Tag Archives: Street performance

Project Finito

After almost a year from planning and researching, to living in Trieste for 3 months, to writing my documentation and giving a presentation, I have finally finished my Practice in Context project. Without a doubt, I’ve learnt loads and really enjoyed the process.

So this is just a post to say…. thank you to everyone who:

hosted me, gave me a bed, played music to or with me, taught me tunes, gave me advice, gave me contacts and put me in touch with people, fed me, clothed me, watered me, talked with me, gave me information, invited me, gave me music c.d’s and other resources, drove me around, taught me Italian and was patient enough to listen to me in Italian.

I could not have done this project without the amazing contributions from the citizens of Trieste and around!! There are so many people who fit into one or more of these categories, so thanks! It’s been a joy.

In other news my band, Four People have been invited to play at a festival in Lake Garda this Summer with a stage from from a folk music bar in London. So tour of Northern Italy 2014 is looking very hopeful!!

I’m re-performing my presentation again tomorrow for other students who are about to plan a project to see how its done and give some tips etc. How well I’ve fared in the module is yet to be seen – I think I’ll find out in a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed.



Playing & Learning

Last week I finally found the so-called Gypsy musicians – a trio of friends who busk regularly in Trieste, playing a Gypsy Jazz repertoire of old and new. Almost everyone I’ve met here had told me about them and recommended listening to them. I came across them in Piazza Cavana, which, as far as I can see, is the number 1 busking spot. After listening for a while, I went to speak to them whilst they were having a break – I told them I really liked their music and that I, also, was a violinist (the group is made up of a violin, double bass and guitar.) On learning this, Berki, the violinist, offered me his violin and asked me to play them a tune – which I did. He asked me how long I’d been playing and was quite impressed when I said 7 years. I had meant to say since I was seven years old! whoops. They continued playing and I stayed for a few more tunes – as I was leaving I asked Berki if he ever taught Gypsy style violin – he replied apologetically that he didn’t read notes and plays only by ear. ‘Anch’io’ (me too) I said. ‘Davvero? Porta il tuo violino!’ (Really? Go and get your violin!) So that was that – I left feeling very lucky as this was to be my first collaboration with local musicians.

About an hour later I returned ready to go and… they’d gone. After looking in the other popular busking spots around town I was beginning to doubt whether I’d find them, but alas, they returned to their original post. I was immediately welcomed into the crew, being offered cigarettes and a Radler (a lemony-beery drink.) Then we began to play – I think they kindly started with their more gentle repertoire to ease me in! Here are a selection of the results in the form of sound snippets. I think you can just about hear the 2 violins (I am the slow one trying to catch up!)

And here is a video –

Once again, I have the problem of not know what these tunes are or where they come from. I asked Berki about them but he also did not know the names – as they had been passed down through his family from his Mother’s, Mother’s, Mother’s, Mother etc. ! I have been able to find out more about the songs from last weekend’s Barcolando, as they all had lyrics, but music without lyrics will be more of a challenge to research!

At the end of the session, I thanked the group for letting me join them and Berki for giving me tips throughout. It was the first time someone had given me instruction on how to play since my last violin lesson (2-3 years ago) which felt quite strange but also nice. Strangely nice. He said that I had a good tone but need to practice rhythmical bowing. The melodies of these tunes aren’t so complicated but the bowing of the Gypsy Jazz style is completely new to me. And once I am more familiar with both the melodies and rhythms I can start to improvise a bit more.  It was also my first time hearing violin terminologies in Italian – the names of the strings, Sol-La-Re-Mi. Archetti lunghi (long bows) – though whilst trying to pick up the tunes and work out the meanings of new terms, I don’t think I put these into practice very well!

This encounter has made me think about teaching, learning and sharing music. In the U.K, at least, music teaching and learning tends to be a very formal experience – lessons are costly and, in a way, quite solitary. Using written musical notation, dominates the teaching methods of ‘classical’ instruments. The experience I had with these musicians was the absolute polar opposite of this – I was learning with a group, in a public place, responding solely to what I was hearing. None of the musicians had ever seen written versions of what they were playing. For me, learning to play by ear feels more organic and personable. It has a more grassroots feel – an exchange between musicians without a third party (written notation) involved. Imagining myself learning to play these tunes on my own with a score feels kind of… artificial. And also a hell of a lot less enjoyable!

Well, I have my work cut out for me – I’m off to practice.



This weekend, the biggest regatta in Italy took place in Trieste: La Barcolana.


This event attracts thousands of people from all over Europe. As well as the race on Sunday, there are other events such as markets, talks and a music festival. I was also excited for an alternative music event, Barcolando, organised by the MaxMaber Orkestar – a band I met playing in the street last week.


I thought the weekend would be the optimum moment to try busking in the centre of Trieste. Due to dreadful weather, my chances of being able to play were looking quite slim. But on Saturday I decided to bite the bullet and bring my violin out with me for the afternoon. Within minutes of leaving the house, the heavens opened and I took shelter under some scaffolding for almost an hour! Feeling a bit disheartened, I continued on my journey to look for a good place to play. My prayers were answered when the sun started to shine through the black clouds. I eventually found a spot that had a good amount of traffic and no conflicting noise (loads of restaurants and bars were blasting out music in celebration of the Barcolana) and played a half an hour set of jigs, reels and other miscellaneous tunes with a slight maritime theme. I was slightly apprehensive about playing in public by myself as I’d never done it before and the other street musicians in Trieste are all really accomplished bands – my jigs and reels seemed humble in comparison! I needn’t have worried, the performance went down very well – many people approached and thanked me, and a few made requests. I decided to give the set another go in a more densely populated area – the pier opposite the main square where all the boats were docked ready for the race on Sunday.


The performance worked equally well here – although it was much more touristy and many people were taking pics and filming me, so I started to feel like a bit of a gimmick. Maybe I was asking for it, playing the Sailor’s Hornpipe…

Overall it was quite a success, I made 30 euros – not bad for an hours playing. I have decided that I will make busking or playing in the street a regular fixture whilst I’m here. This maritime playlist was quite tailored to this event, so I’d like to experiment a bit with different playlists. I specifically chose not to play ‘classical’ pieces this time, firstly because of the maritime theme and secondly because my project is focussing on the performance of music that has primarily been passed down aurally and is not part of the western classical tradition. However, having been taught the violin using the Suzuki Method, I have a large catalogue of classical pieces committed to memory. I don’t think it would hurt to experiment with a classical playlist for busking in the future – it seems odd, even, that I would ignore this large part of my musical experience. And maybe, in the not too distant future, I will have a playlist of new pieces that I’ve learnt here.

Back to the Barcolana – I was making my way over to the Barcolando concert (leaflet above) when the crew of one of the boats, invited me on board for a glass of wine. They had heard me playing and enjoyed it so much, they invited me to join them for dinner later on in the evening in exchange for a few more tunes, which is what I was secretly hoping for!

I was slightly nervous about asking to record a few songs at the event – I didn’t know whether it would be completely out of the question. But when I approached Max (the organiser) he laughed and said “sure, everything’s free here. We’re not in Church.” No, we definitely were not in Church – we were at Piazza Cavana, in an area known as ‘la zona vecchia’ (old town) at the start of a free outdoor concert, complete with makeshift wine stand. All more or less illegal. An evening of counterculture mayhem was about to arise. Here I will give a description of the bands with some soundclips that I made.

First to play at the concert was Rosamarina, a folk group based in Trieste but playing traditional songs mainly from Southern Italy.

This performance really stood out from other music performances I’ve seen because of the integrity of the vocal delivery! You can probably hear the intensity and purposefulness of the two female singers on the recording – they were also really lively, moving around the whole performance space, dancing, interacting with each other and the audience. In modern music performance it is rare to hear voices using so much expression and singing in a different, more ‘shouty’ area of the voice. It reminded me that there are so many different ways of using the voice – it was really exciting to hear this style!

Next up was Irene Brigitte, a musician involved in various art projects in Trieste. She sings in Italian and French and played some of her own compositions with ‘world’ influences and some well known songs that the crowd joined in with.

Then there was Matteo della Schiava – a 3-piece band. Quite rock ‘n’ roll ish – and really unusual sounding with djembe and tambourine.

Stefano Schiraldi, a well known performer in Trieste, played songs in the Triestine dialect.

At this point, I went to have dinner on the boat and played them a Swedish dance, which drew quite a crowd. Hopefully they’ll send me the video and I can post it up here. I was lucky enough even to be invited to sail with them in the race the next day!!!

Back at the concert, Shukar Quartet was playing – an instrumental group I had already met busking. They play balkan and gypsy jazz tunes with a very mediterranean style.

At the top of the bill was the MaxMaber Orkestar  – a group I had also previously seen busking and who had informed me of this event. They play a mix of balkan, klezmer and italian songs. The volume on this recording is a bit wonky because I was having to dodge a spontaneous circle dance!!

After this song, I got rid of my recorder and bags etc and joined right in with the dancing.

At the end of the concert, I thanked Max and the other performers for one of the most exciting concerts of my life(!) before going home to get some sleep before the race on Sunday.

One of the things that struck me about the evening was that while most people were listening to well-known Italian performers at official Barcolana concert,



a much smaller handful of people chose to come to the Barcolando.





So I am wondering if one of the ways the performance of traditional music, or music with traditional influences continues to be played outside of mainstream music culture is to exist as a kind of musical subculture. I don’t know much about the study of subcultures – but it’s something that I want to look into. Everything about the evening was unofficial – on one hand I think this is one of the reasons why it was so creative and exciting, on the other hand I think its a shame these kind of performances don’t gain much recognition outside of the small group of people who know about them.

I am also thinking about the context of my own presence at these events. Throughout the evening, the audience joined in with many of the songs. I, of course, was hearing most of the songs for the first time. I didn’t know what they were called, or what they were about. I only knew the words to one song, which I learnt in my first week here. So one thing I would really like to do, is find out what these songs were, as I feel like a huge part of the context is missing. Hopefully as I become more familiar with Italian and the music of the performers in Trieste, I will be able to take in more than just the melodies!