This year our big singing in Italy event was a cultural and singing immersion spent in 2 stunning locations and our lucky group of singers were given a
real treat with 3 brilliant maestros including our much-loved Tony Backhouse.
The Create Escape group and Animae Voces combined choir with directors, Tony Backhouse and Edoardo Materassi after our performance in Florence. What a grande gruppi!
Tony was in good form and instantly had the group sounding like a professional choir on tour! This really took our local maestro in Mercatello, Guerrino Parri by
surprise as we had discussed the concept… ‘a bunch of people come together from all over Australia, NZ and beyond as strangers and learn a repertoire’…
‘some of them will be stage performers and others are shower singers’ but you never know, maybe it will be good enough
for a concert at the end of the week.
Palazzo Donati and the village of Mercatello provided a warm and welcoming cradle for our first 6 days. The accommodation included Palazzo Donati
and Palazzo Ducale and gorgeous apartments throughout this quaint medieval village of Mercatello.
Although a little sceptical at first we were soon to find the whole village opened their Bars, Pizzerias, Ristorantes, Gelatarias and their arms and
voices for us.
There were various forms of transport, from private charter to public bus to Urbino and even a tractor ride to take us to dinner!
We found Guerrino to be a phenomenal choir and music director and it was a thrill to see our group of passionate singers of ‘american black gospel’ take
to singing a completely different repertoire. I'd been talking with Guerrino for many years about this dream to bring people here to this delightful
village and to work with him .. this was a dream come true.
Hmm - It did not go unnoticed that he looked very similar to Tony (perhaps a slightly younger version).. they even wore similar clothes!
Take a look at the video of our itinerant concert around the village of Mercatello sul Metuaro. This was the Anteprima performance to launch
the annual summer festival of Musica e Musica, curated by Guerrino Parri.
After this lovely concert where the Mayor and a large proportion of the village turned out to check us out we celebrated with a shared meal. Guerrino's
choir and a group of us prepared our meal. Sally Battson's pavlova's were won the evening! You'll have to ask her the story of the making.. it's a
story in itself.
The following 6 days were spent in Florence. A different scene after the gentle village immersion in the countryside of Le Marche. But how could anyone
not love the city of Florence? We stayed in another gorgeous Palazzo, Palazzo San Niccoló, in the artisan’s area near the Arno River.
One of our most adored directors, Edoardo Materassi was our local teacher in Florence this year and he got us inspired and energised in
the mornings and evenings with fun warm ups and exquisite songs. We were joined by members of his brilliant choir Animae Voces and worked towards a concert in the superb acoustics of the magnificent Chiesa Valdese.
Edoardo’s choir equally loved learning the spontaneously joyous gospel under the skills of the legendary Tony Backhouse. They were singing their hearts
And the concert? Well you can look and listen at some of the results of the concerts in both Mercatello and Florence in videos I posted on our YouTube
channel. We play them over and over again because they are simply beautiful harmonies and delightful to watch.
Here's a link that should take you to the playlist. YouTube >
If you are green with envy, don’t fret, we are working on bringing Edoardo to Australia for some workshops and there will be another Italian singing
immersion coming up in 2021 with Edoardo and Guerrino.
There's a similar type of event happening in Buenos Aires in 2020 with Tony Backhouse, Eric Dozier and Gerardo Flores! Take a
look at The Gospel Explosion in Argentina >>
We also have our Singing in Sardinia and Corsica event coming up next year.. you better book now for that one it is selling up quickly. Singing in Sardinia>>
Our little writers group had a wonderful bespoke experience in May working with two brilliant teachers in two gorgeous Palazzo's in two very different
locations. They were totally spoiled!
The writers came together to unlock their writing talents and be inspired in the birthplace of modern literature. An aside to this was a wish to discover
a little about the connection of a nasty ancient relative from 1300’s of our host in Mercatello and the great author of medieval times, Dante Algheri!
Don’t worry the family has grown to be hugely supportive of the arts in more recent times.
Thankfully before we left home our author and teacher from Australia, Jan Cornall had sent out some suggestions to get the creative juices
flowing on the journey to Italy.
Then our writing retreat began in earnest in the sumptuous surrounds of Palazzo San Niccoló in Florence with local author
and teacher, Lisa Clifford. Lisa has lived and worked in Florence for the past 25 years and she guided us smoothly and humorously
through our shy and somewhat reserved start and walked us through some fascinating backstreets and some of her secret locations where we were inspired
to get on and write.
Following on from Florence we took a 2.5 hour drive with our italian partner and host Luisa Donati to her family Palazzo in Mercatello sul Metuaro. Over very warm hospitality and a glass of prosecco and delicious dinner in the delightful home she shared
more nasty stories about what the distant relative of the Donati’s did to poor old Dante! To learn more about this story… well you’ll have to
come with us on our next journey to Tuscany.
After delicious leisurely breakfasts in the Palazzo we had sessions with Jan, beginning with her soothing writing meditations and expert skills and tips,
words and emotions flowed out in buckets and later in the day so did the vino!!
This picture was taken in a little room off the kitchen in Palazzo Donati straight after a morning session with Jan Cornall. These sessions were like gold; the words were pouring out and the emotions and all the senses were charged.
The only problem we faced at the end of our journey in Palazzo Donati was that no-one wanted to leave.. we wanted to stay on, keep writing, and keep exploring
this magical medieval village, the food and the warm hospitality of the people. We will factor in an add period to do just that next time ;-)
That is just one of the fun things we will be doing on our upcoming Come to your Senses retreat with Shelley Kenigsberg in Italy this year.
The dates are confirmed for the 17th -29th September, 2018
Beginning the journey in Florence, we'll be workshopping with Shelley and spending time writing each day. We'll be exploring the fascinating literary sub culture and meeting with some local authors; there will be evenings spent enjoying aperitivo in a building which has been through many ‘edits’. First it was a monastery, then a prison, and then — the most important for us this tour — into a Literary Cafe.
After a few days in Florence, we will go on to Mercatello sul Metauro, a little village in Le Marche. We’ve selected this region for its connection to the master writer, Dante Aligheiri who was inspired here to compose his most recognised work: Dante’s Divine Comedy — a superb introduction to new thinking coming out of the Middle Ages, and was a significant contribution to Italian poetry of the Late Middle Ages/Early Renaissance.
Luisa Donati is opening the doors of her delightful family Palazzo (Palazzo Donati) for our guests and introducing us to her friends in the village. Can you imagine getting a banquet cooked and served to you by 9 passionate foodies from the village? Yes it's true, you will get that!
During my 3 month stint in Florence earlier this year I had the pleasure to meet some extraordinary local artists and artisans. Apart from gaining some great new friends, I was thoroughly inspired to pursue an art journey of a difference in Tuscany.
Stay tuned because we have some exciting programmes coming up in 2018 and 2019 with inspiring teachers from around the world. We’ll be offering painting and drawing courses and exploring the seldom discussed, but exciting contemporary art scene and hidden treasures of this area. We’ll be welcomed into studios of outstanding local artists, we'll explore sculpture parks, museums and beautiful sites for both architectural and landscape drawing.
There will be time to relax in the countryside, explore prized vineyards in the Chianti and Brunello regions, eat and cook delicious produce, pick olives and walk some quiet ancient cypress lined roads and drink up the beauty of this region and beyond. It is Italy!
A few more images from Florence and glimpses inside some local artists' studios.
If you would love to bring out your artistic flair in one of the most picturesque and historical regions in Europe, let us know.
Dates, Venues, Programme and Prices are coming soon.
This is a little rave about a recorded conversation from 2015 with Richard Fidler from the ABC's Conversation series and Liz Gilbert.
Conversations with Richard Fidler are lengthy enough to draw you deep into the lives of extraordinary people. And this episode not only drew me deeper into part of what makes Liz Gilbert tick but it could be a game changer for me. She articulated exactly what I feel so passionate about and the very essence of the thinking behind The Create Escape.
Here's a little gem of an article and clip of the great Qawwali singer Abida that I found on KCRW RHTHM PLANET. Plus a little video of the great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Live: Allah Hoo
Abida Parveen is the most famous female qawwali vocalist, adored by fans all over the world. I heard her once in Orange County years ago. She has a big voice, perfect pitch, and a powerful, ecstatic delivery. She will occasionally visit the U.S., but you will likely not know about it unless you read the local Pakistani newspapers.
In a 2013 article in the UK paper The Guardian, Parveen said, “My culture–our culture–is rich in spirituality and love. Sufism is not a switch, the music isn’t a show–it’s of life, it is religion. If I want to recognized for anything, if we should be recognized for anything, it’s the journey of the voice. And that voice is God’s.” Qawwali, like gospel music in the U.S., is a communal experience, a joy meant to be shared.
I did not include another famous qawwali group, the Sabri Brothers, because their tracks are super long. Sadly, I recently wrote a post about one of their founding members who was murdered by an Islamic extremist. Sufi gospel is a way of getting closer to the divine, both for listeners and performers. Dictatorships and Islamist hardliners don’t like music, don’t trust it either. We’ve seen that in the Soviet Union, Chile, Argentina, Iran, and other places.
For those who don’t know about this powerful and ecstatic music, let it be a reminder that its message of peace and harmony is an antidote to the turmoil in Pakistan that we hear in the news.