This episode comes to you from the desk of one of the most touching performers I have seen and a dear friend to boot. The Art Monastery has attracted many amazing people, and Fibi is the tippy of the top:
I have had the ridiculous good fortune to be a guest in Calvi twice this year already, and am about to enjoy a third visit during the holidays and experience an Italian Christmas, which DJ Frankie insists is better in a small, sweet place like Calvi than in Rome. I’m really looking forward to seeing every single one of those adorable alphae.
In July, I participated in two festivals there–first the Giornate Medioevale in Poggio and then the Cena Renascimentale in Calvi.
Photo of Poggio by Ben Venuto
For the Giorate Mediovale JuliaCesare choreographed an Isadora Duncan-style piece for some of the local girls who were all absolutely adorable. Everyone there has a medieval costume, down to the straw-soled espadrilles which seems to be the consensus footwear (terrible for dancing, though, as the stiff soles don’t move with the foot and the awful things become, effectively, flip-flops).
Photo by Ben Venuto
So, for the festival, I got to dance a bit with JuliaCesare and the girls, and sing a bit with two instrumentalists, Ann Allen and Caroline Ritchie.
As an American early musician, I have developed an aversion to costumes and themed events like Renaissance Faires (even the spelling gets under my skin). It just always seemed so chintzy and forced. With trepidation, I donned my borrowed dress, and waited for the bus to take us to the top of the hill. Once there, all my resistance melted. To see hundreds of enthusiastic people wearing their meticulously-crafted garb as they jostled between the stone walls of an actual medieval town was… perfect. I was converted. I want my own dress…or tunic…or armor!
Photo by Ben Venuto
The following week was Calvi’s Cena Renascimentale–a collaboration with the Coro Polifonico of Calvi, directed by the charismatic local maestro, Osvaldo Guidotti.
Photo by BenVenuto
The singing was so raw and spirited–perfect for the raunchy, folky Banchieri madrigals and other pieces on the concert. Ann (is there anything she can’t do?) choreographed some charming Renaissance dances for us, and three actors cavorted through pastoral scenes that bound the music into a cohesive whole.
Above photos by BenVenuto
The food was amazing–or it looked so (was busy singing) and included a huge porchetta.
Photo by BenVenuto
One of the best parts for me was seeing my mom in the audience. Getting to spend two weeks with her was so much fun–one never knows what it will be like to spend a long chunk of time with a parent–it was so sweet. I was impressed with how she showed up, having studied Italian phrases, ready to experience the culture, and having researched the Art Monastery online. (Mom, are you reading this? You’re awesome–sorry it took me so long to send you photos.)
There were a handful of instrumentalists staying at the Santa Brigida, including early music heavyweights Bruce Dickey and Candace Smith, who live in Bologna.
I had my mind blown one evening as I heard singing wafting up from the terrace and went over to discover them sitting in a circle around a table reading Gesualdo madrigals, just like the old days–everybody had their own part to look at–except they were all on laptops! Bruce passed me the mini drive, and within seconds I had uploaded the collection and was holding my computer sideways, too, like a real book. If you know Gesualdo, you know that his music was singularly strange and sinuous, beautiful and odd. Add to that the incongruous appearance of the technology, all overlooking the darkened hills of Calvi…it was something I will never ever forget.
Photo by Fibi
Photo by TigerTooth
Oh, the fig tree. How amazing is it that every single day I could pull fruit off the tree as I walked by? Or that I could dive into the pool anytime I wanted (never swim after eating, and always have a buddy with you). Kudos to Katherine (lovely sackbut player/singer) for creating an elaborate game involving many floating ring buoys, a rubber ball, and a set of rules I would have had to stop drinking wine at every meal to understand.
Photo by Antoinette
On the night before she and the other players from Basel left, we had a little party, and Mystopher pulled out the Atlantean tarot. I am always struck by the sensitivity and compassion he emanates when he’s giving someone a reading. Mystopher and I have been friends for 10 years, having met in the Los Angeles music scene. I am so happy that his path has led him here, and that he and McSmalls have the vision, dedication, and talent that has brought the project this far and continues to move it forward.
Soon I had to go back home to California, but was consoled by the fact that I would be back in October to music direct and sing for the wedding. But that story I will save for another day.
See you soon, alpha dawgs.