notes from andalucia
We walk to the church in Cadiz under the orange blossom: The great pithy sevillian balloons clump together in the trees and the white buds pour their scent like perfumed lava down the cobbled street.
In the bar the walls are plastered with posters of lurid saints and a faded bird flaps helplessly in a cage. During the concert someone steals seventy euros from my wallet but their guilt stops them before they take the camera, palm, phone or ipod.
The nuns push me onto the stage.
The audience claps after every movement of the Tchaikowsky serenade and it's oddly refreshing. In the Barber adagio they burst into applause at the fortissimo climax while we try to keep our bows in the air and wait for the silence which will permit us to continue in pianissimo. At the end of the concert we give them the Bach Hamlet advert and the nuns, crouched right behind us in their habits, chat all the way though. As I walk off I can't help wondering why the can't recognise the voice of God when they hear it and listen up.
After the concert we head for the bar Manteca where we eat every cut of jamon imaginable.
"Why don't you speak Spanish?" asks the barman, Manuel. I explain we are musicians and that we have just done a concert in the church. "Come back tomorrow lunch time and you will probably hear some flamenco" he says. "This is where the bullfighters and singers come to drink".
I try to persuade my friends to join me but the glistening beach and moorish domes and towers prove too seductive and at one o clock I am the only woman in the bar. The walls are covered with images of shocking pink torreodor capes fanning and flaring before the bulls, flamenco singers sucking fat cigars and gold braid decorating proud backs. Names jump out at me: Jesus Enriquez. Raul Bacelis. Edson Galindo. There is the occasional saint. This is not a place to open a book.
One of the best flamenco singers, apparently, is drinking fino next to me and offers 'the lady' the same.
"He will sing to you if more of your colleagues come." I text everyone in the band. My phone refuses to send a single text.
After forty five minutes Jane and Clare join me, and the singer is off. He grabs us by our pale forearms and draws us near. His eyes are ageless pools on a wrinkled plate. He puts his hand on his heart, tugs us closer and starts the seamless move from smoky broken speech to song. What he is telling us is urgent and his eyes never leave ours. His voice flows from his empassioned heart through every pore, his mouth merely accidental. Then, just as he has started, he stops and moves back into speech.
"That was a religious song" he says. We share our tapas, take photos, and sit together on the barstools content in the knowledge that we speak the same language.
That night our concert is in an unforgiving accoustic that is the equivalent to a mirror that magnifies every grit filled pore of one's skin. I'm scraping away, pulling the bow back and forth with very little result and not sure I'm going to make it to the end. I call up his memory, the urgency with which he sung to us and I swear that's what gets me through.