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Virna Splendore


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As part of the ongoing Sticking Around Series by staff writer Andy Long, we welcome




Italian 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. 

In 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.


¨In 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.¨ 

I wondered what it was about the Stick that made it work for Virna, where other instruments had failed. 

¨Mmmmm, 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!¨


A 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.

Virna 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.


¨In 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.¨ 

Whilst 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 Fiorucci. 

¨In 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!¨ 

It 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 electronica.   

Since 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...


¨Andrea 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.


He 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.'

Roberto 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. 

¨Roberto 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 finished.¨ 

For 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.  

As 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... 

¨I 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 instrument.


We 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 where she interviews famous Stick players (hey, so do I!!) and writes articles about the instrument.

In 2001 she entered into an ambitious venture. She decided to organize a Stick Seminar in Milan. 

¨I 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.


At 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.


I 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.


Also 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.


We 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.


Andy Long is our correspondent in the U.K. and the author of numerous articles in Global Bass for a number of issues. Andy will be continuing over 2002 with a series of interesting and provocative interviews with some of the UK's best and brightest bass players. 

Check out his official website at Third Bass





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