Chrisante "Cris" Ianni, 84, mandolin virtuoso from South Philadelphia, leader of the Munier Mandolin & Guitar Orchestra for many years, and a former bank executive, died of congestive heart failure Nov. 23 at St. Agnes Continuing Care Center.
Born in 1923 in Abruzzo, Italy, Mr. Ianni at age 7 learned to play the mandolin with great passion, forgoing sports and other activities. When his family immigrated to South Philadelphia in 1935, he played music on the neighborhood street corners, joining many other young performers who went on to become musical stars.
A 1943 graduate of South Philadelphia High School, where he played in the school's famous orchestra under Jay Speck, Mr. Ianni was awarded the distinguished graduate award in 2003 by the alumni association.
In 1945, he was drafted by the Army and stationed in Naples, Italy. Mr. Ianni, who was fluent in Italian, was a court interpreter until he was discharged.
After World War II, Mr. Ianni returned to South Philadelphia and began his 38-year banking career. He was a vice president and branch manager of the Fidelity Bank office at Broad and Federal Streets and, for many years, managed several other branches. After retiring from Fidelity in 1983, he managed the William Penn Bank office in Center City until retiring for good 10 years later.
But his heart was always in his mandolin music. He joined the Munier Mandolin & Guitar Orchestra in 1957 and was director from the 1970s until shortly before his death.
Mr. Ianni, who dressed conservatively and elegantly in suits and ties as a banker and a musician, led the orchestra in area concerts, radio and television programs, and on several recordings.
"My father and I played the mandolin together at family gatherings. It was joyous," said his son, Joseph. "We serenaded my bride on the eve of our wedding in 1980 with traditional Italian songs. He reveled in carrying on that ritual."
Mr. Ianni was treasurer of the Philadelphia chapter of Unico National, known as the country's largest Italian American service organization. He was on the board of Casa Fermi and was a member of the Order Sons of Italy in America. He was active in the Boy Scouts.
In addition to his son, Mr. Ianni is survived by a daughter, Annamarie DeColli, and four grandchildren. His wife of 52 years, Marie Pracilio, died in 2000.
A Funeral Mass was said Wednesday.
Memorial contributions may be made to Alfonso Cavaliere Memorial Fund, 2304 S. 12th St., Philadelphia 19148.