Earlier this summer while in Porto for a conference: Monika says ‘why don’t you join us?’ ‘What?’ say I. ‘We’re going to Casa da Musica,’ she says. I go along too. We don’t know what we’re going to see. ‘Perhaps we can eat there too.’
We arrive and the place looks empty. We go in. There doesn’t seem to be any concert on. ‘Oh yes,’ says the young lady at the desk. ‘Vitorino. It should’ve been in June, but was cancelled. It’s tonight.’ None of us know Vitorino, but we buy tickets.
The Casa da Musica is a Rem Koolhaas building, iconic in a way, symbolic for Porto. It’s certainly impressive. We eat in the restaurant on the top. We’re lucky we’re early – it soon fills up. Will we be served in time? We take the menu of the day – and it’s great, even if I can’t remember now. And they serve delightfully in time for the concert.
Good seats in the auditorium. The age of the audience tells us Vitorino is a singer with a past. He arrives and sings clearly a well-recognized song, solo, no accompaniment. Yes, definitely a classic: Laurinda. It generates great warmth.
Vitorino brings on his musicians – excellent all of them – tending towards jazz at times, like the French chansons of the 1960s and 1970s too. He doesn’t move much when he sings – maybe because he’s 70 – but his voice is perfect. He sings of the Alentejo and Portuguese people. He sings of the victims of change, the people left out. I thought I could hear the voices of the Carnation Revolution of 1974, or so it seems. And the ageing audience – I felt at home – enthused wildly: they knew all the words. Especially the anti-slavery song of Brazil, Queda do Império. And so did I by the end it seemed.
An eye-opening experience – quite different from the fado. But then browsing in the FNAC in Porto I am confronted by Carminho. The large screen dominates – Carminho succeeds in stopping everyone in their tracks. I can’t resist buying. The magnificent Lagrimas do ceu, but you really need to see the version on the DVD Alma. Or Talvez. And she’s singing on Bonn on December 5.
And then a couple of nights later I went to Cafe Guarany – my last night. The only live music I could find that didn’t start after midnight – I had to get up earlier the next morning. Fado, they said. Joana Costa sang more than fado: Italian, Spanish, even a French and an English song – she had to compete with tourists who couldn’t understand and who wouldn’t stop their incessant chatter for a single song. And she had to entertain them through their dinner. An admirable struggle. Listen to Recado the title song from her CD (a poor quality YouTube video though). I was surprised to learn from Joana that she is a psychologist who works with children with dyslexia and ADHD: she could easily have been at our writing conference. She would have been doubly in place.
Three wonderful entries to musica da Porto.