At the end of November 2011, I played a concert in a synagogue in Wrocław, Poland, as part of the Wrocław Guitar Festival.
What made this gig stand out was a convergence of things I love: travel, international culture, language, food, drink and nightlife, not to mention a professionally-orchestrated introduction to a new audience in a great European country.
I did four interviews in a row the afternoon of the show, for two internet blogs, a radio station and a newspaper, as well as a television interview in the evening before going on.
I was impressed by the research and thoughtfulness that went into the interview questions, clearly designed to elicit interesting answers and insights into what I do, how I do it and why I do it.
The venue for the show was a beautiful, historic 19th Century synagogue with an oval-shaped ceiling and galleries that had been recently restored after decades of neglect.
The sound was magnificent.
The experience of playing for my first Polish audience at the sold-out show was astounding.
They were an exceptionally appreciative, enthusiastic all-ages audience who seemed to take everything in and thoroughly enjoy themselves.
At the end of the show I was presented on stage with a rose.
The audience asked for an encore, which I gave them. Then they gave me a standing ovation.
Not sure if it was because it was the last show of a great year of shows, or because it was my first show in a new country, or because of how awesomely warm and wonderful they were, but the audience’s response filled me with emotion and it was difficult to hold back tears.
After the show I was taken to dinner in a restaurant across a beautiful medieval courtyard from the synagogue, where I was treated to mushroom soup, stewed rabbit, wine, and vodka flavored with special grass from an area of Poland inhabited by wild buffalo.
Later, I wandered the cobbled streets and alleys of the old section of Wrocław, visiting atmospheric bars, taking snapshots of street scenes, buildings and cafés, and sampling more Polish food.
I was greeted several times in my wanderings by people who had been at the concert. They expressed enthusiasm and gratitude for what they had experienced.
I thanked them back.
On the way back to the hotel (at 3am) two women — one Polish and the other from France — stepped out of a bar and invited me in.
They had been to the concert and bought my cd “Ladies Night”.
I spent the next three hours there, drinking. conversing, laughing and relaxing.
Beata, the Polish woman, got the deejay in the bar to play her copy of “Ladies Night” over the house system.
People already on the dance floor danced to it, not noticing it was a solo acoustic guitar record.
It was a Bohemian experience befitting the locale of Wrocław, a region of Europe once known as Bohemia.
When I headed back to the hotel at 6am the bar was in full swing.
“When does this place close?” I asked the bartender.
He answered, “It doesn’t.”
I arrived back at the hotel feeling a combination of tired, energized and happy.
I fell asleep smiling. Ah. What a day. What a night.
The phone rang abruptly at 10am.
I was needed downstairs for a television interview.
I negotiated 45-minutes to shower, dress and wake up, then went downstairs where the interview was filmed in the hotel bar.
The interviewer (for the local news channel) asked me how I liked the audience at my show (loved them), and what I thought of Poland (loved it).
I think I appeared to be happy.
I spent the afternoon exploring the huge Christmas market that took up much of the pedestrianized center of the old section of Wrocław. It was a lovely sunny day, unseasonably warm for Poland in November.
That evening I attended the main event of the festival, the legendary Paco de Lucia and his band performing for six thousand people at the Halle Stulecia, an amazing early 20th Century edifice made entirely of poured concrete.
After the concert, I had dinner with them along with the hard-working festival personnel and invited guests. At the conclusion of the meal a flamenco guitar was put in my hands by one of the band members and I was asked to play something.
I played “Ladies Night” and “Shinkansen”.
They liked it :^)
Thanks to Aleksandra Furtak for photos 2-5 and 8. http://www.pracowniafotografii.athanor.pl/.