I spent the last few days in Guernsey, recovering from launching my latest project. I was invited by my friend the Early Music legend Andrew Lawrence-King to hang out for a few days and attend a concert he was giving with fellow legends Jordi Savall and Frankie McGuire.
Guernsey is very much an island, defined by the sea, and Andrew is a keen sailor. Within an hour or so of landing we were on his yacht, Continuo, and I even got to steer. I love being completely out of my element, doing something I know nothing about, so helming a yacht at sea hit that spot beautifully!
I spent most of the time chatting with Andrew, in places like this:The view from the cafe where we had lunch.
And this:The perfect visual accompaniment to good convesation and a G and T made with Blue Bottle, the local gin.
At dinner on Sunday I met one of Andrew’s friends, one of Guernsey’s most important citizens. A financier? No. A politician? Hell no. Buz is a seaman through and through, captain of the RNLI lifeboat, and of the Ambulance boat, and of his own muscular vessel, the Access Challenger, which is available to charter. Buz invited me along on a charter trip to Sark (a nearby island) and back, and it was a fantastic experience. Buz bought Access as a burned out wreck, and re-built her into the kind of ship that can go out and get shit done in just about any conditions. Perhaps the best way to describe him then is this: if your ship was sinking, but you knew Buz was on his way, you’d stop worrying and break out the beer while you wait.
The concert on Monday night was amazing, as any traditional music fan would expect. Andrew, Jordi and Frankie put on an extraordinary performance, but for me the highlight was seeing Frankie play his bodhran. Holy crap, it was a revelation. He makes that little drum sound like an entire drumkit, and by manipulating the skin with his left hand, he plays tunes on it. I was astonished. I have the CD Celtic Viol II, which Frankie plays on, but I just hadn’t twigged that he was doing it all on one instrument.
Throughout the trip, Katerina Antonenko looked after us all, down to cooking breakfasts served as smiley faces (if you’d been good). This just after finishing work on building Andrew’s latest instrument, a great big Irish harp that had its concert debut on the Monday. She actually made last-minute adjustments to the sounding box (a shaving here, a shaving there, and the instrument gains an new depth of sound; another revelation) while I was there, so I got to hold it still while she worked. As if that wasn’t enough, she then took me kayaking on Tuesday afternoon; Frankie and Andrew took the high road (a cliff path), Katja and I took the low road (the sea by kayak), and they were in the pub before us.
What a trip! Old friends, new friends, new experiences, virtuoso performances, and lots of wine. Wow.
Sorry, no swords to report. But you might imagine that hanging out with folk who have been recreating a different historical art at such a high level was deeply stimulating. Watch this space!