If you have not been to Anghiari then I heartily recommend that you give it a go. Perched atop a hill and looking down over the valley below (the Giardino del Vicario is the bar to go to for this as the sun sets and the swallows wheel and dive) it is a compact but welcoming place in the arms-open sense, and if you can deal with the notion that most of it seems to lie uphill from where you currently nurse your birra media, then you will get along just fine.
Time it right and you will bump into some event or other, perhaps to do with the local pasta, the battle that took place on the plain below, the theatre, or, of course, music. The Festival at the end of July is the focus of my work there, but the weekend just gone saw the running of the annual maratona corale, a gathering of enthusiastic and, some might say, wildly overoptimistic singers, banding together to learn Mozart’s Mass in C minor in an impossibly short time.
Anghiari has an attraction for singers from dear old Blighty, of course, for who would not want to study one of the masterworks of the choral repertoire in such a beautiful place, and then retire to Bar Baldaccio before falling into the clutches of one of the locals and being lured to the Bar Teatro for an ill-advised grappa or three? What it also does, however, is give the unbridled joy of music making to many of the singers from the area who otherwise might not have the opportunity to tackle such an imposing piece of music.
The rhythm of the weekend has become familiar to me over the years, the late-Saturday optimism replaced by mid-Sunday consternation as the choir struggles to get to grips with the vast and cavernous acoustic of the Propositorio and the difficulties of staging and performing therein. Then the late-Sunday relief and joy that under Simon’s direction, and despite fugal wobbles, we all made it, and the notion that the Festival performance will be so much more secure as a result, for while the maratona is an event in itself, it acts also as a dry run for the July performance of the work.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that the social aspect of the weekend, and of the Festival, is an important, nay, integral part of what makes it special, because the welcome of the locals is effusive and genuine, of course, but the joy of the visitors, especially first-timers, is always a delight to behold. Despite all my promises to myself of early nights and sticking to the acqua minerale, it never quite happens, such is the allure, the pull of the fun to be had, and while I am glad to be able to write this from the calm of my terrace, part of me would still be happy to be sitting outside Baldaccio’s greeting friends with a salve! and watching the world go by, with the promise of making more music together.