(d)  Alcara Li Fusi

My last example of Sicilian polyphony comes from Alcara Li Fusi, a small municipality in the Nebrodi hills situated in the province of Messina. Alcara Li Fusi possesses a pulsating as well as vast musical tradition: devotional practices and festive rites spread throughout the yearly cycle survive here.

This piece is performed during the liturgical offices of the Holy Thursday in which the twelve brothers/apostles together with the officiating priest enact the Last Supper of Christ.

The text announces the words of the priest at the moment of the consecration:

Mangiate, mangiate, apostoli miei,

mangiate il pane di Nostro Signore Gesł Cristo [Eat, eat, my apostles,

Eat the bread of Our Lord Jesus Christ]


Bevete, bevete apostoli miei,

bevete il vino di Nostro Signore Gesł Cristo [Drink, drink my apostles

Drink the wine of Our Lord Jesus Christ]

Manciati, 'mbiviti, apostuli mei (mp3 file)

From the musical point of view we are faced with a very peculiar case. The piece is wholly built upon the 5th Gregorian psalmodic tone and, strangely, the melody is not wholly performed by the leading soloist, but by the end of the stanza passes on to the second singer, while the first one accompanies him in parallel at a distance of upper fifth and third. However, in this case too it is a matter of a piece with a polyphonic three-part structure.

The segmentation of the phrases is the one typical of the Gregorian chant and the text is intoned almost entirely upon the chord of recital. Only in the second half of the last word of each phrase does there appear the melismatic melodic development by linked degrees and the song is brought back with it, descending in the finale.

 The chorus intervenes on the final note of the first phrase one fifth below the first voice; a second phrase starts at the start of the melismatic procedure at the distance of one third higher accompanying the song in parallel up to the finale.

The acute voice intervenes only in the second phrase but that voice is entrusted with the task of bringing the song to an end following the pattern of the psalmodic tone.





The transcription refer to second stanza of this song.

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