Music Concert Spotlights Italian Heritage, Culture
Thursday, February 22, 1984
The Windsor Star
By Lee Palser
Close to 1,000 people of all ethnic backgrounds crowed into the Cleary Auditorium Wednesday night for a musical celebration of Italian culture.
They arrived to a slide presentation of Italy’s people and heritage and left more than two hours later to the haunting strains of Inno di Mamell, the Italian national anthem.
The concert brought tears to the eyes of not a few of the area’s Italian community, may of whom-like Filomena Morrocco- plan to return for tonight’s encore presentation.
Mrs. Morocco, who emigrated from Latina, near Rome, Said this time she plans to bring her husband to see the performance.
During the intermission, the audience was lavish in its praise of the show, which featured not only Windsor’s Community Concert Band but also the Coro Italiano and the Ciociaro Folklore Dances.
“I would have to say it’s one of the few times I’ve seen this fine performance,” said John Rossi, who family came from Varese, in northern Italy. “I am also surprised to see how many people of non-Italian descent there are here, learning something about the culture.”
Rossi, a lawyer, said he was especially pleased with the Friuli photographic exhibit in the upper foyer of the Cleary.
:”One of the things I found most interesting was the slide show,” said Rossi’s wife, Eleanore Zanette, whose family is from Friuli itself. “It gave us all an idea of the number of Italians who have settled in Canada and what they have accomplished.”
Of special interest to may in the audience was the fact that nodern day Italy did not form until 1870 – three years after Canada’s ow conferderation. Giribaldi, Guiseppe Mazzine and Count Camillo Cavour were familiar to many who had studied their own heritage, but master of ceremonies, Doran McTaggart reeled on name after name of other Italians who have made significant contributions to world affairs.
He pointed out that in Toronto alone; there are an estimated 400,000 Italians, while another 500,000 live in Montreal with a total Canadian population of between 2.5 and 3 million.
And, he added, it’s not just for their wine-making and stone masonry they are well, known, although both have been major factors in the success stories of many Italian immigrants.
Significant contributions have been made in scholastics, science, entertainment, sports, food, automobiles and clothing.
“And who could forget about the pizza?” Where would Windsor be without pizza?”, he quipped, drawing appreciative laughter from the audience.
Ernie Gerenda, director and producer of the show, coordinator of music for the Windsor Board of Education and founder and conductor the Windsor Community Concert Band, said during the program that it’s the third year the board and the Windsor Star have sponsored a concert highlighting a specific cultural group.
Both the Ukrainians and Germans have been singled out so far, he said.
“It’s a fine, responsive crowd tonight-I’d estimate it at 1,000-and we’re expecting even more Thursday night,” he commented.
There are different peoples all over the world and they all have something to offer their community. There are things we take for granted as being Canadian that were really imported from other countries and nationalities.”
Tying the entire performance together was the Windsor Community Concert Band with musicians from across the entire area and from all walks of life, from high school and university students to retirees.
First formed in 1977 through the university’s education faculty, the band has performed all over Canada and the United States. There are 74 musicians. Gerenda himself received a gold medal in 1970 from the federal government in recognition of his contributions to international relations through his musical performances.
The entire program was videotaped and will become a one-hour show available for cable and educational viewing, Gerenda said.
McTaggart, who has emceed the community band’s performances for the last three or four years, said the audience was especially responsive during the presentation Wednesday.
He said his view of the show from the podium gives him a unique vantage point to judge hw well it is being received, and the music selector for the cultural series “really does give it an ethnic flavor that the audience can identify with.”
Linda Balga, The Star’s community relations director, said the performance had a special appeal to her this year-her own family is from Italy.
“That wasn’t the reason, though, that we picked the Italian community this year,” she laughed. “We’ve also had cultural nights for the Germans and Ukrainians as well. There is a large number of people of Italian descent in Windsor and Essex County-I’m not sure of the actual statistics-and this is our tribute to that community.