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Guitar Circle Of Italy in-house performance for invited guests

double bill with Anna & Max
Friday 21 - Sunday 23, July 2006
Centro Ottava, Rome, Italy

Word

A report by Alessandro Bruno.

Until the very last minute our weekend felt unset: the idea of having the whole thing happening in my flat felt inappropriate, I was very shaky and weak due to a tremendous stomach bug, and, on the other side, I’d just been informed that there was no air condition available at the music school… Eventually I decided to use the same format as the last time (split in 2 groups to sleep at Deiana’s and my place, then work, rehearse and perform at the “The-Unbearably-Hot-Centrottava”).

So we’ve been rehearsing on Friday the 21st from 16:00 to 22:00 with a break for a quick dinner.

We’ve been mostly checking out parts from few new pieces we were aiming to include in the set; quite a frustrating experience: only 2 on 5: “Sermon On The Mount” (by the ESC) and “Cutting Branches For A Temporary Shelter” by the Penguin Café Orchestra. We had to leave out “Rescue in M.B.” by ESC, “Salterello” (a traditional medieval piece arranged by Adriano), and “All Or Nothing”.

Assuming this is not because we are bad boys, we questioned ourselves on the matter and the main and most obvious answer is: instead of presenting a piece directly in the circle first, and only then giving the written and/or electronic support, we just sent the parts on a Power Tab file a week before, so there was no time and not enough information for the pieces to be worked out; but there must be something else about it…

On Sat. we went there at 08:00, had the sitting, went for breakfast, then back at 10:00, until 19:00 in rehearsal mode with few breaks. We first had a look at our established set (we had to make adjustments since Roberto Duse and Alessandro Papa were not physically there with us). Then in the afternoon the new unexpected element: great surprise and joy! Massimo D’Avanzo (a crafty from the GD era) arrived with his band mate (Anna) to visit us and stay until the completion on Sunday lunch; this in itself was not a surprise, we knew they were coming; what we didn’t know was that they were coming straight from a gig in the south of Italy and had with them their gear!

So I asked them to join us for the performance and we arranged that they would open playing 3 pieces then we’d play our set, then maybe them again.

The duo “Da-Anaan” plays Celtic-Scottish-Irish music plus few pearls from the English-prog-rock; she plays a wonderful Celtic arp and sings with a celestial voice, he plays guitar and a hand drum: amazing!

We played a run through for them, then we went for dinner while they set up and rehearse their things. Later we set up the room (very much like the last time with few improvements like a box of fruit with few bottles of cool water in a corner, chairs set to complete the circle, and so on).

At 21.30 there were already abut 15 people, we waited 15 minutes more (this time we asked our friend Antonio to sit on the floor to inspire other people to do the same) and then I introduced Da-Anaan; they played:

Danny Boy
Chanter
Morrison’s Jig

We were in the audience, delighted. As I realized the power and musicality of their performance, and at the same time, remembered that a stunning piano player was in the audience, I wished to vanish… Then I let it go.

Short break, we zoomed to the green room, collected ourselves, thought to Roberto and Alessandro, asked for help and walked on stage. Our set list:

Circulation C Maj
Day Break
Sermon On The Mount
Gymnopedie #1
Funeral March For A Marionette
Circulation A Harm. min.
The Eye Of The Needle
Cutting Branches For A Temporary Shelter
Bach Prelude #1
Thrak
Hope
Music For A Found Harmonium

There is still quite some work to do on the way we look when we circulate: some look terrified, some are staring at the fret board, few look a bit lobotomized… But the sound is not as bad as the look. What I found is that the body language is crucial in a performance situation.

Day Break is a good opener, at least for us, it takes us gently in instead of kicking us out there; it was also well received.

Sermon was rehearsed at 80 bpm to make it playable for everybody, when the real speed is 96 bpm; in performance with some adrenaline we maybe got to 84/88, but we knew it works, and in fact it worked, it was actually a highlight.

Satie is always painfully magic, and no mistakes stop that magic.

Funeral March was counted in a bit too fast, making it sound more like a Tarantella, but it was pretty well played and it served the porpoise of bringing in some fun.

The second circulation was better than the first, and the last part was also quite fast and flowing.

On TAOTN I felt uncomfortable (I was playing bass which is not my usual part) and sometimes my timing was a bit shaky, but the others did a good job and we got a big applause.

At this point a late group of people arrived, we let them in and I made quite few jokes since they are very old friends of mine.

Cutting was for me the peak, the rhythmic and the harmonic sections were played with the paper on the strings to emulate the sound of a kalimba while the melodies are nicely laid on top; a good arrangement, bravo Adriano.

For the Bach circulation, already made more difficult by playing it in 6 players instead of 8, we stood up and spread among the audience in a random fashion: it came down a bit slow but we managed pretty well until the last 2 rounds where we sucked; and, although we managed to make fun of it, we still sucked.

Thrak and Hope were both pretty hot, and, although Harmonium was in the pocket, we played it straight away: we’re getting better in giving to this piece a good dynamic.

We left the stage but we were called back, so we repeated ourselves and played again:

Bach circulation, sitting this time, far better and flowing but we still sucked at the end.

Funeral March – a second chance to get the right speed.
Cutting – the best.
Asturias – an unexpected call to which the group responded very well.

Before living the stage I invited Da-Anaan to play some more, so we went into the green room, collected ourselves, left the guitars and came back; in the meanwhile they reset their stuff on stage, checked the tuning and:

Dancing With The Moonlight Knight (Genesis)
Thick As A Brick (Jethro Tull)
Danny Boy (trad.)

Useless to say that for most of us was hard to refrain to sing along with her…

Afterwards the comments of the about 25 people in the audience were sincerely enthusiastic.

We packed up and went to sleep.

On Sunday morning we all met at 08:00 at my place for the Sitting, then to the bar for breakfast, and at 10:00 big meeting (the 6 of us plus Massimo and Anna); we spoke about our project, the future, checked the agenda, recalibrate many of the practical and non practical aspect of our commitment within TTA AAD; all this while doing our best to give Massimo and Anna a picture, as clear as possible, of the whole thing. By the end of the meeting we decided to include Da-Anaan in our future performances and decided few pieces to play together: very exciting!

We then had a meeting with guitars mainly to give Stefano and Aldo some missing information about “Rescue in MB” so that they can work out their parts for the next meeting. In the meanwhile Adriano, Massimo and Anna prepare some lunch (spaghetti and tomato salad). We had lunch, a coffee, and then they all left.