Rosanna Anselmo, born to write music


Mary Giuliano

It’s said music stirs the soul of every living thing. Think of how the world would be different if music wasn’t in it. For most of us it’s enough to listen to fabulous songs playing but for others it’s more intense, they hear melodies in their heads, lyrics tumble out easily and musical notes are promptly documented.

Fernie has someone like this and recently her body of works has been accepted for publication world-wide under the title of Rosanna Anselmo, Musical Works,

Born Rosanna Ungaro to a family with long roots in the Elk Valley, her grandfather Eugenio Ungaro owned several businesses including the Kootenay Hotel, several apartment blocks and a grocery store in Natal and for a time also the Fernie Hotel in Fernie. Eugenio and his wife Clara Altomare had six children, Louie, Adeline, Robert, Emilio, Geraldine and Jean. One of the sons, Louie also served as mayor in Natal. On retirement the couple moved to Creston and Emilio, one of the six followed for a brief period eventually moving back to Natal. Emilio was introduced to Anna Felice from Cosenza, Italy by a mutual friend and married in the fifties.

Rosanna, their daughter was born in Creston but was raised in Natal until the family settled in Fernie when the towns of Natal and Michel were demolished in 1970.

Rosanna was 15 when the family relocated to Fernie, she recalls some tumultuous teenage years, getting pregnant and giving up her first child, a daughter for adoption, “I was so young, at 18 both of us were too young to provide the life a mother and father could give”. Twenty-five-years later she and her daughter were happily reunited. They have forged a friendship and she is proud that her daughter Lynette studied at Stanford University to become a genetic scientist and is now teaching and living in nearby Cranbrook.

Rosanna worked at the Motor Inn and there she met a young man who was instantly smitten with her and often left notes on paper napkins asking for a date. He was persistent so she eventually said yes and their first date was at Lynch’s Drive-In Theatre, “Jesus Christ Superstar was playing”, she says smiling.

In 1973 Rosanna and Barry moved to Edmonton where she became employed for two years at the Parliament buildings in the licencing department with another year in a lawyer’s office.

The couple returned to Fernie and Rosanna attended the East Kootenay Community College above the IGS building. She also attended secretarial school in Nelson College for a year to learn more skills and then worked for Majic, Patel and Leffler law.

Rosanna and Barry have four children they are very proud of, Marshal, Nathan, Anthony and Joyanne. In 1985 the youngest was in kindergarten and soon Rosanna was employed part time for the RCMP. When her supervisor moved she was promoted to that position. She retired in 2017 after 31 years of service and says she has worked with 100 different members over those years.

During this time she had learned to play guitar and as her dad played mandolin, violin, guitar and accordion Rosanna provided vocals during many events like charity telethons, Canada Day, or wherever she was asked to perform and entertain.

“It was innate in me, I have a passion and connection with music, I always have”, she said.

“Writing began in the 1980s the first song titled “I Believe in You.” I just wanted to try it, it was a way to express feelings, I was sitting at the kitchen table, it was quiet, no one was home and so I wrote, “Life at times is lonely and friendship hard to find, that feeling of emptiness way down deep inside. But I can hear your voice whisper softly in my mind, I will always be there walking by your side, and I believe in you Lord, I believe in you.”

“I was raised Catholic attending catechism given by the nuns in a basement room,” Rosanna continued. “This led me to write more Christian songs to play in church. From the religious songs I went on to write secular numbers, it was a challenge to myself to write about separation of country, unity of country, world wars and then I was commissioned to write a song for the Michel reunion, Together as One.”

Rosanna recorded an album titled “New Horizons” with Fernie Family Housing requesting if their new housing project could be named New Horizons.

A second album was recorded when she was commissioned to write for the 100th anniversary of Fernie’s incorporation. Fernie’s Tapestry, was the song she wrote and performed.

Rosanna couldn’t say no to any request and became burned out. She took a break but soon found herself playing church music again “It spoke to me for worshipping” she says, so she began to write again, this time more hymns.

“I’m a natural alto, but when writing I had to be more creative, do more on the soprano side, so I changed and the music became more melodious. Then I had to produce notes so I found programs to create sheet music. I can hear it, when I put down the notes I know what I am wanting.”

Rosanna moved away from hymn books to using licencing, a worldwide database for hymns and music. She was asked if it was possible to get her hymns on this database. She contacted them thinking that there was no chance of this ever happening. Expecting a “Dear John” letter she was shocked to receive a message saying they were accepting her musical work for their catalogue. She says, “I think everything I have done so far has led me to this.”

Author’s note: Congratulations Rosanna, you not only make your family proud with your accomplishments you also make Fernie proud.

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