Balarù: Gravure

August 13, 2019

Tastes Like Old Times

Listening Post 214. Do Baroque concertos composed for harpsichord sound as good with piano? Does a Languedoc cabernet sauvignon taste as good today as it did in 1850, before blight forced French winemakers to import American vine roots? For better or worse, music and viticulture face mergers, evolution, assimilation—and when taste is involved there are no right or wrong answers. But one fine day the four musicians of Balarù, from Piedmont in Italy’s northwest corner, decided to make a stand against hybrids. Veterans of Europe’s balfolk (folk dance) scene, they sensed a growing homogenization of traditions. So for Gravure (Engravings), their enchanting debut album, Francesco Cavallero, Andrea Lopomo, Ilario Olivetti and Andrea Beltrando, dug through old recordings of traditional Piedmontese dance songs with the goal of preservation and revitalization. Piedmont itself is a mini-continent, its 25,000 square kilometers (New Jersey-sized) embracing Alp-adjacent mountains, glaciers, hills, fertile valleys and plains, its residents speaking six languages. Like their home region, Balarù’s dance repertoire is diverse—waltz and bourrée, polka and schottische, courenta and chapelloise—and they perform Gravure in French, Piedmontese and Occitan. Their song lyrics revolve mostly around marriage, sex and drinking: A knavish soldier kidnaps a young girl in Dessur la fleur da lys, featuring dulcet vocals from guest artist Laura Torterolo (video 1), while a gallant warrior returns to his beloved sister in Gentil galando (The Kind Lover, video 2). In Chanson d’un buveur (Song of a Drinker), friends shun a man after he squanders his fortune (video 3). Perhaps the wine is implicit in Crepuscolar (Twilight), a tribute to the maligned bat (video 4). In arrangements that gradually unroll a full tapestry of voice, banjo, bouzouki, clarinet, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy and accordion, Balarù never fails to charm. With careful research and musical flair, the Piedmont boys summon the past with a romping, impeccable old-time sound. (Felmay)

Balarù (in Piedmontese, “dance lover”)
Francesco Cavallero: Hurdy gurdy, voice
Andrea Lopomo: Bouzouki, tenor banjo, voice
Ilario Olivetti: Bagpipes, clarinets, flutes
Andrea Beltrando: Diatonic accordions
Guest artists
Laura Torterolo: Voice
Federico Chierico: Alpine percussions
Roberto Bacchin: Snare drum

Get to know Balarù in the Gravure trailer (video 5).


Dessur la fleur da lys / Among the fleurs-de-lis
Traditional, waltz

(from the French lyrics)
The fairest young lady is walking/among the fleurs de lys/beautiful as the moon/bright as the shining sun/and three handsome captains/determined to make love with her

The youngest of the three/takes her by her white hand/climb up, climb up, my belle/upon my grison horse/I’ll take you to Paris/where I go to join my battalion

In Paris she arrives/the greeting hostess asks/are you here by force/or for good pleasure/at my father’s castle/three officers kidnapped me

The conversation is closed/and the captain enters/the beauty dines well/supper with pleasure/with the captain/you will spend the night

And upon hearing this/the fair lady falls dead/ring, ring the bells/and beats the big drum/the beauty has died/at the age of twenty

Where will we bury her/this pretty princess/in an elegant tomb/below this big tree/the nightingale sings/from evening until morning

At the funeral/her father approaches/open the grave/my father please/Three days I feigned death/my honor to keep


Gentil galando / The Kind Soldier

(from the Piedmontese lyrics)
The kind lover went to war/
he went to war and when he came back/he finds the door wide open
Good morning, father and mother/good morning between the three of us/where is my little sister?
Our daughter went grazing/
she went grazing in the great valleys/all by herself to look after the rams
What a foolish father, a foolish mother/to send a young maid so far away/traitors will take her
Our daughter is wise and cautious/wise and cautious and she can speak well/she will not let traitors take her
I want to gamble, father and mother/one penny against one pound/
I will take little sister for sure
The kind lover went away/
he runs toward the valleys/searching for the girl in the shade of trees
Good morning, beautiful shepherdess/good morning between the two of us/would you need any servant?
I have been a shepherdess for seven years/I have never had any servant/
and I don’t want to start now
I have two little shoes in my pocket/that would fit perfectly your feet/beautiful shepherdess come and try them
I have a ring in my pocket/that would look perfect on you/beautiful shepherdess let’s take one another
If you were my little brother/you would be a traitor/cheating to make love

Valse à Fleuret / Fleuret’s Waltz
Traditional waltz, instrumental
From the repertoire of the renowned French bagpipe player Fleuret


Chanson d’un Buveur / Song of a Drinker
Traditional, chapelloise

(from the French lyrics)
We are people of the land/and now/reduced to misery/and without money/everywhere credit is dead/indigence is my treasure/I no longer have any support/pitiful fate

For a proper binge/and on credit/I go to the hostess/and she tells me/only if you have money/without it you’ll have to go/your account is closed now/only cash

I see my friends/there all seated/nobody looks at me/nothing tells me/that I am welcome/when I paid the tab/among the entire group/I was respected

I’ve sold my pants/and my vest/my handsome frock/and my hat/being superfluous/my pants are sold/here I am, soon naked/for having drunk too much


Crepuscolar / Twilight
Waltz by Francesco Cavallero

(from the Piedmontese lyrics)
Why do you people loathe the bat
it is just a little mouse
with the heart of a swallow

Little weaver, of moonlight’s rays
only the chill of the night
hold up its wings


Gravure trailer: Get to know Balarù



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