This is the 10th year that the choir has been in action.
“The official name of our choir is ‘The Sydney Italian Women’s Choir…but you don’t have to be Italian or a woman to join’,” Piave said.
“The fact is, in Sydney, the people who sign up to choirs are mainly women, unless it’s a completely male-centric choir, and then men will join.
“But it’s actually quite tricky to get men to join a mixed choir, so what we found was that if we just call it the Sydney Italian Women’s Choir but leave that little bit open, for blokes and non-Italians... all the right kind of people join.”
Indeed, Piave said that there are currently no fluent Italian speakers in the choir, but many people who are attracted to join because they like the language and the culture.
At the moment, the choir is studying many Italian Alpine songs from the Dolomites, as well as English madrigals from the 17th century which have been influenced by Italian madrigals.
But the choir does like to mix things up.
“We might do some operatic chorus, English songs and French madrigal repertoire,” Piave mused.
The choir has performed three years in a row at Norton St Festa, but Piave admitted that its main focus is not performing, but “for the joy of it”.
“You’d be surprised, a lot of people aren’t interested in performing,” she added.
“It’s for the process, the getting together once a week and having that time set aside for two hours; people put their focus into that and are not necessarily interested in putting together a concert program.”
Piave, who also teaches group classes for adults at the Sydney Conservatorium’s Open Academy, runs a private studio and maintains a busy schedule as an independent performer, said that she was inspired to put the choir together because she loves “working with groups of voices and adult voices”.
She also wanted to practice her conducting, and importantly, bring an interesting Italian repertoire to Sydney.
Piave now holds a newly inspired vision: to create and conduct an all-male ensemble which will sing the traditional style of music called trallalero, from Genoa.
According to Piave, trallalero is an extraordinary style of harmonious singing, practised by fisherman in the Genoan ports, who sing in a group usually consisting of four basses, two baritones and a tenor.
Piave discovered trallalero through the work of American musicologist Alan Lomax, who in the 1950s unwittingly recorded a group of men in a bar in Genoa who “just spontaneously burst into harmonies, and he couldn’t believe it; he said it was the most extraordinary thing he had heard”.
She has just returned from a trip to Italy (she has Italian origins in Reggio-Emilia), where she spent her time making notes about different places where she would one day like to take singers on a tour, in discovery of musical traditions from “off-the-beaten track”.
“We don’t go back often enough,” Piave admitted.
“Italy is really important to me and my husband.
“We’ve decided after this trip that we have to make it at least once a year!”
The Fortissimo choir concludes each year with a special pageant event, a performance-spectacular which Piave described as “hysterical”, with singers taking turns acting and reading scripts.
The community choir is also famous for its “Fortissimo ‘Trio’ Tomato Sauce”, which is sold at the end-of-year pageant.
“We ask people to bring along to their first session two tins of peeled tomatoes and at the end of the year, when we do our pageant, we sell the sauce to raise funds for a local city charity,” Piave said.
“The sauce comes with a recipe booklet of ideas and cooking stories suggested by members of the choir.
“Made to the recipe of my dear old dad’s pomarola, people absolutely love it!”