Italy was an amazing experience culturally and socially. I was a soloist with a wind ensemble that was hosted by the city of Olgiat Comasco in Northern Italy in the Lombardie region. That particular area is the home of George Clooney on Lake Como, the centerpiece of the area.
Let me tell you, George is one lucky guy. Villa’s hang from road side cliffs that weave around mountainous terrain. The lake, like a deep blue pearl, twinkles with white boats as they saunter leisurely across windless calm waters. It IS Godâ€™s country- heavenly and divine.
60 musicians were put up with host families who lived in the neighboring town of
Olgiat Comasco. Each family opened their homes, providing us with a place to sleep and shower. The wives and husbands who served as hosts also took turns cooking 3 square homemade Italian meals for us at The Sportiv Centre- the equivalent of a community center. Espresso, pasta and wine were daily rituals.
We performed 4 concerts in several good size piazzas and had 600-1000 at our concerts. Our audiences were all locals who came with their families and lawn chairs to enjoy an evening of jazz, classical and pop music under the stars. Grandma, Grandpa, grandchildren of all ages, dogs, their parents, village officials and the town mayor were all there. The applause were plentiful and the silence while we played noticeable.
I would like to tell you we all played impeccably, including myself, but we did not. Most of us were tired because Italian hospitality runs at a relentless pace.
During our days we were taken by tour bus to many of the surrounding jewels of Italian pride. We were taken to see Michelangelo’s original Last Supper at the Santa Maria
delle Grazie Church in Milan, and to the stunningly beautiful Duomo di Milano. This cathedral is famous throughout the world for its significance in the promulgation of the Christian faith, for its role in the establishment of Catholic traditions of worship, its outstanding musical heritage and the splendour of its Gothic architecture.
We were taken to the historic Villa del Cardinale (Villa Balbianello) last owned by explorer Guido Monzino and left upon his death to The Italian National Preservation Society in the late 1970’s. Seen in the movie Casino and one of the more recent James Bond movies, we were guided through the rooms of the elaborate villa, monestary, church and scenic gardens overlooking the lake.
By boat we spent a day in Bellagio, a resort town that by car can only be reached driving on a 1 1/2 lane road on the side of a mountain with no guard rail. Sauntering across the lake by boat while being served a 3 course lunch with wine was definately a far more enjoyable way to get there.
Our hosts were unbelievably gracious, generous, and warm.
It was amazing to see them embrace 60 perfect strangers with open arms to share our imperfect but passionate expression of our art with them. We were treated like important guests in each of the various communities where we performed, regardless of our lack of star status.
And an Ah-Ha Moment.
So there I stood with the last note played of my solo and all I could think about was the mistakes I had made: I had rushed in the 2nd variation and the high A in the cadenza did not speak just right andâ€¦
But the Italians in front of me, not heeding to the loud noise of my internal criticism, would not stop clapping. I stood there smiling and bowing and the more they clapped the more faint the voice in my head got. They clapped so long and with such joy that I simply had no choice but relinquish and accept their praises.
And then came the Ah-Ha…..
How easy it was for me to get caught up in the perfection of my art. I was reaching for perfection and my audience wanted my pure imperfect human expression. Thank God,
in-spite of myself, it had come out.
How quickly I had forgot the potent magical electricity produced between artist and audience when we express ourselves honestly and passionately. The only one who cares if its perfect, is us. Perfect will never pay our rent, but magical electricity will.
In that moment I remember why I am an artist. I remembered why I believe in art and the power it holds to change minds, hearts and restore faith in ourselves, our lives and our work. Italy was the breath of fresh air I needed to put me back on my creative path.
And as the Italian’s say in their heartfelt broken english, “thatâ€™s a good”.