Monday, 25 April 2016

Fireflies, flowers and Faure for May Day in Corfu*

* First published 2 May 2013

The sense of anticipation is mounting here in Corfu for Holy Week.

Church bells ring twice a day as the devout and those who do not want to risk eternal damnation make their preparations for Easter and pile into the church.

In the evening, the village plateia is alive with people as the congregation mingles with the card players and coffee drinkers, beer imbibers and children, now on school holidays and tearing around on bicycles. There are swallows and swallowtails, hooting owls, croaking frogs, waking cicadas and a host of magical fireflies flitting around the lanes and gardens.

The air is heavy with the scent of jasmine and mock orange blossom.

Yesterday was Labour Day, a May Day celebration which saw garlands on doors and small posies of wild flowers under car windscreen wipers. At first, I thought Turkey Spiros (so called because he breeds turkeys) had a female admirer when I noticed a bunch of marigolds on his bonnet. An hour later, Mr Grigg had his very own nosegay, made with scabious, flax and wild fennel.

And in the evening, a concert at the theatre in Corfu Town, courtesy of our lovely friends, Gorgeous George and The Graceful Mrs G.

'It's some choir or other,' I told my English neighbor, Mrs Bancroft, who has come over for Greek Easter with our other neighbours, The Champagne Charlies.

So we went, completely open-minded and none-the-wiser, to meet our Greek friends on the theatre steps.

Corfu is probably the most musical island in Greece, with more philharmonic bands than you could shake a drumstick at and more music students than notes on the most demanding song sheet you are ever likely to encounter. So whoever was playing would be good in our book.

And then we saw the poster and realised it was rather more than 'some choir or other'.

Greece's finest classical musicians began the programme with what many call the saddest music ever written, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. I was melting in the heat, which came in great waves in between bursts of cool from the air conditioning. I was also melting with the emotion of the music, a wonderful mixture of pathos and passion, a lament in the minor key.

'They played this at my cousin's funeral last week,' Champagne Charlie whispered, as a tear rolled discreetly down my cheek.

And the music played on while a young child of about six in the seat in front of me waved his arms in harmony with the conductor.

And then, after the interval, Faure's Requiem performed by the Corfu Municipal Choir.

Deep joy. You do not have to be religious to enjoy the spirituality of this music. Instruments are beautiful things, and the most beautiful of all is the human voice. With a large choir, the effect on an individual is enormous. It stirs the soul, it takes you to the very heart of the human condition.
But did our guests feel the same?

At the end, Mrs Bancroft turned to me and said: 'You know, I've sung that four times. I was miming along to it. I have had such a wonderful time'

'I hoped you enjoyed it,' said the Graceful Mrs G.

Lost for words.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x


  1. Samuel Barber's Adagio is one of my favourite pieces of classical music. I was introduced to classical music at a very early age, being taken aged about five, to see my Welsh Nana singing with her choral society, conducted on a special occasion by Sir John Barbarolli, or bananalolly as I called him. Well, it's such a posh surname for a small child to get her tongue around!

  2. What a lovely memory, Edwina. Music feeds the soul.


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