March 18, 2017

Back in the Islands

After a long but totally uneventful day of travel, I arrived in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel at about 7 this morning (midnight Seattle time). Having only slept a bit more than an hour or so on the plane, I was feeling pretty disheveled. Diana Diegues, who I met last time I was here and is helping with local organizing on the Invisible Places symposium, heroically met me at the airport and drove me to where I'm staying, in the smaller town of Ribeira Grande, where they put me because it is where we will be rehearsing and performing the piece I am presenting.

I'm staying in a great old traditional row house in the center of town belonging to architect Nuno Malato. It had been abandoned when he bought it from a friend, and he is gradually restoring it. Nuno is a good friend of Emanuel Albergaria, who is probably the closest I have to a "best friend" here. She was incredibly kind to me when I was here before, and I like and respect her so much. Nuno is a great guy, and it all feels rather familial. One other artist will be staying here – Robin Parmer arrives from Ireland late tonight.

After a nap I had a productive afternoon meeting with Gianna De Toni, a very good Italian bass player and guitarist who I also met previously. She will be playing in my piece and is helping me round up the musicians for it. Also on hand was Mike Ross, a musician from Texas who has been living in Portugal since 1985 and teaches at the conservatory here. He was very helpful with translation and I think we got it worked out. Now we just have to make sure that the rehearsal dates work with the musicians' schedules, and with the venue where we will be working.

After our meeting I went for a walk on the beach and sat there for a good long time just watching the surfers and enjoying the sound of the waves. It's been way too long since I've done that. On the way back I unexpectedly encountered a group of romeiros – religious pilgrims who solemnly walk around the island from town to town leading up to Holy Week, praying and singing at all the churches. It reminds me a lot of the Penitente Brothers in New Mexico. Although I am not a believer, it felt like an auspicious beginning to this trip to witness this very old tradition continuing on my first day here.