Saronno – Jan 2017

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I am just back from Saronno in Italy where Marco Lo Muscio and I gave a concert as part of their Concerti Spirituali series.

Marco at the consoleInstead of the usual massed ranks of organ pipes , it was unusual to see Marco sat  with a laptop and PA system. He was using the amazing Hauptwerk organ program that gives digital reproductions of some of the well-known pipe organs from around the globe. This was from a church in France and I have to say the sound was amazing!

As ever our programme was very varied ranging from baroque to progressive rock.  Marco began with the virtuosic Toccata in A minor by Rick Wakeman .  I then played Gluck’s wonderful flute solo Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo and a sonata by Telemann. After that Marco played some of his own evocative pieces before we launched into some Genesis favourites such as Hairless Heart and After the Ordeal. We like to mix it up!

Then it was the turn of some King Crimson material with Moonchild which works really well on flute and Talk to the Wind. We finished with Marco’s towering Visions from Minas Tirith before an encore of Fanfare for the Common Man.

Thanks to Julio Mercati, Don Alberto and the people of Saronno for their very warm reception.

John & Marco

Visions of Angels

Angel orchestraAt Julio’s suggestion the following morning my wife, Katrin, and I visited the famous Santuario della Beata Vergine dei Miracoli. I have seen a few churches in my time but the dome here has to be seen to be believed. It depicts an orchestra of some fifty angels playing various instruments. One was playing two wind instruments at the same time which immediately prompted Katrin to speculate that this was where David Jackson got his double saxophone idea .

Verdi's tombThen it was back to Milan to stay with our friends Giorgio and Sol Gabriel of The Watch. While out for a walk we stumbled across the place where I hope to spend my twilight years – the Casa Verdi or to give it its full name Casa di Riposo per Musicisti. It is a rest home for musicians founded by the composer Giuseppe Verdi (Joe Green to his English friends) with what today would be the equivalent of millions of euros. It still provides accommodation for musicians, as many as a hundred men and women. Apparently Verdi left instructions that his royalties should go towards supporting the enterprise for many years to come and to this day many other donors have lent their support.

In the crypt lie Verdi’s mortal remains next to those of his wife. In the distance echoing round the courtyard we could hear someone practising the piano. Good to know the music still goes on.

John outside Casa Verdi
Just before catching our flight back we managed a trip to the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio (St. Ambrose). We marvelled at the fifth century oratory of San Vittore in the Golden Sky,  a ceiling of gold mosaic. But the most moving sight was the nativity scene made by Italian prisoners of war in a German concentration camp at Wietzendorf in 1944. The clothing of the shepherds and wise men was made from scraps of cloth from whatever they could find with a star over the baby Jesus literally made from barbed wire.

Italian prisoners of war Nativity