For Italian musical bands, the industrial revolution started in Perugia
At the end of the nineteenth century, in Italy the sector of band music was ready to absorb the big novelties established by the new industry processes in the publishing and in the production of musical instruments: who was in charge to take the initiative?
In 1900, Tito Belati, native of Perugia, a maestro of the Army 35th Infantry Regiment Band, stops beating about the bush and decides to treasure all the information and experiences gained in France, in order to modernize the Italian band sector and make it more competitive.
When he’s still very young, he leaves the Army, comes back to Perugia and founds the Tito Belati Music House. In the following years, the Music House changes its name in Tito Belati Publishing House and, together with its city, Perugia, becomes a reference point for the band music in Italy and abroad, thanks to the numerous Italian communities spread all over the world.
Let’s see the entrepreneurial intuitions that were at the basis of its success.
Printing the musical scores for the different interpreters was a big problem for a publisher. The maestros wrote the scores by hand, personalizing the instrumentation according the components of the different band groups. Printing according these terms would turn into a certain failure. The new publisher worked on two fronts. First, he promoted the academic debate to identify a standard for small, medium and big band. Then he persuaded the composers (he was a composer, too, and he won many prizes) to write instrumentations without interfering on the music, even in presence of variable staffs.
This is the rule today, but for that period it was a real revolution that allowed the print publishing to take off and have success.
Then Tito Belati worked to enlarge the traditional and popular repertory: he included lyrics, so that the public widened and from theatres poured into the squares.
Finally, he enclosed the didactic, proposing some teaching methods that were very strict but fit to amateur interpreters, giving the essential theoretical basis to play more complex compositions. In this way, even small villages’ bands could spread culture, through musical entertainment.
Most of the bands’ performers were amateurs. Usually, they were not very wealthy, and owed their instruments.
Therefore, there was a big problem to solve: the production of good quality instruments within reach of every purse. Belati suggested to assemble the instruments using brass and wood coming from the Music House. A respectable productive process that caused a sharp fall of the prices, thanks to the agreements with some national producers of musical instruments. Obviously, all the instruments were checked and adjusted in the Music House’s workshop.
Numerous prizes won in international exhibitions certified the good quality of these instruments; the most prestigious was assigned at Brussels world exhibition. Today, the instruments produced at Tito Belati Music House are sold by auction in many countries, especially in Central and South America.
The Music House and the Publishing House were strictly bound: their brand names, never abandoned from their birth, confirm this decision; both adopted the griffin, emblem of Perugia. A rampant griffin stands out on all the catalogues of the Publishing House, the griffin of Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia is present on all the musical instruments coming from the Music House.
At that time, another company only assumed the griffin as its brand name: Perugina, the chocolate producer famous for its dark Luisa and Baci. Liberty and deco showed up on the pictures spread by the Publishing House on its catalogues, posters, post cards and other graphic and artistic publications.
It’s 1911. Our band industrialist wants to consolidate the market, retain his customers and propose himself as a committed entrepreneur. A perfect opportunity for a company magazine, handed out to Maestros and band fans. “The Friend of Musicians” was born, a voice for many cultural initiatives in defence of the authors, and a place for debates about the development of the national band system. The magazine becomes a point of reference, with an editorial staff made of personalities of the sector, and organizes competitions for music composers. These competitions were very attractive, as in addition to the prize the winning compositions were published and included in the Publishing House’s catalogue.
Maestro Belati’s communicative imagination was not confined to the magazine, that he directed personally; on the contrary, it expressed itself in many ways, both regarding new initiative and daily activities. Let’s remember that in the Twenties’ catalogues, “sales” became “half-free gifts”.
At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of twentieth, Italian emigration increased, especially towards the Americas, and many immigrants leave from the South of Italy, where the band tradition has deep roots. Many immigrants were members of band groups.
They stayed in contact with Tito Belati Publishing House in order to rebuild in the new countries what they had left in their fatherland. Italian communities became numerous and the Salesian Order established new settlements to help the immigrants, educate the children, and create some points of contact for the families.
Music was the natural catalyst for all that. And Maestro Belati was a keen supplier of the immigrants’ needs, often through the Order, understanding their financial difficulties.
The internationalization process towards the five continents was begun, and the Italian communities became the popular ambassadors of the Italian music. Italian immigrants and their descendants always had a strong presence in art and music; they donated to their adoptive countries new musical expressions that became real national music universally recognized. Nevertheless, the memory of Tito Belati Publishing House, of its founder and its city, Perugia, never abandoned them.
Tito Belati Publishing House’s Historical Archive is born
Maestro Pietro Franceschini Committee for the Music Bands Historical Found has been constituted, in order to remember the Perugia Morlacchi Conservatory deputy director Maestro Franceschini, as well as his professional and human actions. The Committee also intends to carry on his initiatives in the field of music band, in particular the constitution of an historical archive of Tito Belati Publishing House, where Maestro Franceschini played a significant role for more than twenty years, since 1975.
Now the Committee places a selection of its material at Gens Italica’s disposal; it includes some of the most interesting subjects for music band lovers in the Italian communities in the world.