By Connie Muscenti

The Italian Folk Art Federation of America (IFAFA) met in Pittsburgh for its biennial conference on the beautiful autumn weekend of October 20,21, 22, 2000. It was a time when old friendships were rekindled and new friends were made as people throughout the United States gathered to share their love for Italian folk music, dance and culture. This year’s host of the conference was "I Campagnoli", which has for the past 30 years carried on the traditions of the Italian folk song and dance through their many performances throughout the United States and Italy.

Throughout the weekend, workshops were presented on Italian folk arts, dance and songs. Folk arts presentations included the ancient art of palm weaving with Anna Marie Fiori and Gene Fedeli, ornament making with Anna Marie Fiori, lace making demonstrations with Virginia and Clare Suplee, and the intricate art of making altar foods like St. Joseph cookies with Gene Fedeli. There was also a beautiful and informative display of headpieces, wooden puppets from Sicily, folk instruments, and a variety of other Italian items and memorabilia.

Laura Vondas, who has put a tremendous amount of energy into researching her hometown in Tuscany, shared her video and led a discussion of this region.

World renowned opera singer and instructor, Lorenzo Malfatti, gave colorful and inspiring singing workshops on the importance of using "perfect" Italian diction along with some insight regarding the history of Italian music. Everyone who participated in his workshops came out with a deeper respect for the Italian language and a renewed sense of pride regarding its beauty.

Mary Ferro Salopek, who has been immersed in Italian folk music, dance and culture, as long as she can remember, through her mother, Jane Ferro, led this year’s IFAFA Chorus. Mary is also the co-director of I Campagnoli.

Dance workshops were presented throughout the day. Blaise Panizzi, I Campagnoli’s co-director and choreographer, taught two of I Campagnoli’s favorite dances. Blaise has shared many dances at IFAFA conferences throughout the years and his energy and enthusiasm continue to be an inspiration. And this year, for the first time, Federica Calvino Prina, came all the way from Italy to present several traditional Italian dances that have recently been published in her new book/CD compilation "Traditional Italian Dance". Federica, a graduate in classical guitar at the Conservatory of Milan, is a passionate enthusiast of Renaissance and Baroque dance. Having danced in prestigious halls in Italy and abroad, researching traditional Italian dances is another of her many projects. Her workshops provided informative and interesting cultural information regarding the repertoire that she taught.

During Saturday’s lunch break we were all delighted with the charming song and dance presentation by "I Piccoli Campagnoli", the affliated youth group of "I Campagnoli".

The IFAFA 2000 Conference culminated in a sensational Festa Folcloristica on Saturday evening. The audience was graced with song and dance performances from San Jose, California’s "Il Quartiere Italiano"; "Tradizioni Vivente" from Milwaukee, Wisconsin; "I Gagliardi Italiani" from Canton, Ohio; the IFAFA 2000 Chorus; Pittsburgh’s "I Campagnoli" and "Amici", an Italian dance band.

One of the many highlights of this conference was the guest appearance of Beppe Gambetta, one of today’s most prominent acoustic guitarists. Beppe’s concerts and recordings include original as well as traditional tunes and songs influence by music from his native Italy. He graced us with two beautiful songs from his "Serenata" CD which also features Carlo Aonza, mandolin player with the La Scala Orchestra.

The evening was filled with a celebration of people sharing their love of the Italian culture through song, dance, and food. Happily exhausted after a very busy weekend, we left with the exciting anticipation of sharing everything we learned with those back home.

Here are some photos from the IFAFA 2000 conference. If you would like to see a larger photo, just click on the photo below.

I Piccoli Campagnoli

I Campagnoli demonstrate a dance.

Members of I Gagliardi
Italiani from Canton, Ohio

Participants from Sacramento

Federica Calvino Prina
and Beppe Gambetta

Beppe Gambetta

People in costume at the
Festa Folcloristica

The IFAFA Chorus

For more information about IFAFA, Click here!

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