The Coro d’Italia, founded in 1932 by educator Dr. Leonard Covello and student Elba Farabegoli, is acknowledged as the first ensemble dedicated solely to performing and preserving tradtional Italian song, dance, and costuming in America. The first home of the Coro was Casa Italia at Columbia University. Covello and Farabegoli researched the songs, music, dances, and traditional clothing of the hometowns of the many Italians immigrants who settled in New York City.
Farabegoli went on to found IFAFA, Italian Folk Arts Federation of America. Her work has helped to spread Italian traditions throughout the country where similar ensembles have been formed, from Massachusetts, to Illinois, to Wisconsin and California. She literally wrote the book from which many ensembles draw their material.
Throughout it’s storied history, the Coro performed as part of the 1939 World’s Fair, at Carnegie Hall, at Town Hall, and many other notable venues. For ninety years the Coro has been the voice of Italians in New York City and beyond.
In 1994 gemelli Marylou and Joanna Romano joined the Coro. Due to the demographic shift of Italian Americans from the city to the suburbs, Marylou, with her sister’s support, moved the Coro from it’s base at the McBurney YMCA on 23rd street to northern New Jersey. They were soon joined by Barbara Castellana Stasiak, who “grew up” in the Coro, as her parents – Nancy Florio Castellano and John Castellano – were longtime members of the Coro. Nancy was the piano accompanist and John the dance director.
Since 2000 the Coro d’Italia has carried on the tradition of researching, rehearsing, and presenting annual concerts in New Jersey. Each year a particular theme is chosen to explore, including Neapolitan Song, The Italian American Songbook, Italian Americans’ contributions to Jazz and this year will feature a gala concert celebrating nine decades of connectings to our Italian American music heritage. In addition to yearly formal concerts, the D’Italia Traveling Ensemble performs at various feasts, festivals, schools, libraries and special events.
Wishing to pass down traditions to the next generation, Ms. Romano went on to found the Scuola d’Italia and the Bambini d’Italia children’s ensemble in 1998. These programs teach children to appreciate their Italian heritage and learn more about their ancestral culture.
Eventi Speciale are special cultural events offered periodically to the community. Viva! Viva! La Befana! has been presented annually for the past 15 years. Coccia Foundation has been generously sponsoring this afternoon of family fun since 2014. Other events have included St. Joseph’s Day Tables, Tarantella Lessons, and Italian Heritage Days.
As programs have been added, the organization became incorporated as a not-for-profit under the name D’Italia Programs. Over the past two decades, the Coro has performed annual concerts at venues throughout New Jersey and New York, and continues the original mission to promote and preserve Italian American culture in all its variety!