Notes from (choir) loft – 5

Sue Altarelli looks back on a trip to Italy where she finds a possible connection to our parish priest – and embraces the run-up to Christmas

Hello all,
It has been a while since the last post, mainly because the choir always has a long break over the summer months, when it proves difficult to co-ordinate choir members, families and holidays.

I have been to America for my niece’s wedding, to Holland to visit my nephew, and recently to Italy to visit my husband’s family for All Souls.

They live in Arpaia, a mountain village in southern Italy 40 miles east of Naples. That region, Campania, has been invaded many times by various nationalities. They are a stubborn race, the Samnites ( tell me about it), and held out a long time against the Romans. The French, Spanish, Arabs from North Africa and the Norman invaders have all left their mark on the music and architecture.The Longobard ( long beards) influence is seen everywhere. In England they are the Lombards! Could this be a link to Father Charles?

All Souls is a national holiday in Italy and a huge family occasion to get together and visit the cemetery. The sign of respect for the dead is not as gruesome as it sounds. They visit the family crypts talk to the deceased, clean up the tombs, put out fresh flowers and lights and chat and talk with others doing the same. It’s a party atmosphere and a chance to meet up with friends and family that you haven’t seen for a long time. People travel from all over the world to be together at this time.

The cemetery in Arpaia

The cemetery in Arpaia

It’s a great way of cementing community, continuity and faith.

It’s interesting to see the more commercial American-style Halloween rubbing alongside this old way of doing things. The children in our family had a Halloween party with all the bats and witches and pumpkins on All Souls, and then went with Mum, Aunties and Grannies the next day to the cemetery.

The cemetery in Arpaia is run by the community and is not around the church. In fact all the southern Italian cemeteries are like that.

You may wonder what this has to do with Bungay? Well, as from last weekend, a photo of St Edmund’s graveyard and the Altarelli headstone ( written in Italian)

Lucia's headstone in Bungay - in Italian

Lucia’s headstone in Bungay – in Italian

is now in pride of place in the mountain village of Arpaia in the family’s crypt. Mass was held in a chapel on site on the day of All Saints (Ognissanti ) and a few echoing ladies voices sang responses in a wailing Arabic timbre . Guess what? The congregation didn’t join in! They left it to the choir.

Here in Bungay we have had a choir meal since the summer break which took coordination and much changing of dates so that everyone could be there. We all brought a contribution and shared food, drink and conversation after Mass around the big table in the presbytery. A special thank you should be said to Wendy for the lasagna and Jan for the meringues.

Enjoying the choir meal at the presbytery

Enjoying the choir meal at the presbytery

It was great to have all choir members new and old together. Amelia is singing solo more and more and gaining in confidence which is lovely to hear. Seated at the table were three generations of choir members, from the same family. I apologise for the out of focus photos, I will blame my camera skills and not the wine!

Good news in the choir loft! We have a new bookshelf there for music. It is to help us be more organised – although that hasn’t actually happened yet. It is still a mad scramble to find the right book or piece of music at the right time. When the shelves are beautifully arranged I will take a photo and share the sight!

Now Christmas is on the horizon and the Churches Together Carol Service is already in our diaries, and could be in yours! 13 December in Trinity Church at 6pm.

This year the three church choirs will not be singing separate choir pieces, as in the past, but joint choir offerings and congregational carols will be the menu. Come along and sing your favourites.

What is your favourite carol? Why?

Anticipating a musical Christmas!

Sue Altarelli