Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Art of Impromptu Concerts

Life on a sailboat revolves around weather, sails, the best dinghy, finding safe anchorages, provisioning and all the nuances of daily life on water.  A highlight is the people you meet, invariably they are characters of the first order. There is a certain amount of insanity involved with boating types, and if you are lucky, they can sing.

While we were anchored off Formentera we heard of a new harbour being built on Ibiza. You could tie up there, get fresh water and stay a while for free since it was under construction. It was a perfect spot to spend a couple of days while we re-provisioned at the local street market. The half built pier we were tied up to with one other boat was a jumble of huge boulders and a grand spot to celebrate the 4th of July  before heading over to Mallorca.

In the late afternoon we got our little hibachi set up on the rocks, got out the deep yellow chicken pieces, salads and wine all set to toast the 4th. While we got cooking and talking a guy jumped off the other boat and strode down to join us, large bottle of vodka in hand.

"I am Sasha," he said as he took the top off the bottle and threw it away. He looked at Lee. "You are American, I am Russian. Our countries are not friends but we can be."

Without further ado he plopped himself down to join us, our self-invited guest, and told us about himself. Sasha was an opera singer, had misbehaved too many times and got thrown out of the Moscow opera company. It seems it was politically difficult for him to return to Russia and although much of what he said wasn't very clear, he was entertaining.

The level of the vodka in his large bottle sunk steadily. He told outrageous stories before laughing heartily, then while telling another would get weepy and wail, "Oh Sasha! poor Sasha!" as tears poured down his cheeks. Then he started to sing.

The sun sank below the horizon, the sky a soft palette of magentas tipped with red, and the sea softly lapped the giant boulders. We sat entranced as Sasha's powerful voice filled the night with aria after aria. Our very own private opera was a night of pure magic before Sasha suddenly got up, thanked us for inviting him and staggered off. We never saw him again.

A year of so later we anchored in a small bay on the Eastern shore of Mallorca. There is a small village tucked in the far end with restaurant tables lining the quay. Once we were settled we heard this voice calling, "La Rochelle! La Rochelle! Come and join us!"

At water's edge was Barry, a Welshman we'd met a few months earlier. We hopped in the dinghy and rowed over to join him and five of his friends. They were all old friends  visiting him from Wales. The meal was delightful. The dishes got cleared away, more wine was ordered and then they all started to sing in their lyrical native tongue. The Welsh are rightly famous for their magnificent voices and as the sound swelled over the bay in the hush of the evening, I thought, "this setting, this chorus, like Sasha's solo performance, can not be planned. The glorious spontaneity of times like this remain with you for ever."

And it has remained with me. I can close my eyes and the magic returns clear as a bell. It always makes me catch my breath with the same joy and sense of privilege that filled me at the time. The art of music is a gift to be treasured. I wish I had it but am so grateful to those who do.
Ibiza Sunset © Anne Jenkins

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