Just as last week we announced the Cantamaggio of Terni – the “urban” event in Terni that is renewed over a hundred years through the development of a tradition peasant and rural ritual – in these lines we mention the Maggio that will sing on the night of April 30, following the reflexes of an ancient ritual that renews itself in many countries and areas in Umbria.
The song of May is still vital, especially in mountainous areas of the region and, although it has undergone many changes over time – that can be found both in performance and in the structure of the various verbal texts and music – you can listen to and follow “maggialioli” groups that run throughout the night. On April 30, in fact, marks a key step in the peasant culture of oral tradition, that of the rebirth of nature, the reconstruction after the winter break and entry into the perspective of the collection. This transition coincides with a formalized ritual that expresses itself through socialization, music and singing. The song of May is characterized by its itinerant form, element that unites it with other vocal expressions of oral tradition, such as “pasquelle”, songs that are still running today in Cascia in the first days of the year. This is obviously linked to more traditional forms of ritual, which included begging, that offer the inhabitants of the houses in which the maggiaioli stopped singing. Today this form of donation is no longer in use, although in each “leg” of the journey are offered food and drink. From a technical point of view we can say that May is a chant in heroic verse and that, although there are structural differences that coincide with two main geographical areas, it is not improvised. Or rather it is not at all. In fact, in the north-east – which includes many countries in which the song is performed by several singers who alternate on a musical performed by accordion and tambourine – the “maggiaioli” draw from memory a repertoire of verbal texts known and shared. In the south west, however, the texts are transcribed on loose sheets and the song is performed in the choir. In this framework – which I outlined schematically without going into more specialized details, and most importantly without going into further levels of differentiation that affect the performance due to the same macro-areas – may be interesting to know that in Ficulle, in the province of Terni, the group of “maggiaioli” coincides, as they progress through the course, with most of the inhabitants of the land, and the scene that is visible in the night of the revival is undoubtedly impressive.
This article is available also in: Italian