undersigned Caprinali brothers declare to renounce their credit towards the Music of Darfo, resulting from the payment by a bill for the amount of L. 463,50 = four hundred sixty-three and fifty cents to the agricultural society of Darfo-Esine, signed by our defunct brother Medoro for the above mentioned Music Association. They also declare to leave as property of the music association the instruments exclusively belonging to their brother Medoro. All this, to honour the memory of our beloved. Faithfully…”. There aren’t many comments for this document…After Fortunato Bontempi’s premature death (june 9th, 1925), Giovanni Biondi was elected president of the Music Association, and he continued with this commitment and effort until 1928, when he died.Battista Cemmi was the next president, and, like Biondi and Bontempi, he was an important figure of the town for the culture and the civilian tasks he was after. The only type of bond between the directors and the musician was the passion for music, but as for the rest, the directors were not involved in the daily life of the Music, since they had never been part of it. This kind of structure continued until the 50’s and 60’s, when at last the players gained the right to manage their Band themselves.