• November/December 2023

    Ensemble Sangineto Takes Audience on Magnificent Musical Tour of Italy

    By Nancy DeSanti, 1st Vice President-Programs

    Ensemble Sangineto played for an enthusiastic audience at Casa Italiana. Left to right are Jacopo Ventura, Caterina Sangineto, and Adriano Sangineto.
    Credit: Carmine Spellane

    On a beautiful Fall afternoon, AMHS members and guests were treated to a wonderful musical journey through the regions of Italy, thanks to a talented, Italian musical group known as Ensemble Sangineto.

    This trio from northern Italy blends folk influences from throughout Europe — including Irish, Breton, and French traditions — with classical music, early music, Celtic music, Gregorian chant, musical theater, and modern pop and jazz influences. The group performed some of their unique traditional songs of the 20 regions of Italy in Casa Italiana on Sunday, October 29, 2023.

    Many thanks to Lynn Sorbara for having the idea to invite Ensemble Sangineto to Casa Italiana, and many thanks to Peter Bell for helping to make the plan a reality.

    Ensemble Sangineto was co-founded by Adriano and Caterina Sangineto, who are twins. The group consists of Adriano on Celtic harp, stomp box, and vocals; Caterina on bowed psaltery, flute, percussion, and vocals; and Jacopo Ventura on acoustic guitar, bouzouki, and vocals. They charmed everyone with their warm personalities and many of the audience members enjoyed chatting with them before and after the performance.

    The twins’ father, Michele, is a noted instrument maker in Monza, a city just north of Milano.  Growing up, Adriano and Caterina had the opportunity to play instruments built by their father as well as others he had collected or bought elsewhere. Adriana and Caterina attended music academies in Monza and neighboring Villasanta, then went to the Conservatorio di Milano where Adriano learned clarinet and Caterina learned flute. Both also played harp and a bowed psaltery, which is a triangular-shaped, stringed instrument that probably originated in the Middle East. In fact, during their performance at Casa Italiana, Caterina played a bowed psaltery made by her father. She had carried the instrument over on the plane.

    Jacopo studied at the Conservatorio G. Cantelli in Novara. He began studying classical guitar and then became interested in instruments, such as the mandolin, bandurria, bouzouki, and oud.

    Last year, the group began “Grand Tour Vol. 1,” marking the first installment of a two-part project paying tribute to traditional Italian music with fresh renditions of folk songs from each of the 20 regions of Italy. This project gave rise to the concert “Le Grand Tour — Songs and Enchantments from the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea.” 

    During their performance, the group played songs from Lombardia and Liguria to Sicily and Sardegna, including “Mare Maje” (Abruzzesse), “Canto delle lavandaie del Venero” (Neapolitan), “Si maritau Rosa” (Sicilian), and “Procurade è moderare” (Sardinian). The group also mixed in a couple of their original compositions which were well received by the enthusiastic audience.

    Their songs basically aim to combine Italian folk melodies with a modern international flair, in pursuit of the continuity and innovation of Italian folk music, drawing from the traditions of other European countries and regions, particularly Irish, French, Breton, and Scottish music.

    Adriano was recently quoted as telling an interviewer: “When you create a tune or a song, you prepare yourself to be the center of a universe full of feelings, words, and beauty. That magic force will be shared by the listeners and by any other person who wants to live and discover your soul. That is pure magic, is it not?”

    Yes, it is. And they definitely shared the magic with us!

    November/December 2023

  • November/December 2023

    A Message from the President

    Dear members and friends:

    The days and weeks are flying by, as Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I hope that you are enjoying good health and the beautiful season of Fall. 

    We wrapped up our summer programs with a pleasant talk and lunch at the Casa Italiana Sociocultural Center (CISC) on September 10th. Our guest speaker was Carmine Vittoria, who regaled us with excerpts and comments from his two recent books: “Once Upon a Hill” and “Hidden in Plain Sight.” The former recounts the different choices made by two Italian immigrants, while the latter places us in southern Italy during World War II, as we see how townspeople and internees related to each other. Litteri’s provided our lunch. 

    Our first Fall event took place on October 29th at CISC. It was an exciting musical concert performed by the eclectic Italian band Ensemble Sangineto. The trio, founded by the Sangineto twins Caterina and Adriano, entertained us with their characteristic repertoire of songs that blend ancient harmonies with modern rhythms. Their renditions featured melodies from various regions of Italy, plus interesting arrangements of traditional Irish, Scottish, and Breton songs. The Ensemble’s performance was outstanding. Litteri’s refreshments were, as usual, excellent, the turnout was great, and the afternoon was certainly one to remember.

    The next program will be our annual wine tasting event on November 19th at CISC. We will feature several excellent wines from Italy. The Society will also hold an election of its five officers (President, 1st VP/Programs, 2nd VP/Membership, Secretary, and Treasurer) as well as three positions on the Board of Directors. We owe a very large debt of gratitude to our departing officers: Lynn Sorbara, who finishes another term as 2nd/VP of Membership, and Carmine Spellane, who will conclude his work as AMHS Secretary. Lynn, whose membership in the Society dates to its beginning, has been an amazing whirlpool of activity and an endless source of ideas and insights. Her contributions will be greatly missed, as too will Carmine’s. His intelligence, professionalism, and abundance of common sense have played an essential part in the Society’s growth and evolution during his tenure. On the Board of Directors, we thank Jeff Clark, who will be departing after multiple terms of service. His understanding of the Society’s finances and his knowledge stemming from many years of active membership have been invaluable in the work of the organization. Our thanks also go out to Frank Bonsiero, whose term on the Board is likewise ending. We will no longer have the benefit of his eager volunteerism, his good humor, and his interest in all things AMHS. While their replacements will have big shoes to fill, I have no doubt that they will be up to the task. 

    We are getting close to the time of the year when we send out our annual AMHS Scholarship fundraising letter. I am sure you know that each year we award a $4,000 scholarship to two outstanding students who have demonstrated academic excellence and a strong interest in Italian language and culture. The funds for those scholarships come exclusively from our fundraising drive —  nowhere else! So, please be on the lookout for our letter and try to be as generous as you have in the past. Awarding these scholarships to young people and facilitating their educational opportunities, while also encouraging their passion for Italy, Italian culture, and the Italian language, may well be the most important way we can fulfill the AMHS mission of preserving our Italian heritage and passing it on to the younger generations. Your donations make it all possible. 

    As the holidays approach, do not forget about our online shop, where you can select from hundreds of gifts, all emblazoned with our AMHS logo. It is an easy and convenient way to shop for unique gifts and to show your pride in our organization. 

    Finally, this will be my last message to you as president. If our November election goes as expected, your new president in 2024 will be Chris Renneker. Chris is one of our younger members, and he has already displayed the kind of energy, commitment, and intelligence that bode well for the future of our organization. He has served on our Board of Directors from 2020 to 2023 and has been instrumental in organizing many of our virtual and social activities. We are truly fortunate to have him in the Society.

    As I prepare to conclude my time as president, which has been a privilege, I would like to express how much I have enjoyed getting to know many of you over these last six years, and I hope that these relationships do not end with my term. Our Society remains a great way in which to channel your interest in all things Italian. My hope is that you will maintain this interest and, along the way, contribute to the vitality and growth of the AMHS through your suggestions and active participation. If you do, I am confident that you will be rewarded. Enjoy the holidays! 

    Best regards,
    Ray LaVerghetta

    November/December 2023

  • November/December 2023

    Election of Officers to Take Place at November 19 General Meeting

    The next general meeting of the Abruzzo Molise Heritage Society of the Washington, D.C. Area will take place inside Casa Italiana on Sunday, November 19, 2023, at 1:30 p.m. The primary order of business, before we get to our wine tasting and social time, will be the nomination and election of a new slate of the top five officers of the Society, as well as three new members of the nine-person board of directors.

    The five officers serve for two-year terms and are eligible to run for re-election. The members of the Board of Directors serve for three years and cannot run for consecutive terms.

    Additional nominations may be made from the floor during the November 19 meeting, after which the nominations will be closed, and the election will be held. The elected officers and board members shall assume office on January 1, 2024, and will be installed at the January 2024 general membership meeting.

    The Nominating Committee has put forth the following candidates for election.

    President, Christopher Renneker

    Christopher John Renneker has been a member of the Abruzzo Molise Heritage Society since 2017 and has served one term on the Society’s board and is currently serving on the social committee. He has been a member of the National Italian-American Foundation since 2016, the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America since 2021, and Filitalia International since 2023. He has family members from the region of Abruzzo and the city of Foggia in the region of Puglia. 

    Chris graduated in 2017 from the George Washington University Law School. He also earned an MBA from the Sungkyunkwan University Global School of Business in 2017, and a B.S. from Florida State University in 2011 with majors in Political Science and History, focused on European Union integration and Renaissance Italy, respectively, and minors in Classical Civilization, focused on Etruscan studies, and Philosophy.

    Between undergrad and law school, Chris taught overseas, including one year of English in Shanghai, China, and taught one year of English, Social Studies, and Math in Mexico City, Mexico. Chris studied abroad for a semester in Italy while at Florida State. He has since visited Italy twice, including a six-week road trip in 2019. 

    Chris was admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia in 2017 and currently works at the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a Trademark Examining Attorney. He previously worked as an Attorney Advisor in the Small Business Administration, Office of Disaster Assistance.

    Second Vice President-Membership, Americo “Rico” Allegrino

    Americo “Rico” Allegrino grew up in upstate New York. His father emigrated from Chieti in Abruzzo and his maternal great grandparents came from Sicily and Naples. He earned a Master’s degree in Meteorology from the University of Maryland. He currently works as a government contractor for NOAA’s satellite division where he provides programming support to the next generation of weather satellites. Rico has worked for NOAA for 21 years. Previously, he worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center studying sea ice and snow cover using various remote sensors.

    Rico has volunteered as a special events coordinator for an organization of single Catholics called the Catholic Alumni Club. There, he organized picnics, happy hours, and dinners. He was also the membership chairman for several years for this club. Currently, he leads a group of volunteers from his local parish to provide a monthly dinner for homeless men in Prince Georges County. He also volunteers his gardening services to his local parish. He is an avid gardener. Rico is currently in his second term on the AMHS Board, having previously served from 2018 to 2020.

    Secretary, Joseph “Sonny” Scafetta, Jr.

    Joseph “Sonny” Scafetta Jr. is the son of Giuseppe Scafetta (1896-1975) who emigrated from the city of Vasto in Abruzzo to Washington, D.C., in early April 1915. Sonny earned a B.S. from Penn State University in aerospace engineering in 1969, a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972, a masters in patent law from Georgetown U. in 1973, and an M.B.A. in the administration of science and technology from George Washington U. in 1983. Before entering the private practice of law in 1975, he served as a law clerk for two years for a federal trial judge in Columbia, South Carolina. He was admitted to practice before the state courts in Pennsylvania in 1972, the District of Columbia in 1978, and Virginia in 1979. He was also admitted to practice before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in 1973, the U.S. District Court in D.C. in 1978, and the Eastern District of Virginia in 1982, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 1982, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980. He has worked for several law firms in the District and northern Virginia. Over the years, he has published ten articles in various legal journals and won the prestigious Robert C Watson Award from the American Intellectual Property Law Association in 1976. He is now semi-retired, but works part time as Senior Counsel for Ditthavong, Steiner, & Mlotkowski in Alexandria. 

    He has been a member of the Abruzzo Molise Heritage Society since 2008 and served on the board of directors from January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2022. He is also on the board of directors of the National Columbus Celebration Association. Sonny is also a member and officer of the Italian Heritage Lodge which is a branch of the Order Sons & Daughters of Italy in America which he joined in 1979. He served as the state president of the Grand Lodge of Virginia from June 1993 to June 1995 and on the state council of the Grand Lodge for a record 24 continuous years from 1983 to 2007. 

    Currently, Sonny resides in Falls Church with his wife of 37 years, Teresa Talierco, who is currently on the AMHS board of directors. They have a son, Joseph Scafetta III, who is currently a grad student studying data science at Marymount University in Arlington.

    The following officers have graciously agreed to continue serving in their current positions for another year.

    First Vice President-Programs, Nancy DeSanti

    Nancy DeSanti was born in Massachusetts and while growing up, lived in Athens, Greece, for four years, and in Manila, the Philippines, for three years. She was a legal specialist with Reed Smith LLP, a top-15 global law firm and prior to that, she was an editor at The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., a legal publishing company.

    As the daughter of immigrants, Nancy appreciates and loves her heritage and is interested in Italian genealogy, history, culture, and language. She is a member of the National Italian-American Foundation and enjoys traveling to Italy each year. She resides in Alexandria, Virginia.

    Nancy has served three terms as First Vice President and has graciously agreed to remain in office for one more year.

    Treasurer, Peter Bell

    Peter Bell is a lifelong resident of the Washington, D.C. area, growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland. He has lived on Capitol Hill since 1974. He is retired from the Federal government with over 35 years of experience as an auditor and financial manager with three different Federal agencies. Currently, he heads his own consulting and training practice, providing support for the needs of the affordable housing industry. Peter is also a member of the AMHS Scholarship Committee.

    Board of Directors

    Article VII, Section 6 of the AMHS bylaws states:

    “The Board of Directors shall consist of nine (9) members who have been in good standing for at least two years. The Board shall be divided into three groups of three members. Each group shall be elected for three years and thereafter have three, two and one remaining years of office. The group serving its last year in office shall retire at the end of the year. Each year a new group of three Directors shall be elected for a three-year term to replace the retiring Directors. No elected Board member may serve consecutive terms or serve simultaneously in any other officer position of the Society.”

    Accordingly, the Nominating Committee has put forth the following candidates for the term that begins on January 1, 2024.

    Anthony Andreoli

    Anthony “Tony” Andreoli is a native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and is extraordinarily proud of his Italian heritage. He is a cum laude graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his Juris Doctorate from Villanova Law School, and is currently corporate counsel with a technology company that focuses on artificial intelligence.

    Tony is also a member of the Italian Heritage Lodge in Fairfax. He fondly recalls pasta Sunday at his grandparents and is a steadfast advocate for the preservation of Italian culture and our ancestors’ legacies. He enjoys playing the drums, skiing, martial arts, and most importantly, spending time with his son, Michael. They reside in the Crystal City section of Arlington.

    Maria D’Andrea-Yothers

    Maria D’Andrea-Yothers is a second-generation Italian American. Her mother and father were both born in Italy, her mother Edvige in the region of Abruzzo, her father Lucio in the region of Molise. They immigrated to the United States in 1949, after World War II, and met in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, where they were married before moving to the Washington, D.C. area. Maria was raised with her four sisters and one brother in northern Virginia. Maria has spent over 20 years promoting and working with the Italian-American community in the Washington, D.C. area, mainly as an officer and past president of the Abruzzo Molise Heritage Society, which was co-founded by her father in 2000.

    Maria is Director of the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She is responsible for managing a staff of 12 International trade specialists, international economists, and business and industry specialists. She is responsible for administering the U.S. textile trade program, and she has been involved in the negotiation of several top trade priorities including special safeguards against China and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. She is considered an expert in the field of domestic and international policy issues related to textiles and apparel. Her advice is sought by industry stakeholders, as well as by U.S and foreign government representatives. Prior to joining OTEXA in 1992, Maria worked on textile and clothing trade issues as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.

    Maria married Sam Yothers, an “Italian by Marriage,” on February 11, 2016, on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. She has two stepdaughters, Lauren and Mara. She and her husband enjoy all types of outdoor activities, especially hiking, camping, and cycling.

    Mark Lino

    Mark’s paternal family hails from Avellino in the Campania region. He has been a member of the AMHS for nearly 20 years. Mark is currently serving on the board, and his term expires at the end of 2023. However, he has generously agreed to serve another year in his position.

    Mark was born in East Boston, Massachusetts. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Boston College and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. For the past 33 years, he has been employed as an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture where he works on food policy and programs. Outside of work, he enjoys reading mysteries and wine tasting.

    November/December 2023

  • November/December 2023

    Talented Musician, Neapolitan Author, Both Featured at AMHS Program

    By Nancy DeSanti, 1st Vice President-Programs

    Our final AMHS speaker program for 2023 started out with a real treat for the attendees — a surprise performance by AMHS music scholarship winner Giorgio Consolati. Afterwards, Professor Carmine Vittoria told us about his two most recent, very different books.

    Music scholarship winner Giorgio Consolati performs to the delight of the audience at the September 10 general meeting.
    Credit: Maria D’Andrea-Yothers

    The program, held at Casa Italiana on September 10, 2023, began with Giorgio’s introduction by Liz DiGregorio, on behalf of the AMHS Angela Raisch scholarship committee. Liz noted that Giorgio, who is from Milan, is a graduate of the Julliard School and is currently a doctoral candidate at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Giorgio has performed at venues such as Carnegie Hall, and Liz told us that his lustrous tone and virtuosity would be on full display — and they were!

    Giorgio played the flute while Hui-Chuan Chen, his colleague in Baltimore, accompanied him on the piano. He selected the piece “Il Pastore Svizzera for Flute and Piano” by Pietro Morlacchi. It was enthusiastically received by an appreciative audience. 

    After lunch, Carmine began his talk by telling us a little about his life. He was born before the start of World War II in Avella, a small town 20 kilometers northeast of Naples. As a boy, he helped tend sheep in the mountains near Avella. His father died in Libya in 1941. After the war, the family immigrated to the United States.

    Before Carmine’s talk, a delicious lunch was catered by A. Litteri. Our thanks to all those who helped in arranging and serving the lunch and to all those who donated raffle prizes and bought tickets. A special thanks is owed to AMHS member, Maria Marigliano, for her technical assistance.

    He received a Ph.D. in applied quantum physics from Yale University in 1970. He taught physics for 32 years at Northeastern University in Boston after working at the Naval Research Lab here on projects involving microwave magnetic materials and the Stealth bomber technology. 

    AMHS members may recall then when Carmine was here in June 2019, he told us his story of hardship and survival through the eyes of a boy growing up in the small town of Avella before, during, and shortly after World War II. This true story of his life became the basis for his book “Bitter Chicory to Sweet Espresso,” which he has since translated into Italian.

    Since then, Carmine has written two more, very different books which were the subject of his talk. 

    The first book, “Once Upon a Hill,” is his “second memoir.” He writes about the experiences of two shepherd boys on Mount Avella. They immigrated separately to the United States and took very different paths in life — one entered academia and the other entered the Mafia — and how they reconnected in Boston’s heavily Italian North End many years later. The lives of both unfolded during a turbulent era of Irish political power and the Irish gangs led by Whitey Bulger who controlled much of Boston’s criminal activity and who at the same time was informing on the Mafia. 

    Carmine Vittoria discussed his inspiration for “Hidden in Plain Sight” and his other works.
    Credit: Courtesy of Carmine Vittoria

    The other book, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” describes World War II interactions between internees and townspeople in Mussolini’s internment camps for Jews and anti-fascists in remote areas of Southern Italy, particularly in Basilicata and Calabria. Carmine pointed out that these internment camps were basically remote places of exile rather than the brutal concentration camps set up by the Nazis elsewhere. He explained how a bond formed among the internees and the townspeople and the various ways they all pulled together to survive the hardships of the war.

    Our speaker came all the way from Florida, where he is now retired and plants fig trees and runs a bridge club. Carmine has just written another scientific book, “Magnetics, Dielectrics, and Wave Propagation,” which will be published in November 2023.

    This event was co-sponsored by the Casa Italiana Sociocultural Center. Our special guests included our new Holy Rosary Pastor, Father Walter Tonelotto; Maria Fusco, the Embassy of Italy’s Education Director; and Dr. John Mather, our Nobel-Prize-winning speaker in January 2023. Dr. Mather spoke to us about the James Webb Space Telescope for which he was chief scientist. Dr. Mather’s fiancée, Cheryl Hoffman, was also a guest.

    November/December 2023

  • November/December 2023

    Pioneering Jazz and Blues Musician Eddie Lang

    By Joseph “Sonny” Scafetta, Jr.

    Eddie Lang in the late 1920s.
    Credit: Wikipedia

    From humble beginnings in Philadelphia, a son of Molisano immigrants changed his name and helped revolutionize jazz and blues music, while performing with some of the biggest stars of the 20th century.

    Salvatore Massaro was born at home in the 700 block of Saint Albans Street in the Little Italy section in the south end of Philadelphia, Pa., on October 25, 1902. His parents had emigrated from the community of Monteroduni (population 2,140 in the 2017 Census) in the province of Isernia in Molise. His father was a musical instrument maker. Salvatore attended a nearby elementary school where an older pupil named Joe Venuti introduced him to the violin at age 7. When Salvatore turned 15, he dropped out of school and became a member of a local trio, although he could not read music.

    In 1920 at age 18, he legally changed his name to Eddie Lang, exchanged his violin for a banjo, and began working with band leaders Charlie Kerr, Bert Estlow, Vic D’Ippolito, and then Billy Lustig. In 1924, he exchanged his banjo for a one-stringed guitar when he became a member of the Mound City Blue Blowers led by Red McKenzie. He recorded one of the first guitar solos in “Deep Second Street Blues” in 1926. Before his performance, the guitar had not been a prominent instrument in jazz bands and dance orchestras. Lang and Venuti then performed with the Adrian Rollini Orchestra. Lang also recorded with black blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson who used the stage name Blind Willie Dunn. Altogether, Lang recorded 22 songs during his career.

    In 1929, Lang and Venuti became members of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Vocalist Bing Crosby soon joined the orchestra on a trip west to Hollywood to make the movie King of Jazz in which Lang and Venuti appeared. Through Crosby’s wife, Lang met Kitty, a Ziegfeld girl, whom he soon married. They had no children. In 1930 when Crosby was looking for a job in radio, he had Lang as his accompanist. Two years later, Crosby made another movie The Big Broadcast in which Lang also appeared. When Crosby returned to New York City and started his orchestra in late 1932, he hired Lang as a regular.

    Lang suffered from occasional laryngitis and had a chronic sore throat. After a doctor recommended a tonsillectomy, Crosby urged Lang to have the operation. Assured that the surgical procedure was routine, Lang entered Park West Hospital in Manhattan on March 26, 1933. He never woke up from the surgery and died at age 30. 

    Lang was one of the first single-string guitar soloists. He played a melody on a one-stringed Gibson L guitar but occasionally added more chords. He showed that the guitar could be a band instrument. He was skilled enough to make his acoustic guitar heard among the other band instruments. Lang was so influential that banjo players soon switched en masse to the guitar and the banjo was dropped from most bands. As a result, Lang is known as the father of the jazz guitar. He was inducted into the American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers (ASCAP) Jazz Wall of Fame in 1986 and the Big Band & Jazz Hall of Fame in 2010.


    November/December 2023