April dates with an Italian connection

Henry Mancini (1924-1994)


Dear Readers,
More April dates with an Italian connection:
Rome was founded April 21, 753 BC. According to legend, a shepherd found the twins Romulus and Remus under a fig tree. The twin boys, sons of Mars and Rhea Silvia, had been exposed to the elements by Amulius (King of Alba Longa). He had usurped the throne of his brother, Numitor and killed Numitor’s sons. Romulus and Remus were Numitor’s grandsons) then raised by a she-wolf who found them. Romulus later slayed Remus and became the first King of Rome after uniting Romans and Sabines into the Kingdom of Rome.
The monarchy, known as the seven kings of Romulus ruled Rome from 753 BC to 510 BC. Rome, center of Roman power end empire was built on seven hills on the banks of the Tiber, some 25 kilometers from the sea. Romulus is said to have founded the city on 21 April 753 BC. National pride led the Romans to link their past with Greek mythology; thus in the time of Aeneas, Zeus promised great power for Rome.

 Henry Mancini (1924-1994)

Paul Revere’s “Midnight Ride from Charleston to Lexington”, April 18, 1775. This son of liberty, his “cry of alarm” and the hurrying hoof-beats of his horse were immortalized in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Andrew M. Canepa, editor of the Piemontesi nel Mondo Bulletin, says that research indicates Paul Revere was of Italian descent from the Piedmont region of Italy. It is believed that Revere’s forebearers were Waldesians, followers of a religious sect founded by Peter Waldo circa 1180 in Northern Italy and Southern France. The Waldenses were silenced by Pope Alexander III and continually persecuted through the Middle Ages.
In the 1680’s many were executed or exiled and left the country for religious freedom. Paul Revere was born in Massachusetts in 1735.
    Students know his name and can recite the illustrious deed he performed in 1775 during the Revolution. What is not so well known is that he was one of the world’s great metal craftsmen and artisans, a pioneer manufacturer and industrialist. In 1801 he founded a major American company that is still alive and thriving today. The company is Revere Copper and Brass, Inc., and the founder was patriot, and Piemontesi descendant, Paul Revere.
Henry Mancini, composer of such hits as “Moon River”, “Days of Wine and Roses” and the “Pink Panther” theme was born in April 1924.
     Mancini inherited his musical proclivities from his steelworker father who played the flute in the Aliquippa, Pa., Sons of Italy Band. Eight-year-old Henry’s first instrument was the piccolo, then came the flute; finally the piano.

He served his musical apprenticeship working as pianist and arranger for the post World War II Glenn Miller band, headed up by Tex Beneke. He found a bride at the same time: the former Ginny O’Connor, who sang with the Mellolarks.
     They had three children, a son and twin girls. He started working in Hollywood at Universal International in 1952 and in six years he wrote the scores for over 100 films, among them, fittingly, the Glenn Miller Story.
 Mancini’s music for the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” won him his first Oscar back in 1962, for the best original score and for best song, “Moon River”.
Jet Propulsion was pioneered by engineer Secondo Campini, a graduated of the University of Bologna. “Grazie” to Tony Ghezzo, a source of Italian historical information, I can share with you bits of rarely attributed Italian connections to the world of jet travel. Following his graduation in 1931, Ing. Campini dedicated most of his time to the study of jet propulsion.
 After submitting to the Italian Air Ministry a report on his propulsion system invention, he founded a jet aircraft and watercraft company called VENAR, which became the world’s first reaction-engine manufacturer.
In early 1932, the company built the world’s first motorboat propelled by water jet engine. A two-seater jet-propelled helicopter was developed successfully in 1933. In 1936 engineer Campini produced two jet aircraft prototypes, called Campini-Caproni CC2. In 1940 the first prototype was tested by famous ace pilot Mario De Bernardi and in 1941 the other prototype underwent the acceptance flight test and was flown from Milan to Rome. The flight was a tremendous success. Both prototypes flights were recognized by the F.A.I. (Federation Aeronautique Internationale) to be the first ever made by a jet. Unfortunately Italy did not have the means to produce the new type aircraft in series.
A few years later Germany did and produced the spectacular Messerschmitt Me 262. Near the end of World War II, Allied pilots were startled by the new German fighter plane Me-262: it had no propeller, flew with a did roar and flashed through the air at a speed in excess of 500 miles per hour. After the war Engineer Campini moved to USA. In 1948 he conceived a four-seat helicopter with a 200 hp turbine. In 1949 he designed a large helicopter with a rotor powered by two turbines which were capable of lifting a 40-ton armored tank.
Secondo Campini passed away in Milan in February 7, 1980. His first prototype is on display at the Milan Museum of Science and Technology
St. Mark is the patron of Venice and his relics are preserved at the Cathedral of St. Mark. April 25 is his feast day. St. Mark is a man who might be called a secretary to Saint Peter, raconteur of wonderful stories about things that happened when Jesus was on Earth, traveling around with his apostles. Mark wrote down the things Peter said ad is traditionally the author of the second Gospel.

Turandot, the opera by Giacomo Puccini was first performed in April 1926 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy. Turandot, due to many painstaking revisions became Puccini’s most fussed over opera and he in fact did not receive a libretto (from final duet from Adamiano Simoni) that suited him until 1924, thereby explaining Puccini’s inability to complete the score before his death late 1924, and it was completed by Franco Alfano. “Madame Butterfly” and “La Fanciulla del West” are other popular Puccini’s operas.
The parachute was first sketched by Leonardo da Vinci in his notebooks in the 1490’s. A compatriot, Fausto Veranzio published a description of a workable parachute in 1595 and in the late 1790’s two men descended from air balloons via parachutes breaking a leg upon landing. April 28, 1919 a brave fellow leaped out of an airplane, testing the very first parachute that actually worked. He floated down through the sky and landed safely back on earth.
St. Catherine of Siena (Buon Onomastico to my daughter and to all Caterina’s on your name day). The youngest of twenty five children (her twin sister died at infancy), Catherine was born in Siena, Italy, in 1347 to a wealthy dyer Giacomo Benincasa and his wife, Lapa. As a young girl of six, while walking home one day, she had a remarkable vision of Jesus. Seated in glory with St. Peter, Paul and John, he smiled upon her.
From that time on, Catherine wished to give herself to prayer and the service of God.
Catherine became a Dominican tertiary at the age of sixteen. She began to nurse the sick in the Siena hospital, preferring cancer patients and lepers whom others found too difficult to care for. Gradually, her reputation for holiness and wisdom spread from Siena to neighboring cities of Pisa, Lucca, and Florence.
Families and rival political parties called on her to mediate their disputes and reconcile their differences. On a trip to Pisa in 1375 Catherine received the stigmata. She died in Rome honored for her sanctity on April 29, 1380, at age thirty three.

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