No, I am not writing about the latest chart topping single in Rome. Nor will I make some social commentary about unrest in London or North Africa. Rather I wanted to share with you a couple of strange occurrences in Veglio.
One that brought tears to most everyone who was present. The other that quite frankly scared the living merda out of us.
It seems like music has always been an important part of life in Italy. Whether the echos of songs through a church, an opera sung by Pavarotti or the strings in quartet by Vivaldi, music seems to be woven through the culture.
I remember that growing up there always seemed to be music around the big Italian family gatherings. Most of the time, there would be Lindy Mantova on his accordion adding a melody to the wine, food and chatter that was a strange cross between something that resembled the English and Italian…Italish?
|The Church at Tocino--3 Miles from Veglio|
Our family in Ossola also have art and music as staples of their daily lives. Andrea and his father, Giovanni belong to a chorale group of men that travel throughout Switzerland and Northern Italy. They often perform songs that are several centuries old in little churches that predate another famous Italian’s first journey to America.
We had heard that they were quite good, but never had experienced the music first hand. That was, until our reunion in Veglio.
Due to predicted rain, the planned picnic had to scramble looking for cover. Andrea was able to talk to the local priest about using the little church in Veglio. The church itself probably seated no more than 40 or 50 faithful on those long ago Sundays. That meant everyone without exception in village took time from their toils to celebrate mass and spend some time with their neighbors.
|The Old Veglio Church|
Built around 1200 AD, as of late it has been used more for storage than sacrament with chairs, boxes, refrigerators and other assorted material had to be moved out so tables for dining could be placed.
Lunch was a raucous affair, with nearly 60 people enjoying lots of wine, polenta, chicken, ribs, lamb and assorted accompaniments. Laughter and more than a little shouting rang through the church during the celebration.
Then…something quite strange happened. From the corner table near the back of the church, singing began. Not just any singing, but hair standing up on the back of your neck sounds of the chorale. No instruments, just the joining together of voices in sacred music that was first sung over five hundred years earlier.
What was once loud, became eerily still as the singing continued. A little taste of the singing is in this video clip that we took with our iphone.
Flash forward though to last Friday. Not sure why I thought I needed it, but found myself taking a little early evening nap on the cabana. When I woke up, I checked my phone and found a flurry of texts, attempted calls and voicemals from both daughter Alexandra and brother Mark.
Turning first to Alex, she reported having been robbed near her new apartment in Chicago. Fortunately, only her wallet was taken, snatched while she was checking her groceries as she left the store.
Next, I checked the voicemail from Mark. ACCIDENT IN VEGLIO, check your email right away and call me back! Holy crap, what is going on?
A quick check of my email reported the accident. Andrea and Cecilia had been cleaning debris from the house the previous Monday. A fire had been started to burn what they could. Unfortunately, something found its way to the fireplace that caused an intense explosion.
Andrea was no more than ten feet from the fire, while Cecilia was across the room. The explosion knocked them both to the ground and shattered bottles nearby. Andrea was hit the hardest, with his face blackened and hair and beard burning.
As soon as he could, Andrea made his way to the water trough instinctively submersing his face trying to stem the burning. Neighbors came running having at first thought the sound was from the quarry, perhaps placing too much explosive.
|Andrea with all his hair and his California Girls|
A friend was called and brought Andrea and Cecilia to the hospital. Andrea was injured most severely and had to stay for nearly a week. The burns thankfully appear to be healing nicely thanks to quick action and good care.
Of greater concern are his ears. The hearing in both is not good and certain ranges are missing altogether. Andrea is going to a clinic the next two weeks for hyperbaric care for the ear drums. Hopefully, it will restore some if not all of the hearing that was lost.
Now that the mortal danger is past, we are hopeful that his hearing will return in full. We know that he gets great joy in singing and listening to music. It would be quite sad and listening to the chorale sing may give you an appreciation of this.
|Rendering of the "Culprit"|
Oh, I almost forgot. Closer inspection revealed the culprit as a Bomba a Mano which translates quite clearly to hand grenade. Model #35 made between 1939 and 1945 was probably hidden away during the resistance fighting that occurred against the Germans during World War II. Part of the Ossola Rebellion whose tale will have to wait to another time.
For now, we pray and hope for recovery. Mark and I plan to be in Veglio the last half of September. We will be working with Andrea to stabilize the roof and prepare the project for the Alpine winter.
Don’t tell our mother this story as she will hound us daily.