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June 17, 2011

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POST-GAZETTE, JUNE 17, 2011 Page 13 by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance I III I I II IIIII III III IIII II IIII I IIII IIII II I II IIII / ai2yta abb onno The Socially Set (Continued from Page 9) June is the month for wed- dings ... or it was way back then. As a child, I remember that Dad, Uncle Nick and Uncle Paul played for wed- ding receptions all through the spring after Lent and Passover came to an end. Most Catholic weddings were on Saturday or Sunday, while Protestant and Jewish weddings might take place any day during the week. Several times over the years, long before DJs and canned music took over, someone in the extended family would ask Dad or one of my uncles if they could play their wedding or the wedding of their daughter or son. Unfortunately, most couldn't afford union music, but those who insisted on the best, paid the price. All commissions were usually shaved off as well as the ex- tra the leader/MC received. This made the price more competitive and saved a fam- ily member a few bucks. Babbononno had done the same thing a generation earlier with his combo. They specialized in strictly Italian music and played the wed- dings of the first generation of our people. Let's look at a typical June wedding from days gone by. Back then, the custom was for the couple to get married in the girl's par- ish church. The reception, more often than not, was held in the parish hall, a basement gathering area of the church. If the church didn't have this type of space available, there were Sons of Italy, VFW, American Le- gion, Masonic, Odd Fellows, Elks, Moose and Lions halls located in several parts of Boston as well as suburban towns bordering the city. They could be rented for any event and were in great de- mand for weddings during each spring. If none of this was affordable, the wedding guests went back to the bride's parents house for a reception. Grandmothers, great aunts and their ~, began cooking before the sun came up and the food, all Italian of course, would be ready by the time the family and guests arrived. Many of the rental halls offered catering, but unless it was a place like a Sons of Italy hall where the food would be authentic, the old ladies in the extended family would prepare dishes and bring them to feed the wedding guests. Just as an example of this in my generation, when Loretta and I got married, we tied the knot at St. Leonard's on Hanover Street in the North End. Uncle Nick spoke to his friend John Polcari and our reception was held in a function room at his restau- rant (now Filippo's). Back when I was a kid, here's how things worked: One day, a cousin of my mother's called and asked to speak to Dad. Their daughter was getting married at the Mt. Carmel church in East Boston, but the downstairs area was booked and they decided of Meridian Hall, a function room in the Meridian Build- ing which was in the middle of Central Square. They wanted Dad's band to play for the reception and asked if he was booked on a particular date. He wasn't, and a few days later, they came to our Eutaw Street apartment to plan out the entertainment details. Of course, seeing it was family, Nanna, Babbo- nonno, Morn and I would be in- vited. Dad knowing their family financial circum- stances shaved all of the extras off the price and of- fered them the band for cost. They accepted and the plans were carefully laid out. Several of my great aunts and second cousins (my mother's first cousins) were to be the cooks and they pre- pared the food early in the day. All of it was to be brought to the function hall during the wedding ceremony at the church~ so that when the guests arrived at Meridian Hall, everything would be ready. Mom, Nanna, Babbo- nonno and I, would attend the ceremony at the church and then head to Meridian Hall. When we arrived, much of the food would be on a buf- fet table with wax paper wrapped around each dish. (tin foil and plastic wrap were still a few years from being invented). Zi'Antonio or one of the other wine makers in the family would have brought several bottles of homemade red and the gallon jugs would be on an- other table along with a wash tub filled with ice and bottles of beer. Another tub might contain bottles of tonic for the kids and non- drink- ers. As we arrived, Dad and the boys in the band would be warming up and someone would be sprinkling corn meal on the floor to cut down on the friction for the danc- ers. We kids would immedi- ately begin to run and slide across the floor until one of the adults would yell at us, or one of the kids, usually the ring leader, got a cuff on the back of the head. This was a hint for us to stop. Once everyone was "in the hall, the wedding party would line up outside the hall en- trance and be called in two by two until everyone had entered except the bride and groom. Once Dad and the boys began playing Here Comes the Bride, the newly married couple would come in and take their place in the middle of a reception line that contained all of the par- ticipants in the wedding party. The guests would line up and greet the wedding party, many giving envelopes to the bride who had a white cloth bag to deposit the en- velopes in. For those guests who brought gifts, a table would be set aside for the wrapped boxes containing these gifts. Following the re- ception line portion of the afternoon, the wedding party would take their seats at a head table and the priest who married the couple would say grace. This was followed by the best man toasting the newly married couple with a glass of wine. When he was finished, everyone would take a sip of their wine and yell out, "Salute" (hail), "Centi Anni" (100 years), or both, followed by, "Figlio Masculo," meaning, "May your first child be a male child." The tables of guests would be called to the buffet tables and they would select the things they wanted to eat. Chances are that the bride's father walked around the room with a gallon of wine filling the glasses of all who wanted a taste. The bride and groom would be called to the middle of the dance floor for their first dance, followed by the bride dancing with her father, and then the rest of the wedding party joining in after that. This ceremonial part of the function would be followed by general dancing to both American and Italian music. At some point, some would yell out, "Per piacere, suona una tarantella" (please play a tarantella). Dad and the boys would play the Neapoli- tan tarantella, and not to slight anyone, would follow it with the Sicilian tarantella. Of course, during the recep- tion, any requests would be satisfied by the band and waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, fox trots and any other type of dance music that was re- quested would be played. I used to get a kick out of watching Nanna and Babbononno dancing a tar- antella, along with Nanna's siblings and their spouses. Toward the end of the re- ception, just before it was time for the bride and groom to leave, a grand march would be set up and every- one would parade around the function room led by the just married couple. The bride and groom would then go to a private room and change into street clothes and leave with well wishers throwing rice or confetti at them as they headed out to start their married life with a honey- moon. Almonds with white candy coating would be passed out to the ladies and the good bys would begin. That's the way it was and those are fond memories. GOD BLESS AMERICA Boston Symphony Orchestra Manager Director Mark Volpe, Hope McDermott and Martha Volpe, right, at "Party in the Park." (Photo by Roger Farrington) ers, designed by Winston Flowers, will elicit the smells and sounds of Italy including lemons, rosemary and sun- flowers. Following the concert, there will be a reception at the Highwood Manor House for Gold and Silver Benefac- tors with the guest artists. Patrons will enjoy a gelato bar and coffee station com- plete with cordials and limoncello. The 2011 Gala co-chairs are Susie and Stuart Hirshfield from New York City and Stockbridge, MA, and Robin S. Richman and Bruce Auerbach from Lex- ington and Stockbridge, MA. Members of the event's Benefactor Committee in- clude Gregory E. Bulger and Richard J. Dix, Cynthia and Oliver Curme, Ursula Ehret- Dichter and Channing Dich- ter, Ginger and George Elvin, Nancy Edman Feldman and Michael Chefets, Sanford and Isanne Fisher, Nancy J. Fitzpatrick and Lincoln Rus- sell, Audrey and Ralph Fried- ner, Dr. Donald and Phoebe Giddon, Sally and Michael Gordon, Robert and Jan Grien, Valerie and Alen Hy- man, Margery and Everett Jassy, Robert and Luise Kleinberg, Elaine and Ed London, Jay and Shirley Marks, Dr. Robert and Jane B. Mayer, Claudio and Penny Pincus, Robert and Scott Singleton, Lauren E. Spitz, Margery and Lewis Stein- berg, and Stephen and Dorothy Weber. The BSO's first program of the 2011 Tanglewood sea- son also provides two oppor- tunities for the orchestra to take the spotlight. The first piece, Rossini's Overture to William Tell, is one of the most famous and familiar works in the classical canon. The second, which closes Opening Night at Tangle- wood in brilliant fashion, is Otto Respighi's Pines of Rome, a scintillating sym- phonic poem for large or- chestra that depicts every- thing from children playing to priests chanting, birds chirping to dawn breaking, and the thunderous boot steps of a great Roman le- gion parading down the Appian Way. For complete Tanglewood season programs and ticket information, visit www. For further information about Opening Night Gala Dinner benefactor tickets, call 617-638-9391. Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda MorriU's gardening Web site, In addition to events covered and reported by the columnist, "The Socially Set" is compiled from various other sources such as news and press re- leases, PRNewswire services, etc.) PRAYER TO ST. JUDE May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and pre- served throughout the world now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, help of the hopeless, pray for us. Say this prayer 9 times a day and by the 8th day your prayers will be answered. It has never been known to fail Publication must be promised. My prayers have been answered. A.T.P. PRAYER TO ST. JUDE May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and pre- served throughout the world now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, help of the hopeless, pray for us. Say this prayer 9 times a day and by the 8th day your prayers will be answered. It has never been known to fail. Publication must be promised. My prayers have been answered. SJ.A. Fully Insured Lic #017936 :hanical Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Ken Shallow 617.593.6211