Monday, October 29, 2007

Neil Latchman and Alessandro Belotto in an intimate concert at St. Mary's Church in Ealing.

I met Alessandro Belotto when I was living in Beirut. Since the mid 90's Alessandro has visited Lebanon almost every year, giving organ concerts for the Maronite community of that country. This Italian pianist currently lives in London, and he was one of the reasons my travel was not a total disaster; his friendship and the concert I am writing about were part of my best moments during my stay in London.

Alessandro invited me to what he called "a very short concert at the hall of St. Mary's Church in Ealing.". He would play the piano and Neil Latchman, the tenor, would sing, it would be only 5 songs.

Ealing is situated West, almost outside London; it is a quiet place, with beautiful streets and kind people; once I arrived to the city, after the train station, I started to feel the taste of a village in the province; walking through those streets on my way to the Church was a real pleasure.

St. Mary's Church is a historical sight; its site on the internet says: 'There has been a church building on this site for nearly a thousand years; excavations during the 19th century unearthed solid blocks of stone and ornamental work suggesting that a Norman building stood here.' But the current church was rebuilt and almost built anew in the 19th century, even if it now keeps the basic structure of a 17th century one. Its tower bell looks impressive in the middle of the village and from its balcony it is possible to have a wonderful view over London.

This concert was part of the schedule of some regular cultural activities the church organizes every weekend and that Saturday 29th there were more musical events in the program. There is no more interest than bringing to the community a little bit of high quality classical music; publicity lies only in the priest's voice during mass and on the church's blackboard. Neither Belotto nor Latchman charged for it.

You will notice in the videos that people walked around, some children were playing or even crying; but you must remember that it was just a Saturday afternoon (the concert was at 2 pm), whoever passed by was invited and if they were interested, then they would take a seat and would listen. It is interesting watching (and listening) how Belotto and Latchman dealt musically with that noise.

It was an unforgettable afternoon, many factors joined to make that time seem unforgettable, but the mere opportunity to listen to the voice of Latchman and Belotto's interpretation is worth for its own artistic quality.

This was the program:

St. Mary's Church, Ealing, London.
Open Day, Saturday 29th, September 2007.
14:00 hrs

Neil Latchman - Tenor

Alessandro Belotto - Piano

- Son Tutta duolo (Aria)
Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)

- Non t'amo piu
Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916)

- 'A Vucchela
Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916)

- I'll Walk Beside You
Alan Murray (1890-1922)

- Somebody Bigger than You and I
Johnny lange (1905-2006)

- You may have noticed that these videos were not posted in Youtube, and that is because the Chinese government blocked the site many days ago. Vimeo has been a good option till now.
- There is a mistake inside the videos, it is not Alessandro Benotto, it is Alessandro "Belotto". Sorry about that.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Coming back from London…

My long trip has finished. London was my home for one month and Amsterdam was it only for a few days.

The quality of life in such an important and big city is difficult and I come back to Beijing exhausted.

London absorbed a huge amount of energy I wasn’t used to spending: it was wasted simply because by living there. A demanding city in all senses.

I saw lots of Artistic manifestations, classic Art and contemporary Art. I saw and I learnt. My English has improved but my life and my body have suffered and I have to recover my balance; one way to do it is writing about what lived there.

In London I suffered from fear of violence, but also from fear of ‘legality’. This city has one of the fastest levels of growth in criminality in the world. People are scared of being robbed or attacked; they fear the other, because of race or origin, because of their difference. London is a ‘brutal’ city to its immigrants and ‘brutal’ to young people with dark skin too.

It is a city afraid of terrorism, and it has fallen into paranoia. I saw unjust acts of justice, violence over its own citizen only on the premise of prevention. Twice the police stopped me, I say that with sadness, only because of my appearance and nothing else.

Stopped by the police on my way to the tube station, I could see the fear on the face of the policewoman who was holding with a trembling hand a piece of paper showing those exact points under which the ‘law’ permits stopping me in any case they (the police) think it necessary. I was in a “vulnerable” zone and I had the profile of a terrorist going to do his job. The policewoman was trembling because of the fear I was a terrorist and I could detonate my bombs in that very instant, finishing with her dreams and life; I was trembling because of fear from their excessive nervousness and fear they would react the same as with a Brazilian youth a year ago, killing me. Their colleagues (all policemen) asked me, with my hands held high up: ‘do you have anything in your pockets or on your body that could harm me or my colleagues?’… They were asking me, Gustavo, a person who has really tried during the last years not to harm absolutely anyone, but they didn’t know that, they thought I was ‘suspect of being a terrorist’ who could harm not only them, but myself and dozens or hundreds of others.

It was a shock, even more so because it was the second similar situation I lived (the first one had been at the airport), only because of ‘my appearance’… Yes, it didn’t matter dressing well, showing documents, cash or credit cards; it was something beyond the idea of having a social position. It was the fear of another race and culture that my “aspect” provoked in them.

With that fear I kept living and walking day and night. I observed ‘Stops and Searches’ of black skinned people, Arabs, immigrants from Eastern Europe. I saw people fainting, one suicide attempt in the waters of the Thames, police violence over common burglars, and that horrible behavior by the common Englishman over the ‘others’. Little by little I got used to living with that, at first I thought it was infernal and then one day I started noticing the sun and the blue sky (literally, no clouds), a strange thing in London, its wonderful views and faces smiling at the pubs (English people only smile ‘naturally’ at the pubs). I met nice people, friendly, from different origins, I exchanged ideas or simple words; I spoke different languages as well practiced my English (of course), French and Italian, I spoke Chinese! … I started to live as anyone does. I visited those amazing museums and exhibition halls. I went to the theatre and I saw many high quality spectacles and performances. I enjoyed architecture and the huge possibilities for having fun. I found some new friends too.

So far, I have uploaded only two posts showing my visit to The Globe and one Korean drums performance at the Thames Festival. I have lots of videos and ideas for writing several more (about sculpture and pieces of Greek theatre inside the British Museum, concerts, three plays in performance, an exhibition, one special silent film, street theatre, etc.), we’ll see how many become reality.

Amsterdam will be another chapter.
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