Banda Bellini (Banda Musicale Italiana "Vincenzo Bellini" Inc.) was started in Melbourne on May 18 1971. Historian, Aline Scott-Maxwell described Banda Bellini as a 'localisation of a transplanted Italian tradition' in Melbourne. This tradition goes back many generations in Italy, with the community band often the centre-piece of any community's cultural and religious activity. Banda Bellini, in its original form, offered the migrant Italians a musical outlet akin to the fore-mentioned community band tradition.
Other than 'sit down concerts', the town or village band would engage in festival saint day processions associated with Catholic Church celebrations. This was, and still is of cultural and religious significance in Italy today. Banda Bellini offers similar opportunities for saint day processions all around Melbourne and regional Victoria - with Victoria having one of the largest Italian communities outside of Italy.
Another curious aspect of Banda Bellini's work stems from the nationalistic pride Italians take in the masterworks of the well-known operatic and orchestral composers of Italy. In order to share in this pride, a century of repertoire has been transcribed directly from orchestral score to the band medium for both amateur and professional musicians to enjoy and appreciate. The outcome of this is a significant repertoire of extremely challenging and satisfying band works of italian flavour that are true to their orchestral origins.
The aims of Banda Bellini today differ somewhat from the objectives of the first rehearsal in 1971. In the beginning, it is not unreasonable to assume that the band was staffed entirely of Italians with the aim of bringing a 'little bit of home' with them. The artistic and cultural significance of this is obvious, with such traditions now 'in fashion' with the wider Australian community.
This 'fashion' now sees band members ranging from diverse nations and backgrounds supporting the cause of keeping Italian band music alive in Melbourne. The benefit to community musicians is that they get to play some great scores from a culturally pure source - a library of works unlike anything else in the country.
Melbourne's Banda Bellini:
localisation of a transplanted Italian tradition
by Aline Scott-Maxwell
The Banda "Vincenzo Bellini" is a Melbourne-based, Italian community concert band of over fifty musicians that upholds a musical tradition traceable to nineteenth-century Italy. Many of its members played in their home-town banda before coming to Australia. In considering the Banda's significance and symbolic function within the local Italian community, the article examines three of its primary roles: as an integral component o/the still vigorously maintained regional tradition of the patron saint festa; in its more formal concertising role at official and other community events; and as a vehicle/or popularising Italian operatic repertoire.
Albo d'Oro della Banda Bellini