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Old 08-22-2018, 11:49 AM   #1
Michael Kazmierski Dunn
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Default A female Italian Zampogna player, Maria Varali

Here's the one and only available Youtube of the first, if not one of very few female Italian Zampogna players, the young Maria Varali. She is playing the modernized tenor Zampogna in the key of G (size is 3 palmi, and there is no sopranina drone while the tenor drone is modified to play three or four different notes). She is accompanied by a soprano Ciaramella, a small oboe-like instrument that plays the melody usually.
To me, Maria sounds like she's about grade 3 in Highland piping, as you can hear slight ups and downs in the pitch, which is indicative of somewhat struggling to blow steady, basically she is still just learning the instrument. Interrupting the performance is an interview with Maria, and voice-wise, she sounds like the 13-year-old Romanian opera singer Laura Bretan's speaking voice!
For years, I always imagined a famous opera singer such as Cecilia Bartoli taking up the Zampogna, as there had never been any female Zampognari before Maria. But now there's at least one young one, so any female pipers here shouldn't be frightened to take up the Zampogna if they want to. But even worse, there's a huge lack of interest in these fabulous bagpipes, but I can refer you to an awesome Zampogna maker or two who both speak fluent English.
The description is in Italian, but having translated it, it says that Maria is the youngest Zampogna player, in her mid 20's. Additionally the spoken segments are also Italian so I don't understand them. But, to me, describing someone as in their 20's as being overly young seems somewhat insulting, especially considering that Laura Bretan only at age 13 was the most amazing young opera singer of my generation.
The other thing that gets me off guard is, think about this. Maria is playing a tenor Zampogna and her brother Luigi on soprano Ciaramella makes absolutely no musical sense whatsoever. The question that comes to my mind is, 'does a man sing soprano while a girl sing bass'? This never happens, so why do the same with musical instruments? It is super hard for me to imagine a girl like Maria play a low pitch instrument and a guy play a high pitch instrument. Again, women don't naturally sing bass and men don't naturally sing soprano. So if Maria had a sister, Maria can still play the Zampogna if she wants to, but it would make more sense for SISTER to be on Ciaramella, instead of her BROTHER. If Maria has no sister, it would make more sense at least to me, if the two of them have switched roles. And why don't we see female Ciaramella players? Honestly, I think the Ciaramella should be more of a female instrument, there are tons of famous female oboe players known throughout the world, so why can't this apply to the Ciaramella?
Anyway here it is:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPD1wwoaCaI
Here are more recordings of the group which Maria is from. These are mostly quartets with a modernized bass Zampogna, a modern tenor Zampogna, an alto Ciaramella and a soprano Ciaramella. Again, even though the descriptions to these are Italian, it should be clear enough telling about who plays what instrument. In Italian, "A chiave" is the type of Zampogna being played, as "Chiave" is in reference to the key on the bass chanter to create the low G in this instance. "Bassa", is 'bass'.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3mW...&index=19&t=0s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFsc...w&index=7&t=0s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq-1...&index=11&t=0s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2e5...&index=12&t=0s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkpU...&index=13&t=0s
(Note that the soprano in this recording is not as good as Cecilia Bartoli or Laura Bretan).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0wh...&index=14&t=0s
(This recording has no Zampogna, but a Ciaramella accompanied by an organ. This is the highest note ever played on the Ciaramella).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VC2W...&index=15&t=0s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK6k...&index=16&t=0s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fvn4...&index=17&t=0s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Acbp...&index=18&t=0s
(Starts with an amazing bass Zampogna)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AJT...&index=20&t=0s
Just a background that the modern Zampogna, with the modified drone, was invented by Pietro Ricci in 1996. Before Ricci, most Zampognas of this type had a tenor drone just what it says it does, not to mention an added sopranina drone on top. To many people, the sopranina is so loud that it drowns everything out, so the people in this area have abandoned its use, particularly because a small reed like this is very very hard to work with, not to mention keep in tune. This modified tenor opened up amazingly vast musical possibilities for Ricci, so he eventually signed an act that states that, all Zampogna Achiavi bagpipes, if they do not have an active sopranina, must all use the modified tenor in an effort to make the instruments more popular and adaptable for more complex pieces. So, anybody since 2004 who plays the Zampogna Achiave without the sopranina, including people like Maria Varali, will all have pipes with a movable tenor. This sadly does not mean that every single Zampogna will use this unique tenor, however - this is only among makes who purposefully make the sopranina itself just as a dummy with no air hole, especially in Abruzzo - but it would certainly be nice if every single Zampogna maker including the Lucanians did this. As a corroboration on this, most makers of Lucanian-style Zampognas, while their tone is far more rich and bright than those of the Abruzzo makers, still use the sopranina, and therefore haven't adopted the modified tenor as they feel it's best to stick to tradition, and this definitely would break Pietro Ricci's heart - and mine too. But, because the makers of pipes with the modified tenor don't have the richest of tonal quality, and also because modifying the tenor is something that is taught in Ricci's book of lessons on learning to play the Zampogna, the best thing to do would be to alter a Lucanian type Zampogna, because you have the best of both worlds (a very rich and bright tone with the added benefit of extra chromatic notes).

Hope you enjoy!
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Old 08-22-2018, 06:41 PM   #2
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Default Re: A female Italian Zampogna player, Maria Varali

Michael, I don't see what a person's sex has to do with whatever instrument they play. You seem to keep using various operatic sopranos as your reference. I, for one find that mostly irrelevant. You ask, could a man sing soprano and a woman bass? What determines a person's voice range has to do with their personal physical and hormonal development. When I was a boy, I sang soprano in school choirs. As an adult, it turns out I'm a lyric tenor. I know a young man who studies with the same voice teacher I study with who's a counter tenor. Why does he sing counter tenor? Because he can. The fact that I was a soprano once upon a time and later developed into a tenor has nothing to do with which instrument I play. I started out on Tuba, BTW and played it professionally for years. I know some excellent female tuba players, and some male piccolo players. When I was in college we went on tour with the Wind Ensemble. The biggest, toughest dude in the ensemble was our piccolo player, George, who had spent 20 years in a Navy band. So, why not a female Zampognara and a male Chiamarellaro?
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Old 08-22-2018, 08:13 PM   #3
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Default Re: A female Italian Zampogna player, Maria Varali

Zampognas are extremely cool. Thanks for the links!

That said, I agree with Klondike Waldo. We choose our instruments because we are drawn to them, not because of our vocal range as men or women. I imagine the world is full of women who play bassoon or cello well, and men who play flutes and whistles. There's nothing weird about it.
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Old 08-23-2018, 09:03 AM   #4
Michael Kazmierski Dunn
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Default Re: A female Italian Zampogna player, Maria Varali

Klondike: A female tuba player and a male piccolo player? I never imagined that, but to me, that seems to be more scary than a female Zampognara (Maria) and a male Ciaramellaro (brother Luigi). I have no idea why it doesn't make sense, maybe because the only players of low-pitched instruments I've been around were males, and literally when I played percussion in my middleschool band, every single flautist was female, and also, my cousin Maria (go figure, another Maria...) also played flute. I think it's just the association of males playing bass instruments and females with high-pitched instruments. But when I played piano (still do a little), I couldn't care less if the player was male or female so long as they were excellent. I swear, if all my friends both male or female played bagpipes when I was young kid (I was the only one though), I honestly would have felt the same way as I did about piano. Literally, I've never met any female pipers until college!
Anyway, here is a list of good Zampogna makers who speak fluent English. Don't worry about having to translate to Italian, because even if they don't know a particular English word, they often will just translate it themselves.
Gianluca Zammarelli is one of the greatest modern-day Ciaramella makers, who makes the odd Zampogna here and there. He's on Facebook.
As for Zampognas, there are several. Because the Forastiero Brothers, the Stradivarii of Zampognas, don't speak English and are unfortunatley no longer alive, despite the amazing tone of their pipes I'd rather not include them. However, Quirino Valano, who grew up making pipes apprenticing with the Forastieros, speaks fluent English and his pipes are basically as prized as and identical to old Forastiero sets - same tone and everything. So, it would be correct to say he's the modern link to the past. He's on Facebook but doesn't respond so much to messages as he does to Emails, so if anyone is interested to buy a Zampogna from him, please send me a PM and I'll pass it along to you... for the sake of spamming I'm not going to include his email here. He also makes Ciaramellas, but tonally they're absolutely dull and have no presence whatsoever. Note further that his Zampognas are traditional, that is they do not use the modern tenor and have active sopraninas, but the sopraninas can nevertheless be stoppered up (honestly, it drowns everything else out). Here's his YOutube channel below:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXc...bgsWQooRIudBWw
Another maker is Giuseppino Salamone, the son of the famous Surdulina virtuoso Carmine Salamone. Unfortunately I can't recall his contact info, but he heads the company known as "Totarella". He too speaks some English.
Another maker that I've never contacted but is purported to speak English is Pietro Citera, who learned from C. Trimarco. Trimarco taught both the Forastieros to make Zampognas, and Citera is the last apprentice to Trimarco. Despite that, the tone of Citera pipes aren't quite like Trimarco nor Forastiero, but more of the Abruzzo-type character, rather than the Lucanian accent with a strong clear bass chanter and a bright soprano chanter. Citera and Zammarelli are real good friends and so they often play together.
Note that these are makers of the traditional variety of Zampogna A-Chiave. This means their pipes don't have a movable tenor, but according to Ricci, a movable tenor is usually something that the piper itself does on their own to their own pipes. I've tried convincing these makers to start making movable tenors but they don't seem to catch on to the idea, instead just sticking to the tenor drone and having that dreaded sopranina active. Here's an example of a horribly loud sopranina you literally can't hear anything else. Why do Zampognas have sopraninas anyway, is the big question that gets me. I think the Abruzzo people were thinking correctly, as they had not been using the sopranina since forever.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhZOTSqug1o
Here is a man named Gigi Rizzo playing his reproduction Forastiero tenor Zampogna Achiave. Notice that he starts playing the pipes with the sopranina silent, which is what I'd always do on every single Zampogna I'd ever play. In fact I'd go so far as to actually burn the sopranina and throw it right in the fire! Thing is, when the sopranina comes in, almost everything else is covered and buried by the stupid little piece of absolute firewood. You'll definitely hear what I mean.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUL9JanJ30Q
Again I realize you perhaps don't understand the Italian, but he basically says that he made this 3 palmi (i.e. tenor) Zampogna from the measurements that Forastiero used, with plastic reeds. It could be his dialect, but he calls the sopranina "Fischietto", where the Ch is pronounced like a K - yet few others such as Cristino Belviso call it "Fiscietto" with the mistaken SH-SOUND instead, which by the way totally reminds me of the word "fish", as a lot of people mistakenly pronounce it like "fishetto" in English. (Both "fiscietto" and "fischietto" mean 'whistle'). However, very very few if anyone in the world ever call it the "Fiscietto" or "Fischietto" anymore, and more and more people are using "sopranina" due to the different dialects slowly becoming less and less useful across Italy. Different Italian dialects, while their vowel / consonant structure is the same, use different words or a variation on a word between dialects (for instance, "munta" instead of "monte", or "vuoi" or "voglio" instead of "vorrei"). This is why some people call a Ciaramella the "Piffera", others call it "Trombetta", etc. However, according to David Marker, these dialects, including ones with the strong theatrical lilt, are slowly dying, replaced by only basic Italian. So it really won't be long until the words "Piffera", "Fiscietto", "Fischietto" etc have completely died out and will not appear in an Italian dictionary, or at least being listed as being archaic. In fact the drones on a Zampogna have a surfeit of ridiculous names, but I'd rather save that for later.
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Old 08-23-2018, 02:22 PM   #5
Paul M Burke
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Default Re: A female Italian Zampogna player, Maria Varali

I have no idea what you said, after the first line or two and seeing the size of the post I just skipped to Bob's reply, I agree with him.

I didn't read your second post either, life is to short.

Paul

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Old 08-24-2018, 05:27 AM   #6
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Default Re: A female Italian Zampogna player, Maria Varali

[QUOTE=Michael Kazmierski Dunn;1330350]Klondike: A female tuba player and a male piccolo player? I never imagined that, but to me, that seems to be more scary than a female Zampognara (Maria) and a male Ciaramellaro (brother Luigi). I have no idea why it doesn't make sense,snip
[QUOTE]




Those gender-specific instrument roles don't really cut it anymore. At one time, there were no females in professional orchestras, period. Though one of the famous Baroque composers had an orchestra in an female orphanage in Venice. I believe it was Vivaldi, in Venice.



Don't assume I wouldn't understand the Italian. I have to sing in at least three Italian dialects- Tuscano, Napulitano, and Siciliano, in addition to German, French, Russian and of course English. I sing in Gaelic for my own enjoyment.
There are some zampognari I know well who show up on these forums.
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:45 AM   #7
Michael Kazmierski Dunn
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Default Re: A female Italian Zampogna player, Maria Varali

@Paul: Sorry man, I personally like being very vivid myself. For me, being concise means that people will have a mountain of questions to ask, and I don't like that.
But, you won't believe this. One of a handful of famous Zampognari, known mostly as a reedmaker, is called Paolo (Paul) Simonazzi (transliterated "Simons", no, not Art Garfunkel's companion... you're probably thinking Cecilia, you're breakin' my heart...).
Everytime I hear that song I always think of my lost-touch opera-singing friend Cecelia Brady, and not least Cecilia Bartoli. Odds are though, I counted on Google Translate to translate everything I typed in English into Italian to communicate with the non-English-speaking Zampognari, players and makers alike, only knowing an atom of the language myself!!) But, my conversation with Quirino the direct descendant of the Forastiero Brothers, is going pretty well with this method, I translate his words to ENglish and I translate my English words to Italian for him. But I have started using Google Translator, now that Cecelia Brady has graduated from college (she's a lost-touch friend of mine). I don't have a translator I can always rely on no matter when anymore (poor Cecelia...), and I feel it would not be fair to rely on other people as my translator! I simply sent her all the Italian things I needed to know, i.e. video titles, song lyrics etc, and she did it right then and there, both from and to Italian if I needed to talk to somebody like Quirino for example. Considering that she is a super amazing opera singer. I'm sure you'll love her voice, here it is. Feel free to make a comment in the video itself. Note that her name is still pronounced the English way, even though she spells it Cecelia, not the Italian "Chechaylya" or the more common "Checheelya". She has a voice similar to Bartoli! If you have never heard of Bartoli, you have not heard real opera. If you like Brianna Damrou, that is a disconcertingly slow "wobble", an unhealthy slow vibrato. Any of you singers I can PM you a conversation about this I had with a professional voice teacher, I didn't just make that up that slow vibrato is bad for you, those are his words. But, here's Cecelia singing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJSlo9UeRqI
But I'm kind of figuring that, without Google Translator or unless I really really work up my Italian that my friendship with Quirino won't last. Too bad Cecelia has graduated! She was my translator! She really should have given her Italian to me!
Again, if any singers on here are interested to know what the heck is going on with my take against slow vibratos and promoting fast vibratos, just PM me and I'll send you a conversation I had. Keep in mind I'm no singer myself, so I had to contact a professional vocalist to get the definitive answer. But, I coincidentally love fast vibratos, and didn't know fast vibratos were actually healthy!
And lastly I made a mistake that Quirino's last name is actually Valvano. His website is ZampognePollinoQuirino.IT, and his email is simply Quirino. Don't you dare worry about talking to him in English, he speaks fluent English. Perhaps though, if someone else other than me convinces him to start making the movable tenor... At least he does not make the sopranissima drone, but I'll get to that later.
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Old 08-26-2018, 01:14 AM   #8
Paul M Burke
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Default Re: A female Italian Zampogna player, Maria Varali

More, like I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail,

https://youtu.be/pey29CLID3I

As for Cecilia, she was just a Bridge Over Troubled Waters, now Me and Mr. Robinson are Old Friends.

Paul
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:34 AM   #9
Klondike Waldo
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Default Re: A female Italian Zampogna player, Maria Varali

Here's a thought: maybe the style of vibrato changes with period-authentic singing- e.g. baroque vs. Classical vs Rococco vs Romantic, etc. I, for one, am glad that the time of Castrati roles for tenors is over.



And with that, can we get back to bagpiping, please?
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Old 08-26-2018, 10:53 AM   #10
Michael Kazmierski Dunn
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Default Re: A female Italian Zampogna player, Maria Varali

Yeah I wanted to keep it mostly piping-related, which is why I suggested PM's when it comes to vibrato. I knew it would get way too off-topic if this vibrato thing were posted right here, hence the PM thoughts.
Anyway, here are two more quartet pieces that I only discovered yesterday.
Our Sea (trio: Tenor Zampogna, Alto Ciaramella and Soprano Ciaramella)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAq2...ki4lGJLyw&t=0s
Hymn to the King (full quartet: Bass Zampogna, Tenor Zampogna, Alto Ciaramella and Soprano Ciaramella)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH-NCugqV4w
Unfortunately, I don't think Maria is in any of these two. Or she might be on one of the Ciaramellas I don't know. Thing is, the Ciaramella is Maria's primary instrument, and the Zampogna just on the side.
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