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Italian Alpini climb musical heights

By CPO Tim Adams
First published in
SFOR Informer #90, June 21, 2000

Sarajevo - Kanita Focak and her young son were on their way to a performance at Sarajevo's historic, 19th Century, National Theatre during the war when a tremendous explosion occurred nearby. "When I came to the corner, I saw the place in front of the theatre and I realised that the bomb hit it directly. There was a great big hole in the face of the theatre," said Focak. She explains that even in the war, with the city being bombarded with up to 4,000 rounds a day, it was a priority to occasionally take the risk and go to the theatre.

"We need this touch with culture so desperately because it was the only touch with a normal life which reminded us always that we are still human beings and that we are still living. It was the most important thing, more important maybe than bread or our own lives. Anything to keep in touch with music and with art, because it was something that saved our souls as a civilised people," explained Focak. Now the National Theatre has been beautifully restored and on the 19 June, Focak was there again, on the stage, conducting a concert sponsored by the Italian contingent of SFOR.

"Music is the universal language that everyone understands," said Italian Capt. Alessandro Cottone. "Because culture and music bring people closer this is the first reason for having the fanfare and choir playing here in Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH,") said Cottone. The Commander of the Italian Battle Group, Col. Fausto Macor had a second reason to invite the famous military band and choir of the Taurinese Alpini Brigade to perform at several venues in BiH: to commemorate the 85th anniversary of their brigade's famous WW I Battle on Monte Nero. "The Commander decided to have also a day of Esprit de Corp for the Italian Battle Group," explained Cottone. The band and choir performed for the Italian Battle Group in Tito Barracks, in camp Butmir, in Mostar, and on the steps of the Cathedral in downtown Sarajevo.

"A big crowd gathered around the cathedral and the children started acting like they were directing the band," said Cottone. "It was wonderful if you think that they were in a place where also bombs once were. This was a sign of hope, perhaps it is a more correct way to help the process of restoration of the society and of living together." After an evening of famous, fun and classical musical pieces at the theatre, the band and choir concluded the concert with a wonderful rendition of the BiH National Anthem. "It was for me a very strong impression and emotion," said Focak. "These young people coming to my town, coming to my people, singing and playing fine music. And they have also learned one of our songs for the end of the concert, I have a lot of respect for these people."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Italy
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