Global Bass Online March 2002
part of the ongoing Sticking Around Series by staff writer Andy Long, we welcome
Chapman Stick player Virna Splendore is fast becoming one of Europe's foremost
names in the world of this innovative instrument. Performing in duos and trios
with other Stick players and instrumentalists, she is also the organiser of the
forthcoming World Stick Convention in Rome. More about that later. First of all
let's get some background.
her youth Virna experimented with a variety of instruments, including guitar,
piano and clarinet, but never found an instrument that truly suited her
personality until the mid '80's. When I spoke with her recently I asked her what
drew her to the Chapman Stick originally.
1985 I saw a small article about the Stick in an Italian music magazine¨, she
explained. ¨The Music Show in Milan was soon coming, and I knew the importer of
the instrument in Italy was going to exhibit there, so I went to see it. I had
the good fortune to see Jim Lampi demonstrating the Stick at the show. Wow, I
was astonished! Jim is still my favourite Stick player. So I bought a Stick at
the show the same day.¨
wondered what it was about the Stick that made it work for Virna, where other
instruments had failed.
good question...¨, she mused. ¨I
don't know exactly. I felt really comfortable with it very soon, and I could mix
my acquainted pianistic and stringed instruments knowledge very easily. It just
happened that the Stick was my instrument more than all the others. I felt like
it was a means through which the music could pass very easily if connected to
the Stick... well, it's even difficult to explain it in English!¨
year later, Virna was demonstrating the instrument at the same show, together
with her friend Andera Ilari, who had also bought a Stick at the same show.
moved to Rome and was really looking for other Stick players to work with, but
there were none to be found at the time. She started to work with other
musicians, flugelhorn, trumpet, sax and percussionists and arranged her own
works for these bands.
1991, I went to my first Stick Seminar in Belgium. Until then I had played only
by myself. There I met Volker Rehn, an excellent German Stick player, and we had
the chance to play together. I liked the result so much that I decided to look
for a Stick player closer to me to play with.¨
looking for other Stick players, Virna also began to teach the Stick. It was
this teaching that led to the formation of the duo SplendoRe, with Roberto
1994 Roberto bought a Stick in London, and Jim Lampi told him about me in Rome.
He came back to Italy and called me, and I started to teach him. He was a very
open minded musician, which I think is fundamental for speed learning on the
Stick, and he got it very soon. So we found ourselves playing together and
composing together. And we became a duo, so my Stick dream was realized!¨
wasn't long before SplendoRe recorded their first CD 'Guilty'
on the well-known Italian label Cinevox. Fourteen instrumental pieces in a
neo-classical style that oozes originality and is not reliant on barrages of
the recording of 'Guilty' Splendore have added a third Stickist, Andrea Moneta.
Andrea plays a MIDI-equipped 8-string Stick, the SB8 and actually functions as
the band's drummer. Virna explains how...
bought the Stick mainly because he plays with a Blue Grass band, and it happened
that the bass player left the band. So he knew about the Stick as he saw me and
Roberto playing several times. He decided to buy a MIDI SB8 so that he could
play bass Blue Grass/Country style and play contemporary drums on the MIDI side.
has a GR30 MIDI interface and an AKAI 2000 Sampler for the drum sounds. He
sampled several sounds like Peter Erskine's or Paul Wertico's and he uses these
sounds on a few frets on a few strings.
He works on this concept: on the same fret and string he puts more than one sound, so if he hits the string softly he gets a Bass Drum sound, if he hits it strongly he gets Bass Drum and Ride together, and so on.'
Fiorucci recently left the band but Virna and Andrea are working on a new CD
with graphite Stickist Massimo Del Genio, as well as with a clarinettist.
will feature at least this last time on the recordings¨, Virna told me, ¨but I have no idea yet of when exactly it will be
the 'Guilty' CD both Virna and Roberto played standard ten-strings with passive
pick-ups but Virna has recently changed to the Active Block pick-up for her
lacquered Rosewood model. She has also begun experimenting with a MIDI pick-up.
So the forthcoming CD promises to bring us some new sounds.
a Stick player and teacher working in Rome it would seem a natural step for
Virna to act as a representative for Stick Enterprises in Italy. But that didn't
actually happen until 2000,Virna explains why...
knew Emmett and Yuta since 1985, I have always kept in telephone contact with
them. They know all my steps with the Stick and I have always contributed to the
spread of the Stick in Italy in all these years, just because I believe in the
talked several times about making me an official representative in Italy, but
music was not my only job at the time. I
did not want to make something official that was not actually my main job. A
couple of years ago, I gave up with my parallel job to dedicate more time to the
Stick. So we decided that the time was right for me to be their representative.
In January 2001 I went to the NAMM and met them for the first time in 15 years! But it was just like we had always known each other!'
Virna now travels around Italy giving clinics, demos and concerts with the Stick as well as teaching. She also has a Chapman Stick section on the Italian website www.megabass.it where she interviews famous Stick players (hey, so do I!!) and writes articles about the instrument.
2001 she entered into an ambitious venture. She decided to organize a Stick
Seminar in Milan.
have attended several seminars since 1991, as a student and as a teacher¨, she
explained. ¨In Italy there was no such event, so I decided to try to organize
one. As there are several seminars in Europe every year, I wanted to find
something new to attract the stick players of Italy.
the 2001 NAMM I had the good fortune to meet Tony Levin, and so I asked him to
join the seminar as a guest. He agreed! WOW! Also I decided to open the seminar
to interested musicians that do not own a Stick but that were curious about it.
brought some Sticks to give to these musicians to attend the lessons. At the
NAMM I also met Bob Culbertson, whom I knew to be a really good teacher. I asked
him to teach with Greg Howard and also Jim Lampi.
I wanted to have concerts every night in the city. I had the help of Daniela, a
Stick student of mine that lives in Milan. I really have to thank her for the
help she gave me in organising the event. Actually, it has been very hard for me
to handle it, but it has been a success, more than I expected!'
Virna is organising another, even bigger event for this year. The World Convention of Stick Players in Rome. Teachers include Steve Adelson and Don Schiff, who are both featured in the pages of this very mag. Ron Baggerman and Greg Howard will also be there. It's going to be a fantastic event for Stick players and fans alike.
An update on the World Convention in Rome. Due to logistical and scheduling difficulties this years Convention will NOT be held.
will keep you posted on any further changes and when next year rolls around we
will let you know when and where the convention will be held.
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