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The Trentino territory has long been respected for its choirs. The Trentino people, while often considered somewhat closed and taciturn, have always found a unique form of self expression in song, especially in the past, when there was less «standardization » throughout the territory. The spontaneous choice of choral singing, as opposed to solo voice, mirrors the traditions of the region, where working together, neighbourly assistance and solidarity has often been necessary just to survive. Our songs reflect the high regard Trentino people have for the mountains, often more with vocal modulation than with actual words, to convey, for example, the indescribable «lump in the throat » felt before the beauty and majesty of a snow covered peak, a moonlit castle reflected in the dark stillness of a lake, or the sense of divine beauty in nature that often leads to reflections on the greater mysteries of life. We sing not only of our fraught history - the war that encroached on our territory, the difficulty of saying goodbye to loved ones, nostalgia, death far from home, poverty, emigration - but also of the simple joys to be found in a shared glance, easy camaraderie between friends, or a child slumbering in a cradle.
The Castle Penede Choir was founded in Nago on March 27, 1976, through the hard work of a group already active in the parish. The heart and soul of the choir, right from the beginning, was the choir's first director Roberto Giuliani, with his tirelessness and unbounded enthusiasm, and who also harmonized many of the pieces in the choir's repertoire.
The name of the choir comes from Castle Penede, whose ruins have withstood the trials of both time and human intervention, and still today dominate the broad Sarca river valley, standing like a sentinel before the lake.
Two other important figures in the choir's history were the mayor and priest of the time, Ottorino Rigotti and Father Silvio Lorenzi respectively, music lovers who helped find a home and rehearsal space for the choir.
A scant few days after the official founding of the choir, the first rehearsal took place, with twenty-three «eager and passionate » members, as testified by the minutes taken at the first meeting of the group. In the following winter, popular music was introduced along with the choir's sacred repertoire.
On February 11, 1977, the Nago choir joined the Choir Federation, creating a charter of membership, and electing a board of directors, including Francesco Stefenelli, president, Bruno Brighenti, vice-president, Pierino Giuliani treasurer, and Vasco Montagni, Giuseppe Girardi and Fabio Mazzoldi.
Since their first run-out concert in Postumia in April, 1977, the choir has covered much ground. The choir's development has been very positive, occasional difficulties notwithstanding; in 1979, the choir almost folded due to a lack of attendance at rehearsals, but the addition of some new blood brought the ensemble to new heights.
The group has performed countless local concerts in addition to national and international engagements, and they have also forged partnerships with Italian and foreign choirs, for example, the twinning of the Castle Penede Choir with a choir from Langquaid in Germany.
In December 1977, the Nago ensemble joined with forty women choristers, performing Lorenzo Perosi's challenging Missa II Pontificalis at the Christmas Mass. They have taken part in significant moments of life and development in Nago and neighbouring towns, giving their cheerful contribution to historical anniversaries, celebrations and festivals, and bringing joy and companionship to patients in rest homes and hospitals. The choir has been an ambassador for the Lake Garda and Trentino area, bringing their music to numerous centres throughout Italy and Europe. Currently, a core group of the ensemble is involved in an educational project in local schools as part of a program developed by the Riva del Garda branch of the SAT (Trentino Alpine Society), geared at promoting a knowledge and love of the Trentino territory in the younger generation.
Since 1980, when the choir adopted its official concert attire, the ensemble's activity has continued to grow in intensity. Among the more important concerts and trips outside of the region, choir members look back fondly on trips to Holland, Germany (where the choir is increasingly well known), Austria, the Czech Republic, the former Republic of Yugoslavia, and Hungary. On May 17, 1986, the music of Trentino was broadcast throughout the world in a special program translated into seventy-six languages by Radio Moscow with the choir.
Choir members have formed important friendships and have many treasured memories, recorded in a vast collection of photographs, intended not only to chronicle the choir's successes but to communicate impressions, feelings and, above all, beliefs and pride of accomplishment for the commitment that the choristers live on a daily basis. The Castle Penede Choir has a very rich repertoire of popular music that is part of the patrimony of not only Nago but all of the neighbouring regions in the alpine territory, and also a large collection of sacred music - an important means of bringing music to the members of the community of Nago. In this way the choir is an ambassador of brotherhood, with one of it's motivations being to promote «genuine and fundamental contact among people », as related by the choir's Pierino Giuliani in his speech in Noordwijkerhout, the city of tulips near Amsterdam, where he was given the honour of walking in the famed Blumencorso.
Many newspapers, both in Italy and abroad, have recounted the success of the choir on its regular summer concert tours in Northern Europe, where it has regaled audiences with such perennial favourites as the celebrated Montanara. «Just to see a photo of an Italian choir brings to mind immediately the piece Montanara», reported a German newspaper in November, 1988, discussing a concert in Wetter-Volmarstein - or perhaps other pieces spring to mind, such as Verdi's Nabucco from the opera repertoire, the Inno al Trentino (Ode to Trentino), or the more recent but equally moving Signore delle Cime and La Madonina.
The photos and words tell of contacts and exchanges that are not only cultural in nature, but above all human: of warm welcomes, hospitality abroad, and intrinsic understanding of the music, which makes us understand the drive behind this choir; it exceeds the original aims of quality music making, always using music as a vehicle to bring together different cultures who find harmony and fraternity through the shared musical experience.
The choir has lived through many unforgettable moments, but outshining them all and living on in both the members' memories and in their hearts is doubtless singing the Inno al Trentino in the Sala Nervi in an audience with Pope John Paul II. The event was meticulously prepared by Maestro Roberto Giuliani, who had the good fortune to have performed a rendition of the Montanara before the Holy Father in the preceding week with the Alpini Military Band «Fanfara Alpina della Valle dei Laghi. » Performing for the Pope is certainly the high point in the history of the choir, a singular event which makes all the years of sacrifice and hard work worthwhile. The choir had a reserved place, and at the end of the audience were the only ones invited onto the stage with the Pope.
The same morning, right before the memorable papal audience, the choir sang the Te Deum mass by Lorenzo Perosi, accompanied by organist Giorgio Dal Rì, in the Santa Martina church in the Roman Forum. This concert was broadcast by Italian national television «Rai Tre » and seen throughout the Latium, and was later deemed to be of such quality that it was used in publicity to raise funds for third world countries. Currently, the Castle Penede Choir has combined offices and rehearsal space that were renovated by the choristers themselves with assistance from the town of Nago, and was inaugurated in June, 2003. The choir is no longer made up of only residents on Nago, but has an interregional physiognomy. Since November 2005, there is also a boys' choir, comprising twenty members from the Nago elementary school, and directed by Claudia Rizzo. The choir's current director is Carlo Giuliani, taking over the position from his father Roberto in 1996 after the latter's enthusiastic leadership which spanned over twenty years since founding the choir. Roberto Giuliani is now the president of the choir.
Unfortunately, 2001 the choir lost a person who had played a fundamental role in the choir's success, right from its inception - founding member Pierino Giuliani, brother of Roberto, an indefatigable promoter of the choir and its activities, and a leading citizen of Nago, with his initiative, human sensitivity, and ongoing belief in the carrying on of our culture, traditions and history.
Thanks to the hard work, self-sacrifice, and passion of its thirty-three members, the Castle Penede Choir today holds a place foremost among the various choral institutions in our territory, proudly representing not only the Upper Lake Garda and Ledro areas, but also making Nago-Torbole a well-known name throughout Italy and Europe. Through posters and images, the choir also continues to be an important component for tourism and promotion of the region.
[ Traduzione: Emily Harris ]
Although Castle Penede is but a ruin today, the fortress which gives its name to our choir still stands on the summit of the crag which leans out over Torbole, dominating Lake Garda. Built on a site inhabited since ancient times, the strategically positioned castle was involved in various documented historical events of the region, at times being the actual target of hostilities. The fort of the bishop, fiefdom of the nobles of Seiano, recovered their possession of the castle from the rulers of Arco, after which it became their stronghold and property of the Castelbarco. It changed hands several times, being occupied by the various lordships that succeeded in the lower Sarca area: the Scaglieri, the Visconti, and the Serenissima Republic of Venice. After the fall of Venice in 1509 to the counts of Arco, it was sacked, and then irreparably damaged in 1703 by the French general Vendôme during the Spanish War of Succession. The castle site was later fortified with artillery by the Austrians, being strongly tied to their forts in Nago.
Tradition has it that the castle was host to Dante Alighieri when the poet visited the Castelbarco, then owners of the castle. It is thought that the view from the rocky outcrop inspired the famous verses from Dante's Inferno: « High in fair Italy, beneath the mountains which border Germany beyond the Tyrol, lies lake Benaco ».
At the foot of the rocks from which spring the ruins of Castle Penede, the steep and ancient road of Santa Lucia leads down from Nago to Torbole. In 1439, it was along this very road that the twenty five ships and six Venetian galleys were transported after they came up the Adige, through Lake Loppio and across the San Giuseppe Pass. Carried down to the lake in this fashion, they took part in the surprise attack against the fleet of Filippo Maria Visconti. This Herculean task of transporting boats across the mountains, perhaps unique in history, was described by Pier Candido Decembrio from Vigevano, who made mention of the castle, writing: «In the wide mouth of the Sarca River where it enters Lake Garda/Lake Benaco, on the left there was a small residence, which the inhabitants called Torbole. On the highest mountain, there was a castle called Penetra (sic). With the Venetians in this place, there were hauled up the Adige from Verona twenty-five galleys and boats, which were then transported by oxen for seventy thousand steps up the mountains. These boats were lowered down to the Lake, and such was their weight that they broke the ancient olive trees around which were wound the ropes, and some boats fell down the mountain.»
In the eighteen hundreds, when numerous foreigners from beyond the alps started to come down to the Upper Lake Garda area for their holidays, various tourist guides recommended walking itineraries with climbs up to the ruins, for example, the guide by Dr Kuntze, entitled «Arco und seine Umgebung» or «Arco and its surroundings». The Saxon doctor wrote in 1898: «Upon arriving in Nago, a climb to the ruins of Castle Penede must not be missed. From the shelf on which the Castle stands, the panorama takes in all of the Arco valley, Lake Loppio, Lake Garda and the mountains which surround it. If possible, the view is even more majestic than when seen from the road.»
A recommendation which still holds true today, and which we heartily endorse.
[ Traduzione: Emily Harris ]