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Lesson 1: Learning “Rosa Canta e Cunta”

Aim: What are the components of a Sicilian folk song?
Summary: Students learn to sing “Rosa Canta e Cunta”; explore the parts of the Sicilian folk songs, including the verse, chorus and wordless refrain; and discover emotion and meaning in the lyrics.
Materials: Musical Explorers digital resources; Musical Explorers Student Guide; classroom instruments; crayons, markers, or colored pencils
Standards: National 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11
Vocabulary: accelerando, accent, cantastoria, refrain, ritornello

Julia Teaches “Rosa Canta e Cunta”

“Rosa Canta e Cunta” Demonstration

Sicilian artist Julia teaches “Rosa Canta e Cunta.”

Sing “Rosa Canta e Cunta”

  • Listen to “Rosa Canta e Cunta,” Track 40.
  • Learn the words and the melody to the chorus, using “Rosa Canta e Cunta” pronunciation, Track 41, and “Rosa Canta e Cunta” chorus, Track 42.
  • Learn the melody to the wordless refrain, using “Rosa Canta e Cunta” refrain, Track 43.

“Rosa Canta e Cunta”


Sta sira vaju e curru cu lu ventu
a grapiri li porti di la storia.
Stasira vogliu dari p’un mumentu
la vita a lu passatu i a la memoria
Stasira cu la vampa di l’amuri scavu
na fossa na fossa, na fossa, a lu duluri.

E c’è chiù goia, cè chiù amuri
ce duluri pi l’umanità,
Cantu e cuntu, cuntu e cantu
pi nun perdiri … lu cuntu.

Le le lo le lo lai ...

Nuddu binidicì lu me caminu,
mancu la manu nica d’un parrinu
e vaju ancora comu va lu ventu
cercari paci sulu p’un mumentu.
Vogliu spaccari … spaccari li cieli pì
fari chioviri chioviri chioviri amuri.




Tonight I go and run with the wind
to open history’s doors.
Tonight I want to laugh for a moment
to life, the past and memory
Tonight with love I dig out
an old fossil of pain.

And there is more joy and love
than pain for humanity,
I sing and tell, tell and sing
to not forget ... the tale.

Le le lo le lo lai ...

No one blessed my path
Not even a priest’s hand
So I just keep running like the wind
searching for a moment’s peace.
I want to break open ... break open the skies
so love can rain and rain and rain.


  • Both the chorus and the refrain can be called ritornelli (plural for ritornello), because they return several times throughout the song.
  • The wordless refrain is an invitation for everyone to join in the singing.
  • Notice that at the end of the song, the refrain starts slowly and speeds up, which is called accelerando.

Explore the Rhythm in “Rosa Canta e Cunta”

  • The tamburello, a kind of tambourine used in Sicilian folk music, plays a main underlying rhythm and then improvises on that rhythm throughout the song. Your students can practice this rhythm using Tamburello rhythm, Track 44. In Lesson 2, your students will learn a different rhythm and have an opportunity to improvise again.
  • Note that some of the beats have accents, which means they are played louder and more strongly.
  •  Play the rhythm again, emphasizing the accents.

Discover the Minor Key in “Rosa Canta e Cunta”

  • Sicilian folk songs often express difficult emotions like sadness and anger. Explain that “Rosa Canta e Cunta,” like most Sicilian folk songs, is in a minor key.
  • Using Tracks 45–46, compare the major and minor keys by first listening to the two scales and discussing the emotions of each.
    • How does the major scale make you feel?
    • How does the minor scale make you feel?
    • Minor keys are often thought to be sad, while major keys are thought to be happy. Do you agree or disagree, and why?
  • Use the Staff Hopscotch Activity from Carnegie Hall’s online Music Educator Toolbox to demonstrate the different patterns of whole and half steps in major and minor scales.
  • Listen to “Rosa Canta e Cunta” again, then discuss the emotion in the song and in the lyrics with your students.
    • What does this song make you feel?
    • Do the lyrics match that feeling? Why or why not?
    • Sicilian folk songs are sung with joy and energy; singing brings people together and makes them feel better and stronger.
Creative Extension

Become a Cantastoria

  • In Sicilian tradition, a cantastoria is a musical storyteller who travels from town to town, presenting a solo theatrical production. Cantastoria literally means to “sing history.” On a large backdrop, they draw a series of images, graphic-novel style, to sketch out a plot, and then perform the story through narration and improvised song.
  • All storytellers have their own melodies, and cantastorie (the plural of cantastoria) traditionally compete with each other to see who has the best melodies and stories. A video of a famous cantastoria can be found under the Resources for Teachers at the beginning of the unit.
  • The chorus of “Rosa Canta e Cunta” says “sing and tell, tell and sing, to not forget.” It is a protest song, compelling the community to tell the truth.
    • Julia thinks the greatest thing about Sicilian folk music is that it tells the truth.
    • Why is it important to remember what happened in the past?
    • How do songs and music connect us to the past?
  • Using Become a Cantastoria (PDF), your students will have an opportunity to tell a story that they think is important, using the Sicilian tradition of the cantastoria. They will tell their stories using pictures, words, and melodies, and perform them for each other.
Become a Cantastoria

Teaching artist Shanna Whitney discusses the musical ingredients needed to become a cantastoria.


Sing-Along Sequence

Sing-Along Sequence

Music educator Margaret Jenks explains musical sequences in this lesson for students in grades 3–5.

Musical Word Wall

Add the words accelerando, accent, cantastoria, refrain, and ritornello to the Musical Word Wall.

Don't Forget

Image Credits

Tamburello photo by Pavel Savchuk.

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