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SERGIO GILARDINO
“The first guitar

Sergio Gilardino_edited.jpg
Vercelli - foto andrea cherchi74.jpg

“A l’é  mach na folairà, from yes to chèich di a-j passa” 

(It's just a whim, it will pass in a few days). 

But, on the contrary, the more the days went by, the more my brother, even if exhausted from work, persisted in his decision to learn to play the guitar. To make him happy, his mother resigned and the three of us went together to the only instrument and sheet music shop in Vercelli, the Belli, in via Verdi, right opposite the cinema of the same name. It was a fairly large room, with violins, mandolins, trumpets and saxophones hanging from it

a   rack.   There was   a   alone   guitar,   also   she   hanging   to   a string. 

My mother immediately had the inkling that "ës monsù Belli" would have asked for a blunder for that poor victim hanged on the rope of commercial greed. “

 

Vàire ch'a costarìa na ghitara, monsù?”

( how much would a guitar cost? ). 

Note: he hadn't said "that guitar there", but, more vaguely, "a guitar", to give ample space to the range of prices, from the most expensive to the most affordable. Mr. Belli, shrewd but, all in all, an honest merchant, replied: "Fifteen thousand lire for that one." It was almost my brother's monthly salary at the time. 

Mother took us both vigorously by the arm and pushed us   outside   in   haste  and   fury   from   shop,   not   without   have   let slip a few words to poor Belli: 

 

“What a lader!” 

(What a thief! ). 

Etichetta Pasqualon

Finally the day to fetch the instrument arrived. The night before my brother's agitation had reached such a point that at dinner he made his bite go askew. The mother gave him a pat on the back and one on the neck, to combine therapy and punishment in the same maneuver: 

 

“Pasij-te, i të smije un ëd coj ch’a j’eu porto an via Trin...”   

(Calm down, you look like one of those hospitalizing in via Trino [the psychiatric hospital]).   

 

The   morning   after   (Angelo   hadn't       closed an eye all night and hadn't had breakfast), one Sunday, at nine o'clock, Angelo was in front of Pasqualon's door. 

The case, included in the price, was not yet ready. The luthier, seeing the agitation of the future virtuoso, wrapped it in waxed paper. My brother embraced it all,   as   if   was   been   a   person   much   beloved,   and   yes   hurried   to return home.

 

It wasn't ten o'clock yet. Mom was already at work, sitting in front of a table with various stitches piled up on top, I - complete with wooden squares - was completing a technical drawing for the next day.

 

We lived then in Piazza Cavour, at number 10, on the third floor.

We had two balconies overlooking the historic square and a long balcony at the rear. The stairs were those  spiral  of the medieval Torre dell'Angelo. I took refuge up there to read and re-read the novels of Salgari and Verne: from its top you could see all the roofs of the city and then, all around, the rice fields and fields that surrounded it.

 

Suddenly we hear a very loud scream, almost a cry of excruciating pain. I raised my head from the drawing and met my mother's gaze, who was already getting up from the chair she sat in when she worked. 

 

“A l’é col badòla ’d tò frel ch’a l’é drocà e a l’ha z-gnacà la ghitara” 

(and your stupid brother who fell and crushed the guitar). 

Angelo studying.jpg

I had never seen Angelo's face so shocked. The   tears   the   they covered   the   cheeks   and   was   very pale.   Views   the   his condition, his mother told me to accompany him. From Piazza Cavour to the Collegio dal Pozzo it was a ten-minute walk. 

When Pasqualon heard what had happened, he burst into laughter. He told him to come back in two days. That time, however, there was also the case, black, robust, proof of "stunned"  (mother's neologism: Tontolini was an actor and director who produced films full of funny episodes).    

 

What did Angelo do once he brought the guitar home, how did he teach himself the first chords, how much pain did he have to decide whether to use the pick or his fingers, who were his first teachers, such as the methods and the scores, when he decided to devote himself entirely to composition and then to the training of young concert players: the pages of a novel would not be enough to tell all this, but it would certainly be worth writing. 

 

The   I will tell   in   part,   to   long live   voice,   at   next   meeting   in memory of the Maestro, together with other amusing episodes from the life of this truly extraordinary character who was my brother Angelo.

That   evening,   to   dinner,   Angel   there   announced   that   had   decided   to learn to play the guitar.  My mom lost her temper. 

"But it ësmija che con tute le gate da plé ch'i l'oma za it debie 'dcò butete 'd grij parèj për la biòca?"(But do you think that with all the fish to fry that we already have you have to put similar crickets on your mind?)

 

At home, my mother and I have always and only ever spoken Piedmontese. My brother answered us in Italian, which annoyed my mother even more. Now that I know something about psycholinguistics, I think I know why, but at the time, this stubborn attachment to the national language seemed inexplicable to us. 

 

He spoke much less than the two of us, but when he said something it was almost impossible to change his mind. He must have thought about this matter of the guitar for quite a while before making the "solemn" announcement to us two. 

 

At the time I hadn't turned eleven yet and therefore Angelo ne  would  completed   fifteen   in  next   November.   He worked   hard all day in an advertising office, I attended the sixth grade at the Salesians and my mother sewed all day long for a knitwear workshop. I went to get the pieces and bring the finished work back inside a large cloth bag. 

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By what parameters she compared an "honest" price to a pure thievery price was not clear, but Belli was now out of the question and would remain so for quite a few years, even after my brother was already an accomplished guitarist.  

When my mother understood that Angelo, who never asked for anything for himself and was content with going to the cinema every two or three weeks, really wanted a guitar, she set to work and learned that a certain "Pasqualon" made his house, in an alley that ended in via Duomo, right in front of the entrance to the Dal Pozzo college, guitars, mandolins, violins, and what else. 

 

This time the three-man expedition was much more comfortable for my brother. Pasqualon, Lombard (as was his mother, perfectly "bilingual", having never forgotten his   native   dialect),   yes   put   to   talk   in   desenzanese   and   my   mom replied with joy in the rhymes: she herself came from near Desenzano. 

 

Pasqualon, who had a heart of gold (as well as his hands, as an expert luthier), told my brother to pass by in a few weeks, that he would make him a guitar worthy of the name and not a "fruja" (derogatory name with which we referred to the same instrument in the taverns, suited to   accompany   the   “canson   vinòire”   and   the inevitable   accordion).

When my brother and my mother asked the price, Pasqualon replied: "Don't worry". Once the guitar was made, he satisfied himself with the cost of the wood used to make it: mahogany for the sides and back, spruce for the table, ebony for the keyboard: five thousand  lire,  adding that  if they didn't have all those lire, they could pay it in installments. 

 

As long as my brother lived, he remained his friend and client.

Chitarra Giovanni Pasqualon

He said those words without surprise or emotion. A mere statement of fact. 

We left the house and walked towards the stairs. Just above on the second floor my brother was stretched out on something wrapped in thick paper. He didn't move. 

 

“It veule ste there cogià fin che ij giari a ven-o a arzujete jë dlon? Tir-ti sù, ch'i vardoma cò ch'as peul fé"

(Do you want to stay there until the rats come and eat your toes? Get up and let's see what can be done). 

 

The damage was, fortunately minimal.   

The   handle   yes   was   slightly   low-cut   up to   of   soundbox and could easily be repaired. No cracks in the sides, back and soundboard. 

 

“Pòrtaj-la andré al Pasqualon e dije ch’at l’ancòla” 

(Take it back to the Pasualon and tell him to glue it). 

 

And so he did. 

Tontolini
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Photo: ANDREA CHERCHI
 

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