In Ceriana, a village in West Liguria on the southern slopes of the Italian Alps descending to the Mediterranean coast, people love to sing.
The vocal heritage of Ceriana, deeply rooted in everyday life, is rich in both sacred and profane aspects and reflects very ancient polyphonic structures. In these songs one finds the extraordinary charm of the polyphonies of the Mediterranean. The group was formed in 1926 and is the true witness to the way of singing the Cerianesque tradition. Different from Corsican and Sardinian polyphonies (but similar to East Georgian table songs), the local three-part singing is characterized by two solo voices and the drone of the choir.
The particularity of the vocal tradition of Ceriana consists of the presence of basses of bordeaux, which create a low continuum structure. In general, the song is introduced by the second voice of baritone, to which the first voice, the more acute, is associated. The basses accompany the soloists. These different vocal timbres leads to the emergence of a “cantina”, an echo like a delicate female voice, in fact completely illusory. The set of this subtle, powerful structure, backed by the beauty of the texts, allows us for melodic ornamentation and deep emotional power.
The name Compagnia Sacco derives from the habit of carrying a white bag containing lunch provisions on the shoulders of the workers who went to the fields each day.
The American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax made sound recordings in Ceriana in 1954. He invited The Compagnia Sacco in 1975 to the USA, as a prelude to the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration of Independence. This one-month tour in America was the starting point for its international reputation. However, unlike other choirs of the region, the members of Compagnia Sacco do not sing under the direction of a conductor and do not limit themselves to giving concerts and producing CDs; they also enjoy very much singing together with friends at many local festivities. Thus, since its foundation Compagnia Sacco draws its repertoire from the local tradition and still presents it to an international audience, and in return the members of the choir also continue to nurture and keep alive the village singing of today.
The Compagnia Sacco have made 20 CD’s, toured extensively and are subjects of 2 DVD’s: ‘Aramandu’ – The Story of Sacco Society’ and ‘Polyphony of Ceriana’ by Hugo Zemp.
Compagnia Sacco is part of the “12 Voices, 3 Countries, 1 Heart” DFoV project, funded by the Federal Government through the Department of Communication and the Arts Catalyst Program.