Home / Arts & Leisure

Arts & Leisure

Accordionist Sam Franco

“I’ve still got all my chords memorized. Let me show you.” Sam Franco takes a moment to collect himself before rising from his easy chair. At 92, he doesn’t move quite as quickly as he used to, but he takes a few slow, smiling steps to his right. He bends over to the flip the switch on and old amplifier, and then sits down at a synthesizer keyboard. “Don’t even ask me what I’m playing,” he says. And he begins. Franco’s playing is slow and measured, in the same vein of his approach to the accordion, his one true musical ...

Read More »

Rodi sings from his Italian heart

From arias and symphonies to Neapolitan streets songs and pop, Italian music cannot be categorized by style or genre. But if there is one word that sums up centuries of musical creativity, Robert Rodi may have found it: crescendo. In honor of this, Rodi has created a multi-genre musical production titled ’O sole mio. Based entirely on Italian music, it combines classical melodies such as “Core ‘ngrato,” “’O sole mio” and “Caro mio ben” and more modern favorites like “Al di la,” “lo che non vivo” and “Volare” with modern Italian pop like “Ancora, ancora, ancora.” These songs touch on ...

Read More »

Fantasia stands the test of time

  Imagine 40 years of launching “just marrieds” into their first moments together as husband and wife. If nothing else, that’s enough performances of the Chicken Dance, Macarena and “Daddy’s Little Girl” to fill several hundred wedding albums full of musical memories. But it’s also a story of steadfast devotion and true adoration among Chicagoland’s Italian-American families. For since their first wedding gig at Mr. Duke’s Villa DiDomenico Banquets in Wood Dale, bandleader Frank Trimble (guitar, vocals) and his younger sister Gina Frasca (keyboards, vocals) have turned their musical talents into several generations of celebrations. Today they’re the core of ...

Read More »

Four C Notes founder John Michael Coppola

The music of The Four Seasons — even as it enthralled a new generation of fans through the hit musical “Jersey Boys” — also marks a point of pride for Italian Americans, as the group’s original lineup boasts Italian roots through and through. There’s just one problem, though: When “Jersey Boys” ended its wildly successful Chicago run, demand to hear energetic performances didn’t end with it. How appropriate, then, that a “Jersey Boys” veteran has risen up to carry the musical torch. In fact, John Michael Coppola had the role of Frankie Valli down cold during a run of more ...

Read More »

Italy opens comics mecca in Chicago

Without a doubt, comics have emerged as a much-loved 21st-century art form. Could it get any better? When native Italians apply their mastery and artistic acumen to the task, there can only be one answer — and you don’t need Superman to skywrite it for you. Better still, a successful Italian school that trains future comic book artists and storytellers recently landed in the United States. The International School of Comics (known in Italy as Scuola International di Comics) is up and running in Chicago. Founder and president Dino Caterini chose the city because of its reputation for nurturing new ...

Read More »

Comic Jimmy Carrane

At a time when too many comics try to wow an audience through rapid-fire delivery, Chicago comic Jimmy Carrane has honed the slow burn, winning audiences with sly subtlety, and leaving them in stitches. Then again, Carrane had to figure something out as a kid. The son of a Calabrese father and a half-Calabrese, half-Irish mother, Carrane was one of five siblings vying to take center stage. “It was a very boisterous loud Italian family, and the thing is we loved to laugh,” he recalls. “They had so many kids we were kind of neglected, but making them laugh was ...

Read More »

Lookingglass’ DiStasi channels his inner pirate

If you think it’s a long way from the Chicago to the South Pacific, then you haven’t watched Lawrence E. DiStasi making magic on stage. And magic isn’t too strong a word: As a founding member of Lookingglass Theatre, DiStasi helped conjure from thin air a theater company that has become a Chicago gem. And it’s with that troupe that he took to the stage as Long John Silver. To pirate from Shakespeare, it was a question of to argh, or not to argh. Here’s why: For the production, which ran through Jan. 31, DiStasi did his digging to find out whether ...

Read More »

Chicago welcomes Italian tango masters

  Coming all the way from Italy, by musical way of Argentina, they landed in Chicago and showed the Windy City how much musical fire can erupt from just an acoustic guitar and violin. Perugia’s SatorDuo is headed to the area for an ambitious series of concerts near the end of October. Then again, tango music is nothing if not passionate — especially in the capable hands of violinist Paolo Castellani and guitarist Francesco Di Giandomenico. Having played all over Europe (including England and France), they returned to Chicago after several previous visits sponsored by Chiesa Nuova, and arts group led by the Rev. ...

Read More »

Master picoloist Nicola Mazzanti

  by Florence Nelson The piccolo used to be just a “little wooden flute” to most people. We heard it played in bands — especially in “The Stars and Stripes Forever” — and in an occasional Vivaldi concerto performance. That was about it. Composers used the piccolo to provide color in orchestral works — the way cooks spice up their sauces with garlic and pepper — but the instrument didn’t have much of a chance to shine on its own. Then along came Nicola Mazzanti (piccoloflute.it). A 1982 graduate of the Conservatorio di Musica Luigi Cherubini in Florence, he studied ...

Read More »

Organist Corrado Cavalli

How many toddlers, in a play world of plastic hammers, would rather have the real deal? Growing up in Turin, Corrado Cavalli asked his mother to buy him an electric saw — at age 2. It was a non-starter, of course, but it also presaged his career as a young handyman. Then came a fortuitous visit to a local church, which called Cavalli to use his hands in a different way. “At age 13 a new organ was being installed in my church, so I wanted to observe and understand the physical installation,” recalls Cavalli, now 37. “I was interested ...

Read More »