âIf I had stayed in Germany, I would be rich now. But here in Calabria I have billions in my heart. Rediscovering and building the Calabrian lyre, hearing its sound in ethno-musical festivals and in other countries, reviving the tradition of this instrument are the greatest satisfactions. They make me happy “.
The joy of Francesco Siviglia, luthier of the Calabrian lyre, is at the rendezvous.
This is what happened to me: from his workshop in Bova Marina, Francesco told me how he rediscovered this ancient Calabrian instrument, whose scores were transmitted verbally from father to son … and how much patience, passion and tact it takes to make Calabrian. lyre.
Building the Calabrian lira: the discovery of Francesco
Cabinetmaker, carpenter, restorer and builder of Baroque style furniture, Francesco Siviglia is best known in Calabria as the luthier of the Calabrian lyre.
An instrument of Greek origin, the traditional Calabrian lyre was used in Locrid (Greek: ÎÎ¿ÎºÏÎ¯Î´Î±), on Monte Poro, and other areas of the Greek-speaking region of Calabria.
He accompanied the Calabrian tarantella with other typical instruments, such as pipes, tambourines and accordion.
âIt was around this time that I first heard the sound of the Calabrian lyre, an instrument that I did not know. I have goosebumps. It was love at first sight, âFrancesco told me.
As in all relationships, however, if you don’t commit, love goes unrewarded.
This luthier knows it well, and in 2007 in his workshop, he embarked on the manufacture of the Calabrian lyre with selected woods. Today, he exports his unique pieces all over the world, just like Sergio Pugliesi with his beating guitar!
From the workshop to violin making lessons, research and passion
âAt the age of eight, I had a passion for wood. When I was 14, I went to the workshop for almost two years. But then life took another course, taking me to Germany. I stayed there for 10 years. After realizing that it was time to go back to Calabria, âsaid Francesco.
In Bova Marina, he opens his shop to make handcrafted furniture. Until the meeting with Ettore Castagna: they were at the “Paleariza Festival” (which in Calabrian Greek means ancient root), an ethno-cultural and musical event that takes place in the Greek-speaking regions of Reggio Calabria.
âIt seduced me so much that I decided to build the Calabrian lyre, always in search of perfection. In fact, I was never satisfied: that’s why I took violin making lessons in Cremona to learn the technical aspects and always improve myself.
This Calabrian luthier understood that in order to improve it was important to take courses but also the Calabrian popular ethnic music festivals. So much so that in 2013 Francesco created and promoted, with his association âArea grecanica on tourâ, the âFestival of artistsâ.
Then, in 2019, it became âEuterpe Lira Festivalâ, a folk music event from the Greek speaking region with traditional instruments.
Precious wood and strings for the Calabrian lyre
“How to build the Calabrian lira?” And how long does it take? âI asked him.
Francesco takes a moment to pause. Then he begins to explain everything to me, based on an important concept: âWithout passion and imagination, you cannot work with wood. For a flat-bottomed Calabrian lyre it takes me a week. For rounding, even 15 days. For a good soundboard, a lot depends on the choice of wood.
To build the Calabrian lyre Francesco uses local woods: mulberry, walnut, alder, acacia. The soundboard can be spruce or silver fir. Everything is chosen with the greatest care, like the many stages in the making of the Calabrian lyre.
From the choice of wood to the seasoning, from the drawing (marking) to working with the tools of the trade to hollow out the chosen log. Then comes the construction of the soundboard, glued to the upper part of the Calabrian lyre.
Until the correspondence, until the creation of the pegs, where the gut strings of the Calabrian lyre are stretched, and the bridge between the two holes, without forgetting the polishing, the repetition and the final tuning.
Francesco Siviglia’s challenge: reviving the Symphonia
In his studio on the outskirts of Bova Marina, Francesco creates not only the Calabrian lyre but also the Symphonia.
The Symphonia is a special instrument that produces a sound similar to that of the bagpipe, but only wood and three gut or nylon strings.
âWhen you hear its sound, it is as if you have been projected into ancient times,â he said.
Francesco speaks enthusiastically. It is there, in his workshop, in the middle of Calabrian lyres, drawings, tools of the trade and a lot of passion, that this luthier draws from the history of music to give soul to so many Calabrian instruments. threatened with extinction.
At the end of this trip with the luthier Francesco Siviglia
Now the Calabrian lira is starting to be appreciated and performed also abroad. Thus, luthier Francesco Siviglia creates this ancient instrument from Calabria, exporting unique specimens to Europe and beyond.
He knows that craftsmanship is having patience and that everything is measured over time, with passion. In his workshop, the stories of artists and musicians meet, sounds from the past that weave new harmonies with the present.
The future? It will be the rediscovery of another traditional instrument of this land, where Francesco Siviglia lives with his wife Tsveti, painter of Greek Orthodox icons, and Ares, his dog who keeps him company in the studio.
Thus, each link becomes complicity, love, commitment: everything necessary for the notes to be transmitted over time.
Marika Greco took the photos for author Alessia Antonucci.
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