Candelara, Choirs, Pipes and Candles

The last Sunday in November, the second day of the annual Candles in Candelara festival, on the hills above Pesaro, clear blue skies and it is cool but not wintery.

This festival was born only in 2004, but has become a worldwide Christmas market magnet in just a few years. The fringes and parks of the medieval town of Candelara are overtaken by campervans, buses crawling over the village roads and ‘millipedes’ of cars. Our fortune is that Maurizio Giannotti and Tiziana Paci, contributors to our Energitismo creations, reside just a few metres from the old town so we can find a hideaway and start refreshed into the crowds.

Our immediate mission is not the plethora of candle artisans and Natale gift stalls, but an early warming toast of vino brulé (mulled wine) before the afternoon carol singing by the local choir. Venturing up a short byway from the main village street of Candelara, this Frazione di Pesaro, Claudia commenced fulfilling her passion to overcome the memory of her iPhone with recollections of a small candle alight in a sole red holder on the side of the brick wall.

With some minutes before the scheduled singing, we can stand and observe others whose interest is similarly to include us in their afternoon viewing. We are introduced to, Chiara, an opera singing member of the choir, related by marriage to Maurizio – it is a small village, and her story plus the flickering of the candles will fill others page of this journal.

To my right sits a man who ages from the feet upwards. His shoes are new, brown soft leather carefully laced, with clean black soles. His trousers are neat, narrow and dark blue. His mid-length coat is a little more well-worn, a dark olive green mid-weight water-resistant material. Around his neck is an old scarf, and atop his head a loose beanie of non-descript colour. Hidden beneath the beanie was a small well creased and aged face with pale grey facial hair similar to ‘a la souvarov’ style, giving him the image of a man who has spent many a year on the sea. He waits as the numbers of expectant locals increases and then, just as the choir is preparing to vent voices and my attention is taken, he disappears into the crowds of Candelara.

The tall director of the choir is apparently Dutch, and a man whose talents stretch not as far as singing in full voice, but more so to directing and conducting what is today a reduced group or 9 ladies and 6 men, all no longer in the prime of youth and all well-prepared for the expected chill of early evening.

At just 4pm, the conductor, resplendent in his elf’s red and white Christmas beanie brought the sopranos, altos, tenors and bass together into voice for rendition of a selection of European carols and Christmas songs.

Distinguishing marks to isolate choir members from audience were few, mainly the black portfolios diligently held by each singer. Otherwise their variations of dress provided a mildly cacaphonic image with the audience. I was particularly taken by a lady chorister of not quite 50 years, dressed in dark brown with a matching Mary Poppins hat, an outfit possibly chosen to set the tone for the carols, and by what appeared to be the retired local surgeon dressed in his Sunday elegance, intoning basso over his fur collar.

The conductor was unable to withstand blessing the audience with a Dutch carol, and traditional German songs.

Yet after just five carols, from further down the village came wafting over the rooves and up the alleys the distant sound of bagpipes, and it was obvious that the director of the choir sought to take up the challenge with this group of potential interlopers. But the power of the pipes and drums from, what we soon saw was just a 10 man band from Bazzano Castle Pipe Band of Candelara, left our choir holding their voices and their sheet music in the increasing dusk. Maybe the scheduling was amiss or is there an issue between the Dutch and the Scots?

Time for another vino brulé, and then the children’s marching choir.