A while back we spoke about the mass emigration which occurred in the 1800s due to lack of work around here, but even after the second world war, the phenomenom was still very frequent. The motives were always the same – a search for a better life, a means of offering greater opportunities to offspring, and so on. In many cases, the sacrifices of these emigrants were paid off, when sons and daughters were able to do well for themselves, and more than one old decrepit family home reflourished when descendants decided to come back to their origins after retirement.
Some emigrants however, returned to their homeland with youngsters who wished to pursue their dreams right here. It happened to many families around our area, and this is the story of one such example – a young man who came to Italy with a great ambition in his heart, and the desire to live out his dream.
Paolo Bertoli was born on the 4th of July 1974 in Swansea, in the south of Wales. His mother came from Scapini, a hamlet of Compiano, and she worked in her parents’ coffee shop in Swansea, whilst Paolo’s father, who was born in Bedonia, was a cook. When the two met and married, they set up a fish and chip shop together, a very common activity for emigrants in those years. Paolo was their first-born, followed by the twins Massimo and Stefano. Music was obviously already in the family genes, since dad would often lull his boys off to sleep to the sound of an accordion, and Paolo claims that his passion for this instrument was probably sparked off by his father’s playing. In fact, at the age of 7, he was already mastering the art himself – when quite possibly the accordion was bigger than him! As the years went by, his desire to play grew and grew, and he finally realised that his life would be in music.
And so it was that the musical career of the three young men began, when they set up a small group called “The Bertoli Brothers”. This lasted for 5 years, and had an immediate success in Wales, where they were much requested to play and entertain at dancing events. But Paolo had higher aspirations, and knew it was time to think big and go for it.
This was to be a turning point for the whole family, because a drastic decision was then made; in order to allow Paolo to study with the finest Maestros, they would all move back to Italy. And although mum wasn’t too happy in having to leave her own mother and brothers, move they did, for the love of their son. They fortunately had the family house to settle down in; it was 1989.
On arrival in Italy, the ” Bertoli Brothers” group ceased to exist and was substituted by another called “Le Ombre Della Notte” (The night shadows); the name was a play on words since “ombre” means “shadow” in Italian, but “umbre” in Venetian dialect also means “a small glass of wine”! Paolo played alongside his brothers and other musicians of the area, but eventually, the twins decided to withdraw from the activity. Paolo however carried on, playing, studying and learning, because – he says – this line of work is in constant renewal, you cannot afford to lag behind! He is a self-taught artist, but throughout the years has studied privately with masters of the accordion, in the heartfelt strive to refine his art. He ploughed on, and finally began to see his wish slowly materialising after creating his current formation “Orchestra Paolo Bertoli” 22 years ago, which now mainly comprises young, talented musicians (with new members recently added), and Roberta, the excellent singer. They boast a multitude of passionate fans, who follow them in all their movements around the territory.
So at this point, we can safely say that the family’s sacrifice, and desire to give their son his chance in the world, was well worth it. A quick glance at Paolo’s curriculum up to now leaves no doubts: The “Orchestra Paolo Bertoli” is very much in demand in many regions of north Italy in dance halls, and during the summer months, the group is called upon to entertain at outdoor festivals of every kind; they have had the honor of playing in Paris, for 11 years consecutively at the same event, and have been to London and Wales. Whilst travelling around with his orchestra, Paolo has also found the time to record 26 compilations of accordion music for the prestigious Franco Bagutti music editions publisher.
The passion of a young boy brought a family back to its roots, and that young boy has made his parents very proud of him – well done Paolo….keep up the good work!