Sunday, 7 April 2013

Corfu: Menestrelli's mandolins

I have a neighbour back home in Lush Places. Her name is Mrs Bancroft and she is very wise.

Her favourite saying is 'never turn down an invitation.' In the years since I first heard her say it, the phrase has become something of a Grigg mantra. It might relate to a completely left-field invitation but, coupled with my other saying of 'just do it', it can lead to some interesting situations.

Always be open to new ideas and experiences. You never know, you might enjoy them.

So, after shopping in Corfu Town on a glorious, sunny day, picking up a kilo of calamari for ten euros at the market, we receive a text out of the blue:

What are you doing this evening? How about a mandolin concert?

We were planning to spend the balmy evening eating squid with wild asparagus on our own terrace, looking out on a newly-cleared garden, our reward for a week of hard work. Not the prettiest of views, looking out on logs, but satisfying.

Instead, we enjoy pastitsio outside the home of Gorgeous George and his wife, The Graceful Mrs G, who have one of the finest views of the island. From their home you can do a 360 degree scan. From our dining table we look out across to the old fort of Corfu Town in the far distance and the hills beyond, down to the south. Straight ahead we see the sails of a yacht beating up the coast towards the marina at Gouvia.

And then it is off to The Graceful Mrs G's church community centre, which looks nothing from the outside, as the traffic races past on the main road from Corfu Town to Paleokastritsa. But inside, it's a little oasis, with a coffee bar, toddlers' play area, play station and table tennis table for the older children, comfy seats and books.

Next door is a smart little hall which is used for all sorts of events and live performances.

As we sit down, we are not sure what to expect. And then they come on, the young mandolin players of Corfu, the Mantolinata Menestrelli.

Eight young people playing mandolins, accompanied by two guitars and keyboards. It takes us back to a trip Mrs Bancroft organised for the village a few years ago, when ten of us went to see The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

Imagine learning the mandolin as a child. So much better than a recorder.

It is lovely and moving to see a group of teenagers playing the music of their homeland. And then, behind us, members of the audience start to sing with tuneful and hearty voices. It transpires they are members of a choir who have come along to watch.

'Did you enjoy it?' The Graceful Mrs G asks.

Enjoy it? We loved it.

My mission now is to learn the words to Kerkyra.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x


  1. Hi Maddie,

    Maria's father used to play the mandolin, and the guitar.

    Some of the lyrics of Kerkyra Kerkyra appear (in English) in my book. Here was my own posting (and link) about the song:

  2. What a marvellous heritage, Jim. Thanks for the link, I will pop on over.


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