In Isnello, a village near Palermo, frottole are a unique expression of musical and religious traditions. During celebrations honouring the Saints, before the evening procession held by Church ministers, crowds of devotees, musicians and young people with banners wind their way through the streets of the town. The musical compositions belonging to the Isnello Frottole tradition were written between the 18th and 20th centuries and are still performed today. From a musical point of view, frottole belong to the polyphonic compositions that were in vogue in Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries, but in Sicily they took on this particular form, creating a musical tradition with unique characteristics and a function that could be described as scenic.

During these processions, which are truly performative moments, joyful sacred hymns are sung, expressing faith in God and the saints. There are as many hymns as there are saints worshipped in Isnello, so there are several events during which it is possible to attend them: the hymns accompany the vare, triumphal carts carrying relics and images of the saints, and are played by the band accompanied by a joyful and devout crowd. The faithful, the banner-bearers, the musicians and the villagers crowd the streets to renew a tradition that is becoming more and more alive thanks to the great interest it has aroused in recent years and the attention paid to this heritage by many people, both locally and beyond.

The word frottole derives from frotta, a moving crowd or ensemble of people, perhaps because of its composite structure; its composition is very special because it embodies, not only musically but also scenographically, the crowd that accompanies the saint in procession, expressing devotion with the pace of joyful singing. Today the tradition of the frottole is carried on with great passion, even study and devotion, by choirs and musicians who every year renew its meaning and revive its musicality, recognising its value and originality.

Giordano G., Tradizioni musicali fra liturgia e devozione popolare in Sicilia, Associazione per la conservazione delle tradizioni popolari, Ed. Museo Pasqualino, Palermo, 2016
Grisanti C., Folklore di Isnello, Sellerio Editore, Palermo, 1981
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