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Frottole di Isnello


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Technical sheet prepared by: Region of Sicily - Department of cultural heritage and Sicilian identity - CRicd: Regional center for inventory, cataloging and documentation and Sicilian regional film library

N. Prog.
Frottole di Isnello
REIS - Book of Expressive Practices and Oral Repertoires
Approval date
Religious chant
Local denomination
Chronological News
The Frottole di Isnello represent a unique historical and artistic tradition in the world, masterpieces of Sicilian musical literature, constituting an extraordinary corollary of Sacred Hymns in praise and honor to the Saints and to the SS. Sacramento, immersed in the magic of simple and incomparable processional rites of popular sacredness, praising the faith towards God.
They were written over two centuries, from the 700th to the 900th, and commissioned to the most illustrious Sicilian musicians and writers by the various religious congregations and brotherhoods existing in the many churches of the small Madonite town.
Cristoforo Grisanti, in his volume "Folklore di Isnello", published for the first time in 1899, a true guide book of Sicilian ethnoanthropology, tells about the Frottole that between firecrackers and the ringing of churches, you go around the streets of both the eve and the feast day, and a large number of people, except women, take part. It also tells us a lot about the opulence and splendor of the Frottole in Isnello in the 800th century: "The drummers in white damask zimarre precede and hats, of the same color, with wide brims and gold braid, then the major banners carried, under the guidance of the experienced, by young peasants, borgesi and shepherds, who, eager to get married, want the girls, who well dressed and combed, they are all eyes to the terraces, to the balconies, to the windows or with their mothers at the doors of the houses and at the outlets of the streets, showing themselves able to carry them straight as candles, and capable of supporting them, even if tall and heavy, on the palm of the hand, clenched fist, shoulder, forehead, teeth. Then the minor banners, the musical band, the orchestra, the singers and often choirs of young people in the form of angels who here and there sing the hymn of the occasion. Finally, the coffin with the saint on duty, followed by a large crowd of people, hence the name of frottula in this procession ... The richest and most devoted owners carried around the fardi hanging from a long rod (flaps, beautiful silk fabrics, red , green, pink, cerulean, silver or gold), about m. 5, wide cm. 80 and an average value of L. 200 each, which they later offered to the Mother Church, as is still customary, to decorate it".
The Frottole di Isnello have survived over the years, despite their instrumental reduction, thanks above all to the masters and players who succeeded each other in the town band. Through a necessary work of reinterpretation by Maestro Antonio Sottile, a native of Isnello, since 1995, little by little, a path has been undertaken aimed at their recovery and enhancement. In rediscovering and adapting the vocal versions, now almost completely forgotten, and in the act of bringing them back to their primary executive conception, an attempt was made to make known and disseminate this extraordinary repertoire, so as to rise to its own, rediscovered cultural dimension by freeing it from oblivion that lasted over half a century.
Corresponding to the holiday calendar (10 holidays)
Corresponding to the holiday calendar (10 holidays)
Components of the Confraternity dedicated to the Saint, polyphonic choir, musical band, bearers of palii.
The whole community of devotees, tourists
The Sacred Hymns of Isnello, the Frottole in fact, are a rare and precious tradition not for the historical-musical contents that they contain per se, but for the profound meanings of faith and popular devotion they represent: in its essence, the Frottola it is nothing more than a joyful hymn of praise to God, to be played and sung every time, with people pouring into the street, in a festive crowd, to listen, a happy and fervent prelude, a sort of itinerant musical preparation for the great procession of the evening, in which the people of Isnello participate with much deeper intensity of spirit.
The Frottole are a unique and peculiar ethnic and artistic expression in which moments of sacred music converge, now cultured, now almost popular, and polychrome scenes of processional rites praising faith and the gifts of the earth. They constitute a complex and imaginative embroidery of sacred songs and hymns, complete with orchestration and instrumentation. Each Frottola is made up of as many itinerant “paintings”, each of which includes its own vara and the sculptural work, generally from the eighteenth century, with the effigy of the saint on duty, supported by the men of the Confraternity; and also a polyphonic choir, a wind orchestra or a musical band, the palio with the bearers, the poles supported by the boys and other symbols, flowers and fruits linked to the life of the fields. There is no kid who hasn't somehow been the protagonist in Frottola: either as a banner bearer or as a support for the musicians' score.
This name, a rapid slide, with a tetic gait, is associated with the atmosphere of a pure and laughing joyfulness, divided between the happy devotion of the people and the serene and multiple flow of sounds: the firing of the firecrackers, the happy pacing of the bells , the harmonic chaos of flutes and clarinets. All in a riot ofpalii rise to the sky.
The real meaning of Frottola, in the Isnellese tradition, does not refer so much to the profane musical forms of the same name that arose in Italy around the end of the 400th century, although it identified a slight link when, at the height of their rise, they also served as a prologue and epilogue to the sacred representations, but rather its more strictly etymological meaning. The term, in fact, derives from the word frotta (in French,rub) which means a crowd in motion. But it could also come from neo-Latin frocta, that is, miscellany or congeries of different elements.
There are 10 Frottole di Isnello in total, as many as the holidays that are celebrated in the town within the year:
- Frottola a San Giuseppe (the feast is celebrated on March 19th)
composed by Maestro Mario di Martino (1926), texts by Dr. Carmelo Virga
- Frottola on Good Friday (during the rites of Holy Week)
popular version of the composition "Stava Maria Dolente" by Antonio Lotti (1667-1740) arrived in Isnello at the beginning of the 800th century
- Frottola at SS. Crucifix (the feast is celebrated on May 1st)
composed by Maestro Carlo Vito Graffeo (ca 1868), texts by Prof. Mons. Cristoforo Grisanti
- Frottola at SS. Sacrament (the feast is celebrated on the Solemnity of Corpus Domini)
composed by Maestro Carlo Vito Graffeo (1869 ca.), texts by Mons. Rosario Fiorino (1850 ca.)
- Frottola to Maria SS. of Carmel (the festival is celebrated on the XNUMXnd Sunday of July)
composed by Maestro Mario Di Martino (1907), texts by Dr. Carmelo Virga
- Frottola in San Giovanni Bosco (la party is celebrated on July 31st)
composed by Maestro Pietro Anselmo, texts by Don Giuseppe Peri
- Frottola alla Vergine Assunta (the festival is celebrated on August 15th)
- Frottola in San Nicola di Bari (the patronal feast is celebrated on 7 September)
composed in the 800th century by an uncertain author, texts by Pietro Ortolani (second half of the 800th century)
- Frottola alla Santa Croce (the feast was celebrated on May 3 in the Church of SS. Annunziata, for about 20 years the feast is no longer celebrated and the Frottola is performed on September 14 for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross)
composed by Maestro Giuseppe Leto (1890 ca), texts by Mons. Rosario Fiorino (1850)
- Frottola to Maria SS. Immaculate (la party is celebrated on December 8)
composed by Maestro Antonio Sottile (2007), texts by Mons. Rosario Fiorino (1820) and Antonio Sottile (2010)
Buttitta, Ignazio Emanuele. 2006. The dead and the wheat. Times of work and rhythms of the party. Rome: Meltemi Editore.
Grisanti, Cristoforo. 1981. Folklore of Isnello. Palermo: Sellerio Editore.
There is a project for the recovery, redevelopment and promotion of the Frottole di Isnello, entitled "The Sounds of the Sacred", within which an event of extraordinary importance was held on June 24, 2006, on the occasion of the Infra Ottava del Corpus Domini, which was attended by some of the major institutional authorities of the island.
Through the artistic direction of Maestro Sottile, the outdoor performance of this extraordinary repertoire was given life in the streets of Isnello, in fact the Frottole echoed together for the first time in a single and extraordinary occasion.
The Anima Gentis Choir and the Francesco Bajardi musical group of Isnello, the Giuseppe Verdi of Castelbuono, the Santa Cecilia of Cefalù, the Young Musicians of the Conservatory of Palermo together with the choral groups Laus et honor of Castelbuono, Music for the Man of Cefalù, thus opened the fascinating itinerary of sacred music pieces, culminating in the prestigious participation of the Fanfare of the Carabinieri Sicilia together with the White Voice Choir of the State Conservatory of Palermo. Over 400 performers of eight choral and instrumental ensembles gave life to the outdoor performance of this wonderful repertoire in the streets of Isnello. The spontaneous and very lively chorus of enthusiasm on the part of musicians, institutions, cultural and religious associations, with the indispensable and loving contribution of the people of the country made this unforgettable event feasible.
During these years, video documentation on Frottole has also begun to be produced, first of all the musical feature film "Canto di Maggio" by Antonio Sottile, made in collaboration with the Diocese of Cefalù, the Command of the Carabinieri Sicily Region with the own Fanfare of the XII BTG, under the aegis of the Regional Province of Palermo. The film, with a brief participation of the actor Michele Placido, was screened in April 2002 at the Politeama Garibaldi Theater in Palermo.
The Anima Gentis Choir of Isnello was born in January 2006, in preparation for the historical musical event of "I Suoni del Sacro" which took place on June 24 of that year, with the aim of recovering and enhancing the extraordinary and unique repertoire of the Frottole . It is made up of over one hundred choristers, mostly natives, residents, or having some bond of affective closeness with Isnello. From the moment of its creation it has undertaken an intense musical activity by taking part in numerous concerts and important events, including those in collaboration with the Vincenzo Bellini Conservatory of Palermo, held at the Cathedral of Palermo, at the Cathedral Basilica of Cefalù, at the Politeama Garibaldi Theater in Palermo and in numerous other centers of the island.
Since 2006 the Anima Gentis Choir of Isnello, the White Voices and the Wind Instrument Masters of the V. Bellini Conservatory of Music in Palermo, the Historical Band Francesco Bajardi have performed the Frottole in concert form in numerous important events and manifestations, held at the Cathedral of Palermo, Cefalù, Mazara del Vallo, at the Politeama Garibaldi Theater in Palermo and in various other centers of the island.
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Maria Rosaria Paterno '
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