Sunday, May 17, 2009

Peppe Butera, Sicilian Abstract Artist, Brings His ‘Cry of Love’ to the United States

This article also appears on our Italian Journal page.

In April 2009, painter Peppe Butera brought his latest exhibition, Urlo d’Amore (Cry of Love) to The Foundry Gallery in New York City and the Westchester Italian Cultural Center in Tuckahoe, New York. Long enamored with the drip painting style of Jackson Pollock and pop-art sensibility of Mimmo Rotella, Butera fuses these elements with the warmth and earthiness of his native Sicily.

Cry of Love may be as close to heartbreak on canvas as we’re likely to see. Butera painted these works from the agony of a great love’s end. It’s all there: confusion, desolation, isolation, the stubborn denial. And also the love that viscerally endures. To experience these works is to somehow take the journey with him, and leaves no doubt of the power of art to communicate beyond the reach of words.
Butera pours his colors onto the canvas using the drip painting technique. With both both acrylic and oil paint, he mixes them with elements found in Nature, like sand from a Sicilian beach. Even his colors evoke the palette of Sicily: the blues of the Mediterranean, the yellows and golds of the sun, reds of terra firma and black from the ashes of Mount Etna.

The passion of his work is best explained by Butera himself: “If I try to tell the reasons of my work, of my life, you won’t hear of much school, rather of the actors of my childhood, my grandfather, my parents, my country. There I was born. I, then, realized, step by step, another way of life, dominated by colors. I began to talk a new alphabet, mine were colored words…There are words coming from your head, these are regular, rational words. They follow time, space, rules. And there are words coming from your heart. They have no time, no space, no rules. They have only colors. They became my voice, my letters, my cry of love and I colored my paintings with them….I have been spending my life to paint for the woman I love. Love is the only reason of my life, the only one able to ‘move the stars’. If you feel something, looking at canvas, you know it depends only on my thought of love.”

I asked him if the act of painting these images calmed the pain in his heart. “A little bit.” he said.

Peppe Butera’s other exhibitions include:
Le Credit Lyonnais, San Tropez (1997)
Omaggio a Pollock, Spazio Cosi’, Vicenza (1998)
Percorsi, Hotel Concordia, Cortina (2002)
La Mia Valle Pirandello e Quasimodo, Museo Archeologico Regionale, Agrigento (2003)
Galleria Maytemuno2, Barcelona (2003)
Per Passione, Ex Ateneo Piazza Duomo, Bergamo (2004)
Cara Amica, Museo Archeologico di Agrigento (2005)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bitetto, Italy, Hosts Works of American Sculptor Greg Wyatt

This article also appears on our Italian Journal page.

The beautiful little town of Bitteto, just outside of Bari in Puglia, Italy will host an exhibit of world famous American sculptor Greg Wyatt. Mr. Wyatt is most noted for his cast bronze figures in the style of Spiritual Realism. Just some of the places where his sculptures appear include New York City (Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Columbia University, Gramercy Park), Washington, D.C. (US Department of State, US House of Representatives, Georgetown University), Paris, France and the UK. In Italy, his work has appeared in Florence at the Giardino Bardini, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Casa di Dante and in Sicily, at the Museo Archeologico Regionale di Agrigento.

The current exhibit in Bitetto, called "Alle Origini", is being held at the Convento Domenicani and the Santuario del Beato Giocamo from April 26 - May 24, 2009. This event is presented by the town of Bitteto and the American Friends of Bitteto Foundation. Bitetto and the Foundation are working together on a series of initiatives showcasing historical and artistic endeavors.

To learn more about Greg Wyatt and see images of his work visit

Friday, May 8, 2009

Announcing the Release of Traditional Southern Italian Mandolin and Fiddle Tunes Book and CD Set

This article also appears on our Italian Journal page.

It’s finally here! Mel Bay Publications has released John LaBarbera’s long awaited book teaching the music he’s been perfecting for decades. Here you will find the authentic folk traditions of Campania, Calabria, Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia. The music is placed in context with detailed descriptions of the songs and dances, along with historical and technical information about the tarantella and pizzica.

The music is written in standard notation and mandolin tablature with guitar and mandolin chord accompaniment. The CD helps the student better understand the rhythms and picking styles of this rarely heard music and aids in precise practice.

John was the first to notate Southern Italian folk music when he found himself in the midst of its revival in 1970’s Italy. Until that point, the music had never been written down and was passed orally through the generations (to learn more about these experiences, listen to John’s podcast here).

You can purchase Traditional Southern Italian Mandolin and Fiddle Tunes here.

To view a slideshow about the history of the mandolin in Italy, click here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Troubadour's Journey, Part 2

This is a transcript of the podcast appearing on our Podcast Page.

Carolyn: In Part 1, John made his way from America to Italy to London and back to Italy again. With his guitars and mandolins, he met other street musicians in Florence and they formed the group, 'Pupi e Fresedde' which means Puppets and Bread. Together they became an integral part of the 1970's revival of Southern Italian folk music.

In 1977, Pupi e Fresedde toured in the United States with the Domestic Resurrection Circus of the famous Bread & Puppet Theater, based in Vermont. It's astonishing but, despite the similar name, Bread & Puppet was not affiliated with Pupi e Fresedde.

Bread and Puppet was a politically radical puppet theater, founded in the 1960s. It's signature was 10 to 15 foot high puppets that they used in anti-war and other political demonstrations.

Stefan Brecht, the son of poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht, devoted much of his life to documenting the events of Bread & Puppet Theater. John and Stefan's paths would soon cross in a small New York cafe.

John: So then in '76 when we were doing the show at the Washington square church at 4th street. First he wanted me to go to the Chelsea hotel, and I said no, I'm not going there.

Carolyn: (laughter) Are you nuts?

John: I'm busy, I'm going to be down at the cafe. across from the church, come and visit me there. So then he said, "OK, OK, I'll be there." So we sit at a table at Caffe Vittorio, La Lanterna on McDougal Street and he starts asking me, so what about this music, what does it mean? I didn't know what he was doing. He said he was doing research.

Fast forward to 1986 when John, now living in New York, visits his old friends at the Bread & Puppet Theater.

John: So about 10 years later I was up in Vermont at the Bread and Puppet Theater and there were all these books out. And Stefan Brecht, had been writting an anthology, he's got 2 thick volumes of almost every single day in the life of Bread and Puppet. It's his lifelong work. So I see this book and I start looking thru it. Then I start seeing photographs of when we were in Vermont.

Carolyn: Not only were John's photos in the book, but an entire chapter was devoted to the conversation he had with Stefan 10 years earlier, at Cafe Vittorio, about Southern Italian folk music.

Rewind to 1977. After the U.S. tour, John, along with Pupi e Fresedde, returned to Italy. As they performed throughout Northern Italy, the rhythms and lyrics of Southern Italian Folk Music were heard in many places, for the very first time. John lived this dream for years, but then things started to get complicated.

John: from the early 70's to 79. I would come back to NY and as soon as I came back to NY they would call me, to do like the Biennale in Venice, or something. And I was so torn. I wanted to go back but at the same time my father had a heart attack and then I felt, you know, I wanted to be close my family, it was hard, it was getting hard. Now I had met Alessandra. I met her one of the occasions when I came back to visit my family, I met her in 1975-76.

Carolyn: Alessandra is Alessandra Belloni, who would become a singer, composer, and world renowned percussionist. But no one knew that at the time.

John: She came to visit me in Italy and met me and the group, Pupi e Fresedde.

Carolyn: So she got to see what you guys were doing?

John: And by that time the revival was really pretty strong.

Carolyn: Had the two of you been talking about this revival of Southern Italian music?

John: No, we just liked it and then she wound up writing to me and said you know, if you come back to NY, I want to start a group and I think we can do something like this in NY. and I said well, I don't know. I didn't think it was going to be the same because I was used to being in Italy, playing in the piazzas and playing these beautiful places and how could I recreate that again? So she kind of like convinced me. She said she met this actor, Claudio Saponi, and he does all these different characters. He does Arlechinno, he does Pulchinello. So then when I came back I met with him. So this is around 1980. So I decided to stay in New York.

I would supply all the music, I had guitar and mandolin. In italy we had violins, frame drums, and then all these different voices, and all we had was just me playing the music and Alessandra singing and I said, this is not enough. But we started to do some stuff, and we would go to the Italian communities like in Brooklyn, out to LI. The older people, they remembered this kind of stuff, but the younger people didn't know what we were doing. They never heard this kind of music before.

Carolyn: And they weren't part of the revival, certainly.

John: No, that never touched them, because American-Italian immigration was totally on a different path. Unless someone's grandparents remembered it, from before they left Italy, maybe 50-60 years ago. So we had a lot to do. We have to teach these people about their culture, about this music because it got lost and they're not going to know about it. And I really loved it. So we felt like we wanted to bring it into the Italian communities and maybe the younger people would start listening to it and liking it and let it grow. Because for me, I didn't know it existed. I went there and had to learn it and be exposed to it and fell in love with it and I felt like I need to bring it back here. At that time after playing with Pupi E Fresedde all those years, I had started to transcribe all the music.

Carolyn: So it was written down?

John: I wrote it down.

Carolyn: For the first time, maybe?

John: Yeah, I started collecting it. I had suitcases full of this music.

Carolyn: So this is music that even back in the 50's hadn't been written?

John: No. Nobody would write that down.

Carolyn: John, Alessandra and Claudio continued to try to get their music heard. It wasn't an easy road, and at times it was quite discouraging. Overall, John's experiences performing in America were not what he was accustomed to in Italy.

John: Coming back to New York, with me in my little Volkswagon, traveling to Brooklyn with costumes, props. We tried to recreate it with just the 3 of us. Here I was coming from a whole big troupe and traveling all over Europe and here we are my little Volkswagen trying to bring Italian music.

Carolyn: From the sublime to the ridiculous!

John: Yeah. But Alessandra had a vision to pursue. I couldn't feel that same enthusiasm because I was still nostalgic for being in Italy and doing it there on a grand scale and then starting all over again, playing in the small little school yard, or a school gym, I was like, oh, this is so depressing!

And you know, in Italy, we would go to the town and they would give us the town wine and the food, and it was like, where is this all? What's wrong? But then we kept pursuing it. One time we had to play for this agent, they didn't know where to place us. So one time they said, "Oh, we have a tour for you guys and we want you to play in the A&P in the Italian Deli department"

Carolyn: Where? In New York?

John: In Long Island. We would go from one A&P to the next, playing in front of the Italian Deli section.

Carolyn: Oh my gosh, here you're playing piazzas, palazzos and concert halls in Europe and you're here and you're playing the deli section!

John: And people would say, "Excuse me, I've got to get my rolls!"

Carolyn: In those moments, you had to have doubted, you had to have been thinking...

John: I know, what am I doing here? I felt like we were this tiny little melody trying to survive in the rash of noise.

Carolyn: So how did it develop? Was is just a series of small steps or was there..?

John: Yeah, a series of small steps. I got a job working in Brooklyn at a senior citizen's center, they were all retired Italian musicians there, that were like the string virtuosi from the '20's. I had to get them together to do a concert every Wednesday for the dance.

Carolyn: So there was a dance at the Center?

John: Yes, and they were all these mandolinists, retired mandolin players. And I would put together groups with them. So I got to know the people in the Italian community and there was a church there and this Irish priest, Fr. Kelly.

Carolyn: That's ironic.

John: I know. He loved us. He'd always bring us back, really be pushing us to do things in St. Finbar's in Brooklyn. So we wound up doing a lot of things in Brooklyn, for senior citizens. They thought, it was entertaining for them. They knew Pulchinella, so we'd do a lot of comedy skits and stuff.

Carolyn: So it sounds like in this phase you're rekindling these traditions with this group of people who knew them when they were children, and here it is again.

John: Yeah, that's how it all started. So I knew that the music needed to have more musicians and more arrangements to it. Then the people that I met from Bread and Puppet, they were living on 9th street. They loved the music because they remembered Pupi E Fresedde, and they loved the music and they wanted to be part of it somehow.

Carolyn: So how did you go from this to the more polished group that you have now with Alessandra? Were you calling yourselves Giulliari di Piazza at the time?

John: Yeah. And then I started to do more polished arrangements with the music, writing out parts, making it as easy for the musicians as possible and yet letting them hear the style. We've had so many musicians working with us over the years, people who never heard it before. Most of them weren't even Italian; they just liked the music. So then we started to get a grant. But what really helped us to really keep it going was the fact that we had a friend from New York University, who was the chairman of the Italian Department, Luigi Ballerini, who saw a lot of potential in us and he supported us a lot and gave us the space at NYU. Because where were we going to meet, in the cafe? We couldn't put anything together there. As we went on we tried to do more elaborate productions, and then I think our first opera was, we did the Cantata dei Pastori.

We stuck to it all these years. And then I wanted to write more for film and theater. I didn't know it was going to go from classical guitar to writing for theater and film, but how things evolve. But all thru this music, which is what kept leading me, throughout my whole life, in this direction.

Carolyn: The performance troupe that John founded with Alessandra Belloni, called I Giulliari di Piazza or the Jesters of the Square, is still performing the folk music of Southern Italy. John composed, arranged and performed this music with Alessandra and the troupe for theater productions of Dance of the Ancient Spider and Techno Tarantella, as well as various CDs they recorded together.

On his own, John arranges and composes music for stage and screen. From off Broadway productions with John Turturo to the soundtrack of the award winning documentary, Sacco and Vanzetti, to writing a book called Southern Italian Mandolin and Fiddle Tunes, published by Mel Bay, John continues his troubadour's journey. No one knows where he'll turn up next.

To learn more about John, go to his website,

To download some of John's music, go here.

To learn more about the musical program in Siena, founded by Joseph Del Principe, go to

A Troubadour's Journey, Part 1

This is a transcript of the podcast appearing on our Podcast page.

Carolyn: John T. LaBarbera is an Italian-American who has been playing traditional Italian music for over 30 years. He has recorded numerous CDs and composed many film soundtracks, including the critically acclaimed documentary Sacco and Vanzetti. His theater credits include several off-Broadway productions, most notably Souls of Naples with John Turturro, and productions by the Italian Music and Theater Company, I Giullari di Piazza, which he co-founded with world renowned percussionist, Alessandra Belloni.

For JLB, the vision of someday going to Italy was planted in his mind as a child, listening to his grandfather's stories of his own boyhood in Italy. His grandfather died without returning to his homeland, but the dream stayed with John as he grew.

John's Italian journeys brought him into contact with amazing people, unexpected twists and turns, and experiences that spanned the sublime to the ridiculous. Little did he know he would play an integral role in the 1970's revival of Southern Italian folk music, including the Tarantella Pizzica. John would team with Alessandra Belloni and bring this music to America, laying the groundwork for its continued performance.

But that's the end of our story. Let's start at the beginning. John loved music and had his own band at 13. He continued studying classical guitar at Connecticut's Hart School of Music and met a professor who would change the course of John's life.

John: I got a degree in classical guitar and my last year in college, a friend of my mine who was also teaching there, he was a professor, he said, "you know, you belong in Italy". His name was del Principe. And he said, "you know, I've been going to Siena and I want to start a school there. I want to take students from the college." So, Del Principe kind of like gave me a scholarship to go to Italy and to help him out, you know, it was kind of like he was teaching me a lot of stuff so he made me like his assistant.

Carolyn: Did you have any sense at this point how long you would be in Italy?

John: No. Actually, my real plan, because you know I was fascinated by Italy but somehow, I knew that when I graduated from college I was thinking of going to London, because I had a teacher who had invited me. He said I could try to help you get some work in London at the Guitar Center. Del Principe said, "You know, come to Italy. Come for the summer and at the end of the summer, go to England."

Carolyn: John had no idea what his friend, Joseph Del Principe, had in store for him.

John: He was a student at the Accademia Chigiana, where he studied composition and there was this Principessa Segardi who has the Piccolo Teatro and she's giving us a space in Siena. It's a palace, a 17th century palace and we could have the school there. So, my entrance way to Italy I wound up living in a palace. So the room I was in had a chandelier, this Venetian glass chandelier, with all these secret passageways, canopy bed, I was living in a dream world. It's still there. And the Baronessa also had a dance school there. She loved music and she was a sponsor for Del Principe to bring his school to Siena.

Carolyn: John's journey as a troubadour was about to begin.

John: We would rehearse and, at that time I really loved Renaissance music. With Del Prindipe, he was a composer but he also was very close to the early music. At the school we had some very fine musicians with us there who were Renaissance musicians who were among the first groups from the '50s that started the whole revival in the U.S. So I felt like, OK, here I am in this medieval city playing this Renaissance music, living in a palace. And we would go to the towns in Tuscany and play concerts in the towns, San Sepulcro, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni.

He wanted us to not only just to work on our music, performing our music, but also, realize that you're in Italy, and it's a very special place. And that you have to know the people, hang out in the piazza, spend time knowing the culture. Now I feel like I'm at home, you know. This place is amazing. Here I am in a foreign country and I felt like this is my home. Everything just seemed very natural to me. And it was Siena, you know, and my family was from Southern Italy. But there was something about Siena, you know, still to this day I'm so attached to Siena.

The main concert that we did at the end of the summer was in the duomo of Siena. And then we went to Assisi. We'd take a choral group and we had a full orchestra as well. We were traveling with a full orchestra, a choir, and chamber ensembles. I would always lead the Renaissance and Medieval music.

While I was in Siena that first summer, '73, we went to Florence, my first tour to Florence. And one of the students said, "You know, there's a music school, a graduate school in Florence and they teach guitar there." So then I said, maybe I should go find out about it. So then I went to audition and they said, "You know, we could give you a scholarship to study here and our teacher was supposed to have Segovia come and do a method class in the fall."

So now, here I am, I auditioned, I got accepted into this school, and I had this job offer in London. So I was like really torn. What am I going to do now? So when the Siena program finished, which was the end of August, the school in Florence wasn't supposed to start until October. So I had like, a month. I had to go to London to find out about this Guitar Center where I could teach.

Carolyn: At this point, John left for London in true troubadour fashion.

John: So I leave Italy and at that time I didn't have a backpack or anything like that. All I had was my guitar, heavy guitar case, and like heavy suitcases with handles. I was loaded with books. So the thing like weighed a ton, getting on the train, schlepping everything. So many trains in the middle of the night, with no seat. so I would sleep on the floor. I would lay on the floor and go to sleep. I would sit on my suitcase, that was my seat, for like hours, up to London. When I got there the suitcase broke, the handle.

Carolyn: Oh, no! So now you have to hold it with both hands?

John: Well, I rigged up a thing with my belt.

Carolyn: OK, McGyver lives!

John: And you know, I had to schlep it with, you know, my guitar. At the same time I'm carrying this bottle of really good Chianti which they said, "this is a very special Chianti" and I wanted to bring it as a present, to my friends. So, I was like holding onto that bottle of Chianti, all throughout that train trip.

Carolyn: Sleeping with it.

John: Ah, everything! I wouldn't let it out of my sight. And it was in one of those old fashioned Chianti bottles, remember?

Carolyn: With the basket? The raffia?

John: Yeah. I wanted to give it as a gift to my friends. And I started hitchhiking up to Manchester. So then I wound up hitchhiking all over England. I went to that Guitar Center but it seemed like, they really didn't have any work for me. They said, "Well, we can't really promise you how many students you'll have" and I was like, you know, this is very strange. I was like walking around London and you know what was very strange for me, I was born in New York City, I'm used to a big city. But after being a Siena for a month or two, I'm used that walled city. And the security, that small, I know everybody in the piazza, I see the same people up and down. I got so used to that, that closeness, that when I went to London I felt, this city's too big for me, I don't know what I'm doing here. I've got to get back to Italy.

Carolyn: So John returned to Italy, the country that never really let him go. But as usual, things didn't go as expected.

John: So I'm going to go to the school in Florence. They have a student meeting introducing the new students and the faculty and everything. So when I get back there, they tell me, "Oh, we have some bad news for you." "Oh, now what?" So he's like, "Well, your guitar teacher quit, so there's not going to be a guitar program". I was looking for that for my graduate studies. So now I said, now what?

So they said, "Well, we can, you could study music history" and I was like, music history? I didn't really want to study music history, but I said, OK I'll try it out. It was a graduate school for the arts, so they had fine arts, too. They had painters and lot of art restoration. There were people there working on the restoration from the flood.

Carolyn: In the '60's?

John: Yes, at the Suboratu (sp?) Studio they had, they were incredible. And they taught that, they taught art restoration.

Carolyn: What an atmosphere that must have been!

John: It was a beautiful villa. Actually, it was called Villa Schifanoia. Believe it or not! And it was run by the nuns from Rosary College in Indiana.

Carolyn: In Indiana? All right, that took a second to get it into my head!

John: I know! Believe it or not, they had this villa outside of Florence on the way to Fiesole, in this small little burb called San Domenico. And that was a beautiful villa. And they had the art studios there, the music studios there. I was like in heaven. But I was kind of disappointed because I was gonna study guitar. But I met some of the people there and they were like, "Whatss the matter with you?" and I said I'm not gonna have guitar lessons, I'm gonna have to study music history. And this guy, Rob Saunders, he was an art major. He said, "Well, you need a place to stay?" I said "Yeah, I'm like, staying in this youth hostel, I don't have any money" and he said, "I'm looking for a roommate, but you can stay at my place until I find a roommate."

So I wound up staying with him. So the, while I was staying with him I needed to make some money so I used to play by the Uffizi museum

Carolyn: Just like it is today, the space outside of the Uffizi museum in the 1970's was filled with musicians, singers and acrobats. While John was playing his music, one of his fellow street performers was none other than Roberto Benigni, who honed his comedic skills in a clown and comedy troupe. Years later Benigni would win an Oscar for La Vita e' Bella or Life is Beautiful. But of course, no one knew that then. Just like no one knew that this is where John's journey would intersect with the folk music of Southern Italy.

John: I played classical guitar and then I met this violinist, this Dutch girl from Holland and we started to do duets. So when I was playing that's when I met these street performers. These 3 guys singing beautiful harmonies, and I became friends with them.

They played a little guitar, they all played the frame drum, they were masters of it. And they used to make their own tambourines. So when I first met them they would say, you know, we're looking for a guitarist and we'd go to someone's house and they'd start singing and then they'd start showing me how to play. They would tell me, this chord, that chord. None of the music was written out. They didn't write music and none of it was, it was just oral tradition. They were all from Puglia, all from Taranto.

Carolyn: So were they singing the tarantellas?

John: Yeah. Some of the stuff that we've recorded later, we still do as part of our repertoire.

Until that time I had not known of the Italian folk music. But the interesting thing was, in the '70's was when the first wave of the Italian folk revival started. And that's because before that, none of the folk music was really recorded, it was only sung in the fields. People didn't perform folk music. It was done outside, while people were working.

Then in the '50's, a musicologist named Alan Lomax. He was studying the folk music from different countries. And he teamed up with an Italian musicologist and together in the '50's they started to record people from the villages and towns and they put out an album in 1963.

In the '60's, very few people had record players. But some of these records were starting to become available. So the music started to become more accessible. Then by '68-'69, the music was there but you know nobody was really listening to it. In Italy they were listening tot the Beatles and Rolling Stones. By '71-'72, people began to see, you know, our folk music is dying out. People are just listening to American music. And the people weren't singing in the fields anymore like they used to. So a lot of the students, it was like a political movement to bring back the folk music, to revive it. We started out doing stuff in the piazzas.

Carolyn: So you had some costumes.

John: They would make these costumes and you know they had the masks, commedia dell'arte masks, and they would make their own instruments, the tambourines.

Carolyn: How did they know what kind of costumes to wear, the colors to wear?

John: They remembered that from their towns, from their growing up. They actually remembered from their parents and grandparents because they were all from these small towns. You know, a lot of those traditions were dying out. But then they started doing research also. But they knew a lot of these customs that were still done in the piazzas. because in the 50's, there were still, there were like storytellers used to come to town.
And so they were very connected to it. But no one was really doing it before this generation on a performance level.

Carolyn: What kind of a response were they getting for their performances?

John: People were, you could see, people would gather around in the streets of Florence. Of course this is a southern tradition, it wasn't very popular in Tuscany. And people were really interested with it, they never saw anything like this before.

Carolyn: Over time, this group was sponsored by the city of Florence and chose the name, Pupi e Fresedde. Pupi means puppets, and fresedde is a type of bread. Puppets and Bread toured throughout Italy and was sponsored by different facets of Italian Tourism. One of the most famous programs was called Arrivano del Mare, or They Arrive from the Sea.

John: That was actually sponsored by Teatro di Roma. It was our group and several other theater groups together that they had chosen. So, the Teatro di Roma organized it and they set it up in all the towns, they had posters. They would organize a tour of the different coastal towns of the Adriatic and Mediterranean coasts of Italy. We would go to the town, a location a little bit outside the main port and we would all get on a boat, and we would all assemble on the boat, all the theatrical troupes, and we would make a circle and go around the harbor and then come in thru the main port of the town. And then they'd open up the boat and we'd all come out. We'd all be in costume, with our instruments, and do a parade, una parata.

Carolyn: I assume then all the spectators are lined up at the port at the main piazza waiting for you?

John: Yeah and then they would follow us. Then we would go, in the town they would have different locations, like they actually had shows lined up for the rest of the day. That was our entranceway and then we would go and then say at 3:00, we have this troupe playing and then at 4:00 another group, and all thru the night at different times in the evening, It was really nice, it was like a festival, but it was a moving festival on the coast.

Carolyn: That's the end of Part 1 of A Troubadour's Journey, the story of John T. La Barbera's musical adventures. Please join us for Part 2, when John returns to New York with his love for Southern Italian folk music. As his unconventional story continues, unexpected people and events shape his experiences.

To learn more about John, go to his website,

To download some of John's music, go here.

To learn more about the musical program in Siena, founded by Joseph Del Principe, go to