The sounds of the Italian campaign

Discussion in 'Italy' started by Dave Homewood, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. Dave Homewood

    Dave Homewood Member

    An odd question here...

    I wonder if any of our Italian campaign veterans here might be able to tell me what music they associate with the Italian campaign?

    A number of the veterans I have interviewed have mentioned they did an awful lot of singing when not on the lines. As I hope to turn my filmed interviews into some sort of documentary or such, it would be nice as a film maker to identify some tunes that for the veterans perhaps sum up the campaign.

    Are there any local Italian tunes that always take you back there, like O Solo Mio?? Or perhaps some hit parade tunes of the day? (an example is an RNZAF fighter pilot I know says for them at the front line bases in the Pacific the big tune everyone sang and was often on the forces radio was Rum And Coca-Cola by the Anderws Sisters).

    Any clues would be much appreciated. Thanks.
     
    Paul Reed likes this.
  2. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Dave -
    Interesting question as i recall that when we were disembarking at naples - we were treated to a welcome by two street urchins singing "Amapola" better than many professional singers.
    I wrote a piece for the BBc series which I shall attach which caused them to interview me for a broadcast a few years ago on the changes to Classical music since the advent of tapes CD's etc wherby the "Stars" no longer have to sweat it out like Marylin Horne- apprenticing in Germany for three years in singing a different Opera every week - one CD with a slice of Opera - Sacred misic - Rock'nroll makes them miilionaires overnight....he it is - with comments by my old friends Gery Chester and Frank Mee

    BBC - WW2 People's War - Music in Wartime Italy
    Cheers
     
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  4. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

  5. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Spidge -
    I did indeed she will be a sad loss to World Opera and the Concert stage as she followed in the great footsteps of Marjorie Lawrence and the tumultious career of Dame Nellie Melba whose remastered CD I still play on occasions - whose Father built most of Melbourne with his bricks and that of McKay up in Queensland.....Sutherlands "Daughter of the Regiment" will be hers for many years to come, as will "Lucia de Lammermuir"....
    Cheers
     
  6. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Dave

    You might like to see this thread I started some time ago entitled "What piece of music sets you remembering:
    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/general/16600-what-piece-music-sets-you-remembering.html

    One of my own particular favourites was what "she who must be obeyed" and I have always referred to as "our song".

    Reading your many responses made me quickly appreciate the obvious. No one tune can lay claim to being the most evocative and I hasten to add to my own first choice.

    In December 1947 I met the love of my life and in July 1949 we were married. The photo is purely for any of you romantics

    My days in Italy were still fresh in my mind and at our wedding reception I persuaded Nita to "open the ball" with the Italian classic "Santa Lucia" .

    From that day on this was always regarded as "our song" and whenever we are on holiday and the bar or restaurant has a band or pianist I always make a point of greasing someone's palm to have "Santa Lucia" played.

    In Venice in 2007 I found this obliging accordianist and ditto the chap in Sienna in 2003.

    If you like Italian "oldies" then use this link:
    L'Italia in Brasile - Alcune tra le piĆ¹ belle canzoni italiane del passato
    You can find virtually everything here, including Strada nel Bosco, Santa Lucia and that wonderful old favourite "Oh Mari !"
     
  7. Dave Homewood

    Dave Homewood Member

    Many thanks gentlemen, that is some very useful and interesting information.

    Cheers!
     
  8. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    An odd question here...

    I wonder if any of our Italian campaign veterans here might be able to tell me what music they associate with the Italian campaign?

    A number of the veterans I have interviewed have mentioned they did an awful lot of singing when not on the lines. As I hope to turn my filmed interviews into some sort of documentary or such, it would be nice as a film maker to identify some tunes that for the veterans perhaps sum up the campaign.

    Are there any local Italian tunes that always take you back there, like O Solo Mio?? Or perhaps some hit parade tunes of the day? (an example is an RNZAF fighter pilot I know says for them at the front line bases in the Pacific the big tune everyone sang and was often on the forces radio was Rum And Coca-Cola by the Anderws Sisters).

    Any clues would be much appreciated. Thanks.

    Dave,

    When I was a young boy my late father sang a lot of Italian Opera songs including O Solo Mio.
    I remember he had quite a good tennor voice, which must have run in the family as his mother was a Music Hall singer.

    He was quick to pick up a lot of Italian, which came in useful when Italian neighbours arrived in the late 50's.

    I learned what real spaghetti tasted like!

    Regards
    Tom
     
  9. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    What a fascinating thread!
     
  10. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Paul -
    It certainly is fascinating and I am awaiting Gerry's contributions as he spent some time at the Rossini Academy at Ancona- and paying for the concerts in "Bully Beef"...should be a hoot .Then there is Niccar - Geoff Prater to come and a few more- all of us singing " Brindisi " from "The Force of Destiny "
    Cheers
     
  11. Dave Homewood

    Dave Homewood Member

    Thanks for the extra info guys. My impression is there was a lot of opera heard, and a lot of local Italian music, but was there also an Armed Forces Radio Network like the Pacific had, playing all the latest Britiah or American tunes? And if there was a radio network for the soldiers, did you get much chance to hear it? I assume only when well back from the lines of course. If there was a way to hear American or British music, do any tunes stick in your mind?

    When I interviewed some chaps who had been in No. 24 Battalion, 2nd New Zealand Division, one of them, Colin Murray, mentioned that they had had in their platoon a chap called George Hickson, who was a professional entertainer in NZ before the war. George had taken a ukulele with him to Italy but at one point it was hit in a gun fight and smashed. However he kept some of the bits and after a while he got a cake from home in the mail and so using the frets (or whatever you call the long bit) he turned the cake tin into a ukulele. Colin reckoned the repair was good and it worked well.

    At Cassino Colin decided to write a poem about the Battalion from their entry into Italy up till that point. George saw it and said he'd write some music for it, and suddenly their platoon song was born. Next they know the company commander heard it and it was adopted as the company's song. And I think (will have to check) it may have become the Battalion's song.

    I asked Colin if he recalled the song, and sure enough - not only did he sing the entire song with seven verses through without a hitch but his mate Norm Hardy who I was also interviewing and had been in the same platoon, joined him, singing harmony in the chorus. There were just a handful of us there to witness this, two men of 88 singing a song they'd sung many a time in the foxholes and sangars of Italy, but we all had goosebumps. it was marvellous. And better still, it is on film!

    I have thought since it would make a neat model diorama of George with his cake tin ukulele playing away in a foxhole with Norm and Colin singing away. One day I might just do it.

    I have transcribed Colin's song (as best i can, I have to check with him on a couple of words as I am not certain of what he said matches what I've written). Here is is:

    24 Battalion Song - Words by Colin Murray and Music by George Hickson
    The Ities capitulated at the end of '43
    So we hopped aboard a troopship and we're bound for Italy
    They sure piled this country up in heaps, from under comes them Jeeps
    And we're at the Sangro with the Eighth Army

    Chorus:
    And the 88's go whizzing round our ears like angry bees
    And the Spandau bullets flying overhead
    He threw everything that he could move, except the kitchen stove
    and I wonder why the hell we ain't all dead

    Now old Butch Freyberg though we'd better have another crack
    at old Gerry on top of Marrabella
    So we crossed the river one dark night, and we came in from the back,
    And we took the place right off that wiley fella.

    Chorus...

    At Frantano Gerry made us stand, and dug himself deep in
    And had guns and mortars there to keep us out
    Olde Tiny said "Well never mind, we'll shift him out Bardin"
    It was old D Company put that guy to rout

    Chorus...

    He moved back to Orsogna, and we followed close behind
    Our supporting weapons came up just too late.
    So we had our Christmas dinner way up there amongst the snow
    And we postponed our efforts for a later date

    Chorus...

    'Twas decided that we'd had it, on the old Eighth Army Front
    The Heinys seemed to know our little pranks
    So they piled us in the trucks one night, and got us on the move
    Across the country there to join the Yanks

    Chorus...

    We got over to Cassino, just a little south of Rome
    The digging was too hard so we built sangars
    We took up a Yank position, on the side of Mount Cairo
    And I think we've got old Gerry by the hangars

    Chorus...

    I can't finish off this story here, as Gerry's holding out
    But I don't think he can hold out very long
    Tiny's jacked up some iron rations, that the RAF will drop
    And about a thousand guns to help us on

    Chorus...
    The end
     
  12. Dad was with 50 Div Signals CRA on Sicily and the toe of Italy.
    He was reminded of a small local lad of about ten in Tormina who scrounged off them.
    The boy had a ditty that he had sang to annoy the Germans that went to a bouncing rhythm and contained the following (pardon my bad Italian.)

    (Offisali Noncapisco)sang Off-is-ah-lee none-cah-pis-co
    (Ocoli Ocola) sang Och-o-lee Och-oh-la
    Ha Ha Ha
    ..... and ended with

    (Englazi bombardo Messina) En-gal-a-zee bomb-bardo Mes-sina

    For this lad words were his weapons!
     
  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Dave - when we finally got to Austria we had the American Forces Network from Garmisch - Parton - Kirchen every night until the power went off at around 9:30 when the water mill froze - and the DJ - Moffat-Moffat would regale us with the latest Musicals such as South Pacific - Annie - Oklahoma - and invariably we had a few bass baritones forever singing "Some Enchamted Evening: until a well placed boot was thrown at him- great music though ..
    The BBc always had Anne Shelton - Vera Lynn - Joe Loss- and the most important - the football scores
    Cheers
     
  14. Dave Homewood

    Dave Homewood Member

    Thanks Tom.
     
  15. Dave Homewood

    Dave Homewood Member

    I have a copy of the little magazine called CUE, which was the 'fortnightly bulletin compiled by HQ NZERS." It was for men of the 2 NZEF. This one is No. 16 and I think it dates from late 1944 or 1945, there's no date on it. Anwyay it's really a social magazine with all sorts of things of interest, I guess to take minds off the war. There's an article in this issue called 'Songs The Army Sings' which details a few uniquely NZ Army songs of that time. Anyway it has this in the article which refers to a song sung in Italy. I'll quote the passage from the article:

    "A song that is little known to New Zealand soldiers but is worthy of inclusion in any list of army songs concerns Field Marshal Mongomery. Early in the Italian campaign when "Monty" was in command of the Eighth Army on the Adriatic sector he was reported to have sent a desperate message to London for a pair of waterproof pants.
    The Bishop of Southwark, who was on the point of leaving for Italy in the line of duty, undertook to take the pants with him. A confrere for the General (as he was then) penned the following stanzas, which have been set to music, in commemoration of the incident:-

    We've despatched pour la guere
    A mackintosh pair
    Of trousers and jacket express,
    They are coming by air,
    And are sent to you care
    Of the Bishop of Southwark, no less.
    So wherever you go
    From Pescara to Po
    Through mud and morasses and ditches
    You undoubtedly ought
    To be braced by the thought
    That the church has laid hands on your breeches.
    We think they'll suffice--
    As they should at the price--
    To cover your flanks in the melee
    And avert the malaise
    In the Premiere's phrase
    Of a chill in the soft underbelly,
    And you'll find, as we hope
    When you call on the Pope
    That his blessing's more readily given
    On learning the news
    That your macintosh trews
    Were brought down by a Bishop from Heaven."
     
  16. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Dave -
    that verse was composed by Lt.Gen. Simpson at the war office- he had been Monty's chief of Staff in pre war days and they often corresponded as Monty needed a "sounding board" at times
    Cheers
     
  17. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Dave - a small correction and addition to Monty's trews - they were actually sent out and the verse composed by Gen. Archie Nye who was VCIGS at the time - the addition being immediately after ......"of a chill in the soft underbelly." and is

    "According to Moss
    ( the outfitting Bros.)
    T'wont matter, so stout is their fibre,
    if you happen to trip
    and go arse over tip,
    Like Horatius, into the Tiber"

    ..and you will find etc ....

    see "Monty -Master of the Battlefield" - Nigel Hamilton - VOl 2. Italy-Chap 6 - pp460/461
    Cheers
     
  18. Niccar

    Niccar WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The sounds of the Italian Campaign

    My fathers favourite operatic piiece was the intermezzo from the cavaliera rrusticana
    and he would wind up the old gramaphone and nobody dared make a sound while it was playing so today I am a opera lover and all things classical but strangely enough
    I never got the chance to see any operas in Italy in Austria I saw Madame Butterfly sang in German yuk now my reccollection of songs in Italy was when Italian people listened to Mama and see the tears in their eyes or some of the Neopolitan love songs Ole sola mia Rettorno Sorrento but today the Aria that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up is Core Ungrato (Ungrateful heart)sung by Pavarroti fantastic

    Niccar
     
  19. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Niccar - I knew it - you are a fraud ......trying to tell us that you were just a lonely old mahine gunner when all the time you were singing the Intemezzo by Mascagni - first place I went to in Italy was the San Carlo in Naples to hear that most beautifaul piece of music - and went back to camp disgusted as I shall sen a link to wot i rote for the BBc - as for the Cor Ungrato - Pavarotti came close with His Nessum Dorma..all great stuff
    Cheers

    BBC - WW2 People's War - Music in Wartime Italy
     
  20. Dave Homewood

    Dave Homewood Member

    Thanks for that extra verse Tom. It was obviously deemed unprintable by the magazine at the time.
     

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