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Homegrown Plus: Newpoli’s Mediterranean Pulse

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A group of eight performers are gathered on a stage with musical instruments. Two women sing into microphones at the front of the group.
Newpoli presents music from southern Italy during a Homegrown Concert Series performance, July 12, 2018. L-r: Daniel Meyers, Karen Burciaga, Jeff McAuliffe, Fabio Pirozzolo, Carmen Marsico, Björn Wennås, Jussi Reijonen, Angela Rossi. Photo by Stephen Winick.

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with Newpoli, an ensemble based in Massachusetts playing folk songs and dance music from southern Italy, mainly from the regions of Campania and Puglia. Newpoli integrates a wide variety of styles such as Tarantella-Pizzica, Tammuriata, Villanella and the Neapolitan Canzone, encompassing music from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Because Italian folk music, with the exception of a small number of Neapolitan songs, has not received much global attention or recognition, Newpoli concerts are often the first exposure audience members have to these traditions—even among Italians. Newpoli members are careful to highlight the joy and beauty of the music while explaining the rituals behind the dances and the ancient stories described in the lyrics. Most of the members are graduates of the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory, and are proficient on a wide range of folk and early instruments including bagpipes, flutes, drums, accordions, viols, and lutes.

I’m particularly happy we were able to feature Newpoli last year, because the concert was one of the fruits of AFC’s participation in the Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City in February 2018. I saw Newpoli perform several sets there, and even live-streamed a couple of videos on my phone to our public programs coordinator, Theadocia Austen. This allowed Thea to experience the group live remotely, and she agreed they were worth contacting. Together, Thea and I with the rest of the Research and Programs team looked into featuring them in the Homegrown series, and all the stars aligned more quickly than usual. Newpoli appeared at the Library of Congress on July 12, 2018.

Head and shoulders portrait of a woman dancing with a scarf.
Angela Rossi of Newpoli dances during a Homegrown Concert Series performance, July 12, 2018. Photo by Shawn Miller.

On February 13, I will be on my way to the Folk Alliance International 2019 conference, in Montreal, along with Jennifer Cutting. Together, we’ll be staffing an AFC table and running an “Archive Challenge” showcase, at which we’ll present 15 musicians and groups who have learned a song from the AFC archive. We’ll also be keeping our eyes and ears open for more groups to feature in the Homegrown series.

In the first player, watch Newpoli in concert in the Coolidge Auditorium.  Then scroll down for the oral history!

A man plays a chitarra battente, an instrument in the guitar family.
Björn Wennås plays chitarra battente with Newpoli during a Homegrown Concert Series performance, July 12, 2018. Photo by Stephen Winick.

In the oral history interview, I talked with Carmen Marsico, Angela Rossi, and Björn Wennås of Newpoli. The band members spoke about the experience of immigrating to the United States, of training in jazz, classical, early music, and other styles, and of surprising influences like Metallica! They also talked about adapting their playing to a more traditional Italian style.  Watch it in the player below:

You can find both of these videos with more bibliographic information on the Library of Congress website, with the concert here at this link and the oral history at this link.

Read more about Newpoli on their website.

Fabio Pirozzolo plays tamburello and Carmen Marsico plays castanets with Newpoli during a Homegrown Concert Series performance, July 12, 2018
Fabio Pirozzolo plays tamburello and Carmen Marsico plays castanets with Newpoli during a Homegrown Concert Series performance, July 12, 2018. Photo by Stephen Winick.

The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

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