"The Stromboli Sisters Really, Really Hated Church Music"
Hubie van Ork

Hubie lived next door to the Strombolis and had a serious crush on Francesca, shown holding the harp. Although he came from the famous Ork family of painters, Depressionism attracted him, which is why he chose only miserable, woebegone subjects. The Stromboli girls fit the description to a T. They all had musical natures and wanted to shake up the staid old music scene in Tuscany by stepping up the tempo and volume as an all-girl guitar garage group. They even had a name picked out: The Smitten Kittens (I Gattini Infatuati in the dialect).

There was one insurmountable obstacle in the way: their father, Ferdinando. Having six daughters and no sons, he was desperate to unload them on any halfway-suitable swain as cheaply as possible for, although he was wealthy by medieval Italian standards, the thought of six dowries to be paid out sequentially kept him awake nights.

Musical talent counted a lot in a prospective bride, but pop music was out. From childhood the girls were taught classic instruments. As shown in the painting, they included the portative organ, the harp and the viol among others. Papa Stromboli had a Plan B if the marriage market failed him. The girls' musical tutoring was heavy on church music, of course, and with any luck one or more might be snapped up by a local convent or cathedral orchestra, which would eliminate the dowry demands completely. He left heavy hints with the local archbishop that he could see his way to donating a nice extension to the cathedral if it weren't for his dowry obligations.

The girls were good, even superb, but their reluctance to play old church standards was reflected in their performances. Whatever they were asked to play, they played it really, really sadly. This became painfully evident at the Easter service one year. They made it through Lent with flying colors, but their rendition of the joyful, celebratory Easter Sunday music had most parishioners in tears.

The local swains wanted nothing to do with "the downer daughters," as they were called. But Papa Stromboli's Plan B came through and he got off dowryless after all, as every church needed players for funerals and the more sorrowful holidays. In the end the cathedral took the whole lot. Papa Stromboli was so ecstatic he dedicated not only an extension to the cathedral but threw in state-of-the-art confessionals. The girls resigned themselves to a dour old-maidenhood and each of them died earlier than the other.

 

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