We’re coming to you today from the beautiful island of Procida, off the coast of Naples. This week, our piano trio is performing the first concert of the “Fish and Music” festival in the grande marina. I’ve never played at an occasion named for a food before, although I saw Bo Diddley at the Wisconsin Rib Fest may years ago.
Actually, I take that back- my band in college played our first show at “Tacomania” on the IU campus. It was a glorious celebration of hard rock and fast food, and we even got T-shirts.
Procida is one of the three main islands off the coast of Naples- the others are Capri and Ischia. It’s an amazingly beautiful and unspoiled place- there is no direct evidence of what decade we’re in most places you look. The narrow streets are framed by tall, crumbling stone walls, and the cars clatter over the same obsidian black paving stones that have worn so smooth over decades or centuries of use. It is a tiny island, and it seems that every inch of it is in use by the population, but that its beauty remains intact because of the way all these beautiful old houses and churches seem to have merged with the landscape.
Procida is much less touristy than Ischia, but it is not without visitors- we’re sharing the island this week with the king of Spain (I’m tempted to go up to him and sing the Police’s “King of Pain” re-written as we used to sing it “King of Spain! I will always be King of Spain!” and see how he responds), and with the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich. Perhaps he’ll give a little donation to the Fish and Music Festival.
I’m looking forward to the concert tomorrow- particularly the Mendelssohn, but we’re trying to take an appropriately Mediterranean approach to our work. So far, it’s lots of amazing food (the ravioli in rabbit sauce for lunch yesterday is not something I’ll forget any time soon, nor the seafood linguine at dinner), lovely red wine and more food. Much as I’m excited about the program, the approach of the concert means I’m already counting the remaining meals. Aldo, our fearless leader knows and loves food and has been working in Procida for 20 years, so we’re not risking any bad restaurants in our precious few days. Fortunately, it looks like we’re doing the same program in Sicily in December, so it won’t be too long to wait for more memorable Italian meals.
Aldo is also the director of the Ischia Chamber Music Festival, where I’ll be returning in May (the dates are the 9th-16th of May). We’ve been trying to squeeze in some planning over our antipasti, and there are some promising developments. We’re moving partially into a new building at the Grazia Terme resort, which means we can accept more students this year. In addition to the long-running amateur program, we’re starting a new class for music students, and Aldo has already found a benefactor to start a generous scholarship fund. We’re hoping some of our young colleagues from America, France and the UK will take advantage of the chance to come do some intense playing in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Preformed groups will be welcome as well. Watch this space for more details.