Monday, August 13, 2018

GAL Valle D'Itria Itinerari Naturalistica

Work in Progress

Converting google KML format files to GPX files suitable for use with handheld GPS devices. using GPS Visualiser.

GAL Valle D'Itria Itinerari Naturalistica

Track on GAL site Image .GPX [right click and save target]
AQP gpx
Capitolo gpx
Bosco Caramia - Pappaciddo
Trito gpx

More to follow...

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Cisternino Celebrates San Quirico 2018

Cisternino, Puglia, Italy. Saturday/Sunday/Monday 04/05/06-August-2018.

Three day of music and festivities to celebrate Cisternino's Patron Saints Quirico e Giulitta.

Saturday 04-August-2018.

The day started at 10am with a marching band passing literally beneath our feet - down Via La Fiera through the arch that passes under our kitchen / dining room ...

... and out next to our front door and off down Corso Umberto.

The evening concert in the town square was a rousing brass band editions of Turandot and The Barber of Seville from the Gran Concerto Bandistico Città Di Conversano.

Sunday 05-August-2018.

Instead of the usual Aperitivo Classico we were treated to more brass band (they seem to be a big thing round here). Cinderella from the Gran Concerto Bandistico Città Di Bracigliano.

The evening was the main religious part of the celebrations which means a procession of the statues of Quirico e Giulitta from the eponymous church around the town along with marching band, the town dignitaries and a following of the townspeople. The procession passes under our window.

It was more music wherever you looked. I went for leisurely circuit of the town at 11pm. First sax and guitar at the end of our street doing an excellent version of "Summertime".

Through the arch of the Porta Piccolo into the old town - a group who don't seem to be on the official poster busking outside Micro vegan restaurant.

In the main square it was back to classical with a selection of Wagner on the bandstand.

On the other side of town out through the Porta Grande just up from our rented apartment the Junior Band giving it some welly on trombone and sax.

The illuminations on Via San Quirico looking lovely.

Monday 06-August-2018.

All three days had craft stalls along Corso Umberto and food trucks at the end in Piazza Marconi. The headline act for the Monday: Luisa Corna and the Dolphins Jazz Orchestra in Largo Amati. We stopped off for a digestivo at Chirico Bistrot (formerly Bar Palazzo Amati) and people watched to the sound of the band.

A quick stroll up the the church of San Quiroco to have a peer inside. The statues were back in place.

Cinderella-like we were tucked up in bed by midnight and so only heard the spectacular firework display at 00:30. Congratulations to the Comune (town council) for another fine festival.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Rinaldo by Handel at the Palazzo Ducale

Martina Franca, Puglia, Italy. Thursday 02-August-2018

Part of the 44th Festival of the Valle D'Itria which includes a series of operas. I know little about opera so this performance was always going to be a bit of a shot in the dark but seeing as how it's by Handel and he's written a few good tunes it was worth a go.

When we arrived the first shock was how long it was scheduled to last - starting at 9 pm with 3 hours 20 minutes of opera and two short intervals of 15 minutes each. That's nearly four hours so you get your money's worth! The venue is the atmospheric setting of the courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale.

The setting and music may be traditional but the costumes were very twentieth century:
  • Golfedo, the leader of the crusade, is Elton John in an Austin Powers style costume
  • Rinaldo, the nobleman, is Freddie Mercury
  • Eustazio, brother to Goffredo, is David Bowie
  • Argante: Saracen king of Jerusalem, is Gene Simmons from KISS
For the women we were not able to identify any specific artistes.

Photo credit: Fabrizio Sansoni

I did wonder about the absence of Marc Bolan but need not have worried. At the start of Act II the beautiful siren in a boat is wearing glitter makeup and riding a white swan - a clear nod to Marc.

Photo credit: Fabrizio Sansoni

The music involved a lot of what I now know is "melisma" - the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession. According to my classical music correspondent "melisma has an expressive, word-painting function, so it’s seldom on words like The and And, more likely on Amore/Infedelta etc. Also a wonderful way for a singer to show off a lovely smooth line". Personally I found it's frequent use a little off-putting but then I am a relative opera newbie and I guess it is an acquired taste.

Some of the parts were written in a high voice range for contralto castrati - not available these days! Instead a number of the lead male roles were sung by women which was fine although the 'tache on "Freddie Mercury" looked a tad comedic.

After the applause and curtain calls we finally exited the building at 1:30am having enjoyed a unique musical experience.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Locus Festival 2018

Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Sunday 29-July-2018

h 21 – Piazza Moro | Free entry
+ T-Riot

After last year's very enjoyable Locus Festival 2017 we were interested in this concert but were not sure if we'd make a Sunday evening performance after a midday Aperitivo Classio followed by lunch with friends which is usually fairly boozy.

Our friend Kathy who used to live here said "You must" and "If I were there I'd drag you along", she being a fan of GoGo Penguin. In the end I *was* restrained so I could drive Mary and I over to Locorotondo that evening armed with two folding picnic chairs. And very glad we were that we went; it was an excellent concert and all free!

The support act, T-Riot, are a local trio playing mellow jazz. A well thought out compare-and-contrast choice to support the main act. Jazz Convention describe their music as, variously, "rhythmic exoticism", "docile and sensual" or "nostalgic and filmic.
Full review (in Italian)...

GoGo Penguin are an English trio from Manchester. A little more avant-garde jazz than T-Riot but easily this side of listenable; very accomplished musicians. "The band's music features break-beats, minimalist piano melodies, powerful basslines, drums inspired from electronica and anthemic riffs. They compose and perform as a unit. Their music incorporates elements of electronica, trip-hop, jazz, rock and classical music. [Wikipedia].

Headed over to the merchandising booth and bought two CD's, one from each group which have been listened to multiple times since with great pleasure.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Scarred for life

Cisternino Italy.

One thing about scar tissue is that it doesn’t tan like undamaged flesh. Spending time out in Italy has enabled me to see more clearly some of the injuries that life has inflicted. They have developed like a piece of chemical film. Looking down at my leg recently I was reminded of my mystery scar as indicated by the dotted line.

The other scars I know about. My right, index finger scar is the result of over enthusiastic cleaning of a beaker in the chemistry lab at school. The scar on my middle finger on the left hand is a result of using a slippery Stanley knife (box cutter) while doing some tiling in the bathroom. The hernia operation scar hasn’t seen much sunlight, it is true, and so is still not very visible in all senses.

But this scar I have absolutely no idea where it came from. About 15 years ago I was having a aromatherapy massage from a guy who previously specialised in sports injuries. He asked me about the scar tissue in my left leg. "Scar tissue!" I said "What scar tissue?"

And he was right there is a scar about 5 inches long topped off by a rounded, damaged patch. I have no idea what injury caused this. Thinking it might be the result of some childhood accident that, like a carving on a tree had a grown with me, I asked my mother. She too denies any knowledge of such an injury!

So, although it must have been painful at the time, at what age it occurred and what caused it I shall never know.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Aperitivo Classico 2018 - July

Bar Fod, Cisternino, Italy.

One of the highlights of summer in Cisternino is the series of Sunday lunchtime concerts in the town square organised by Bar Fod. Every Sunday at 12 noon in July and August, a drink and nibble of some local produce with an hour of live classical music. Then off to lunch somewhere.

Sunday 24-June-2018

A pre-season concert from Robert Tiso on the Glass Harmonica. Amazing virtuosity. We bought the CD.

Looks harder than playing the piano to me.

And "acqua e sale" a traditional peasant dish of stale bread moistened with water and oil, then mixed with salt and vegetables.

Sunday 01-June-2018

No concert.

Sunday 08-July-2018

The fisamonica or accordion by G. Denitto.

Billed as a solo he was joined by a singer for part of the concert.

Oops, forgot to take a picture of the nibbles.

Sunday 15-July-2018

Pianoforte solo by L. Didomenicantonio.

Talented playing but a somewhat serious programme for a lunchtime gig.

Oops, forgot to take a photo before I started eating.

Sunday 22-July-2018

Violin and Pianoforte - E. Liuzzi and A. Palminsano. Lovely music and a livelier concert than last week.

I love crudo (Parma ham), here presented atop a melon sorbet. One of our party was not a great meat eater so I got a double dose of ham. Nom, nom, nom.

To "wet the babies head" and celebrate recent births sparkling wine was provided by Fabio Pinto (Bar Fod proprietor in white), Danilo Russo (musical director and new father), and Francesco (recent father of twins with Pasqua who used to work here).

Sunday 29-July-2018

Trio "Nueva Armonia", [l-r: Goffreddo, Vinci, Lafratta]. Very talented trio and the programme getting livelier by the week this is a brilliant way to spend a Sunday lunchtime.

Classic tastes of Puglia, plus a G & T.

That's the half time report for July. No Aperitivo Classico next week as it is the festival of the town's patron saints, Santi Quirico e Julietta. Normal service will be resumed on the 12th of August.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

My People Were Fair... 50 Years On.

"One day we change from children into people."
 - Seagull Woman by Marc Bolan.

It was in the summer of 1968 that the Tyrell Corporation decanted me, aged 15 and a half, with a poorly implanted set of childhood memories. My real life memories started that summer.

It seems to me that even since then I have stumbled through life like a sleepwalker, scarcely conscious of the world around me, in it but not of it. I never had a plan, a dream, an ambition, a goal. Looking at my life and career in retrospect it may look, from the outside, like a carefully planned arc but nothing could be further from the truth. I meandered aimlessly though the next 50 years like a magpie picking up shiny things, letting serendipity guide my choices, trusting in the bounty of the universe to provide. I will never write my autobiography. I struggle to remember what I had for dinner last night let alone what happened in my early years.

I think my school report July 1963 (age 10) says it best "Mark's work is all done rather slowly and he is rather absent minded. With his intelligence he should be nearer the top of the class." The story of my life in a nutshell. Not so much "absent minded" as "in a little world of his own".

Adulthood and memories really began that summer with early morning cycle rides in the sunshine from Kenilworth to Baginton where I spent the holidays helping to excavate a Roman fort (and that is a story in its own right). And on that ride Tyrannosaurus Rex’s new single Debora was playing on infinite repeat in my mental jukebox.

And then in July the magic that was "My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows" with that wonderful cover art by George Underwood (responsible for some of the most iconic album covers ever and Bowie's mismatched eyes).

Growing up in leafy Warwickshire my only entrée into music was watching Top of the Pops. Neither I nor any of my friends read NME nor Melody Maker. I have since met contemporaries who grew up in London and had easy access to see all manner of bands before they were famous playing in local pubs and clubs. They were sneaking out to gigs aged 16 while I was goody-two-shoes doing my homework, watching telly and going to bed early.

It never occurred to me in my naivety that you could actually go and see bands live nor would I have had the confidence to do so at that age. To see anyone well known would have meant a trip to Birmingham Town Hall by public transport.

It was John Peel on Radio One’s Top Gear show that broadened my horizons beyond TotP and introduced me to Tyrannosaurus Rex and I was entranced by the sound. So when the first single was released in May that year I rushed out and bought it. That had to keep me satisfied for a couple of months until their debut album was released in June.

The record shop in Kenilworth was run by an old lady, or she seemed old to me at the time. It was a dark and gloomy store with wooden browser boxes. It was mostly given over to classical music but she did have a couple of boxes for records labelled “File under Pop for Popular”. I must have had to order in this LP as I’m sure she wouldn’t have spontaneously bought it for stock.

When I got it home I played side one several times before I turned over to play the other side. I wanted to make sure I could extract maximum enjoyment, sensation, appreciation, novelty from the first side before revealing more gems on the second side. After all you can only hear it for the first time once and I didn’t want to rush things.

As I have written elsewhere (see my review written in 1999) my copy was missing the lyrics sheet. Being unable to decipher much of the words I had to just let the sound wash over me and interpret as best I could what was going on.

Little did I know then that this was to be the start of a strand running through my life. Buying all the singles and albums for one thing. Actually going to concerts and seeing Tyrannosaurus Rex and then T.Rex live. Then some fallow years, followed by discovering the World Wide Web in 1996. One of the first things I googled in Altavista (remember Altavista?) was Marc Bolan and discovering that I was not the only fan on the planet [Note: I am amused to see that I used lower case 'google' as a verb, a lot like using 'hoover' for 'vaccuum'].

The final few years of the last century were early heady days of connecting with people worldwide and sharing knowledge and enthusiasm. Several hand crafted fan sites and the Tilldawn mailing list united scattered fans. I discovered that there was a Bolan scene that had been rumbling along under the radar all that time and I have since been to several anniversary Bops and met up with a number of fans in real life ([25/55], [Bolan Bop 2009]).

Back then though this was all in the future. The triple vintage of '68, '69, '70 - the Tyrannosaurus Rex years - were halcyon days indeed. Schoolwork was easy, O-levels were a year away, home life was fine, I had my hobbies and books. All I knew was that I was happy, carefree, cycling in the sunshine, listening to the magic that was Tyrannosaurus Rex.

"And your days of love always in a dream, you know."
 - The Time of Love is Now by Marc Bolan.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jawbone at the Green Note Cafe

Camden, London. Thursday 14-June-2018

Being a great fan of Marcus I was pleased to see that he was playing in London while I was back in the UK. We have seen him many times but the first time with this band. Here in "Jawbone" he is teamed up with the brilliant Paddy Milner, who we have seen several times at Ronnie Scott's as part of the support act, on key boards. Rex Horan on bass and Evan Jenkins on drum complete the line-up.

Got a really good seat with only the sound engineer between me and the stage.

They did not do so much original material but more a set comprising a variety of covers from their favourites: Memphis Slim, Leon Russell, The Band, Little Feat, Tom Waits.

Interesting to see Marcus dialling it back from the main man to front man as part of an ensemble of equal. Unsurprisingly it was an evening of excellent music. I spoke to both Paddy and Marcus afterwards and I fear I may have gushed a little but why not? Bought the CD and vinyl of their latest album as a treat for later.

All sorts of thoughts wander through my head during gigs. I got a momentary flash of cat guilt - I've left the cat home alone, did I remember to set the timed cat feeder, will I get home to a piteously starving moggies! Oh no, phew, we don't have a cat any more. I still get occasional feline flashbacks especially approaching home and opening the front door in anticipation of a furry welcoming committee.

Got chatting to the bloke next to me who was also on the Merlot and when I went to get a refill he suggesting splitting a bottle - a more cost effective purchase. Not sure I needed that last glass but I had nothing in the diary for the next day so "hurrah!".

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Salento Parkrun Number 6

Lecce, Puglia, Italy. Saturday 09-June-2018.

It seems like I’m collecting parkruns.

For those of you who don’t know there is a clue in the name. People gather in hundreds of parks up and down the UK, and in parks around the world, at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning to do an organised 5K run.

Mostly I have done my parkruns in Tooting Common. But as we travelled about the UK for various weekends away I have picked up Parkruns in Scotland, Ireland and England (North and South).

I very nearly added an Italian Parkrun in Florence when Mary was planning to do a language course there. But in the end her trip was curtailed so that never happened.

Last time I looked there were no parkruns in Southern Italy. But then last month we had some visitors who said “there is a Salento Parkrun” and, lo and behold, someone had just started up a parkrun outside Lecce. It is run by Italian, Saverio, who had lived in Maidenhead for some time and discovered park run. On his return to Italy he decided to start up a local event. Inspired by our guests we decided to combine an early start for the park run followed by a visit to the beautiful city of Lecce.

This parkrun being in its infancy there were only eight runners and four of them were from our party. It is a very different experience running round the olive groves of a national park compared to running around Tooting Common where the first two runs in 2018 had over 800 runners!

It was only the sixth Salento Parkrun and our friend Sarah was able to set the female course record; unfortunately another UK visitor knocked her off the top spot a week later.

The 'A' is missing from my vest because I put the iron-on letter upside down and ironed it onto the sheet of paper.

One of the runners was visiting from Sicily and shot off like a greyhound and was round the course in 19:09. Me, I was happy to have managed it in under 30 minutes.

Garmin timings:

When I was back in the UK for a week I decided not to do my usual Tooting run but instead cycled up to Wimbledon Common so that I could add another unique Parkrun to the list. That is now nine different locations I’ve done park run.

Again under 30 minutes so again happy with that.

When I go back in September I think I’ll have to pop over the river to Fulham and bag Parkrun location number 10.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Nubya Garcia at Ronnie Scott's

London. Saturday 28-April-2018.

One of the (many) good things about Ronnie Scott’s is that we get to discover new musicians that we might otherwise not hear. With the larger venues you know already who you are going to see, that’s why you’ve booked. With Ronnie’s we look at the programme and think “they sound interesting, we’ll go see them”. For the weekend, early shows you get a double dose of discovery as there is a support act as well.

This time the support act was a classical string quartet called String Ting, part of Tomorrow’s Warriors initiative aiming to encourage diversity in jazz. It made for a very interesting and intriguing listen; "St James's Infirmary" given a new twist.

Nubya Garcia fell into the category of new-to-us musicians so we went with an open mind. Mind you, you can’t go far wrong with a quartet led by a saxophonist. Apparently she is winner of The JazzFM Award “Breakthrough Act of the Year”.

I can do no better than quote from Jazz in Europe’s review:

“With an incredible line up, the young saxophonist delivered a sound show.”

“Performing some pieces from her last album [...] Nubya Garcia demonstrated what a major talent she is. The chemistry between her and her fellow musicians was superb.”

“This thing we call jazz is definitely alive and well and Nubya Garcia is one musician we need to thank for this!” Full review... 

Another good thing about Ronnie Scott’s is that the artists usually come out from the green room to have a drink at the bar afterwards so you can mingle and thank them in person for an excellent set. Here we have three members of String Ting chatting to Nubya right next to our table; you don’t get that at the O2 Arena!

Yet another excellent evening.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Toyah Willcox at the 229 Club

229 Great Portland Street, London. Thursday 26-April-2018.

The "Acoustic, Up Close and Personal" tour.

This is the third time I have seen Toyah. The first was way back in 1983 when she appeared at the Young Vic in the play Trafford Tanzi. The second time was in 2003 in the musical Calamity Jane which got an indifferent review from The Guardian. This time we were here for her own music.

Alerted by SongKick to this gig, we ordered our tickets. When they arrived there were no seat numbers and we were a bit concerned that it was standing room only. As it turned out we needn’t have worried. There was seating it was just unnumbered, first come first served. We were able to get reasonable seats not too far back.

Toyah earlier posted a picture of the dress she was going to wear and indeed that is what she did wear. The static picture does not do her figure nor decolletage justice she is in great shape and looking lovely.

In the lights the outfit was a very sparkly rainbow affair.

The line up was:

  • Toyah Willcox: vocals
  • Chris Wong: acoustic guitar and backing vocals
  • Colin Hinds: acoustic guitar and backing vocals
  • Mike Nichols: double bass

One thing I like about live gigs is when the artist chats a bit about each song and gives you some background about how they came to write it or some context about the time when it was written. Toyah did this with every song which made it a much more interesting concert.

Unsurprisingly she did the well-known hit singles as well as a number of other tracks from her back catalogue which as usual you could just tell that many of the loyal audience members knew off by heart. She also did a couple of surprising covers. The first was “These boots were made for walking” by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, one of my dad’s favourite songs. The other was “Echo Beach” better known in the version by Martha and the Muffins which was very pleasant listen.

One thing I noticed about some of audiences, maybe it is the older demographic, is it they are much more respectful of the artist and pay greater attention. There was no sea of iPhones, everybody was actually focused on the music and enjoying the live atmosphere. The one exception was when Toyah invited us to come up to the stage and take selfies with her she came up to the front of the stage and posed for pictures.

An excellent concert from an iconic artiste.