The Tre Amici players Angelo Scalora and Steve Courtney toast fellow musician Maureen Butler during a Christmas in July celebration lunch at the Gold Grove Estate and Winery at Ballandean.
The Tre Amici players Angelo Scalora and Steve Courtney toast fellow musician Maureen Butler during a Christmas in July celebration lunch at the Gold Grove Estate and Winery at Ballandean. nicky.norman

Golden Grove Estate's Christmas in July has Sicilian flavour

Jim Bowden enjoyed Christmas in July with a difference at Golden Grove Estate

AS SOME 150 visitors celebrated buon Natale in July and grazed across a buffet of caponata, spaghetti alla Siracusana and other traditional Sicilian treats, the soft sound of Nel blu dip into di blu drifted from a corner of the Golden Grove Estate's cavernous cellars at Ballandean on the Granite Belt.

This was a Christmas in July lunch with a difference; the ham and turkey were replaced with foods prepared by chef Jason Costanzo from recipes his Sicilian family has cooked for generations.

And songs such as White Christmas and Jingle Bells made way for Ciao Ciao Bambina, Volare and Melodia D'amore played by three musical friends who have been performing together around the region for more than 20 years.

And Angelo Scalor, 75, Maureen Butler, 74, and Steve Courtney, 69, love what they do and love Italian songs and music. That's amore!

Maureen plays the accordion, backed by singers Angelo and Steve who 'tinkle' on the tambourines and other percussion instruments.

"It all started for us at the Apple and Grape Festival in Stanthorpe in 1994 - on the back of a truck," said Steve a former deputy clerk of Stanthorpe Shire.

"The three of us were on a float entered by the Dante degli Alighieri Society, a group that recognises this Italian poet of the Middle Ages.

"He was considered the protector of the Italian language and the country's equivalent of Shakespeare."

It wasn't long before the three musicians - known as Tre Amici - were performing regularly at long lunches and winery tastings throughout the Granite Belt and the Darling Downs.

Angelo was eight years old when his Italian mother and father migrated to Queensland and went into pig farming at Applethorpe.

Maureen was nine when she arrived at Rockhampton with her family from Portsmouth, England, on the SS Asturias, an immigrant ship that made 24 trips to Australia between 1946 and 1952, carrying more than 30,000 migrants.

"We first went to Rockhampton because we were sponsored by family friends there," Maureen said. "Dad enjoyed playing the piano and he encouraged me to take up the accordion."

Maureen settled in Wollongong, New South Wales, and with her first husband later moved to the Granite Belt and bought an orchard.

"It wasn't easy and when my husband passed away I gave up farming."

Now retired and living with second husband Trevor, she is happiest squeezing out music, preferably Italian favourites with her Tre Amici paesanos Angelo and Steve.

The Golden Grove Estate Vineyard and Winery was established in 1975 by Mario and Nita Costanzo who grew grapes for the fresh fruit market.

The property was taken over by their son Sam and his wife Grace who continue planting and making award-winning wines.


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