Portuguese Guitar Recital

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Things to do


Date of travel

March, 2017

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“Every day except Friday and Saturday” at mid-day, 3 and 4.30 pm, including admission to the museum of the medieval town gate, was inviting as soon as we saw it. Even more so when we discovered the recital was in the Chapel of the Pregnant Virgin!

In Italy there is a chapel of the Pregnant Madonna with a miraculous early painting; in Faro, even more miraculous there is no painting so you have to imagine. As an aid to the process the entire chapel is decorated in floral tiles with high spots of imaginary birds. We had plenty of time to enjoy these as the guitarist, Joao Cuna tuned up. There were also two distinctive Coimbra guitars to look at: he was going to begin with the Lisbon version.

It should be said we nearly didn’t see or hear anything. Arriving ten minutes before noon we were told “I cannot sell you a ticket because the musician is not here. If he comes in the next ten minutes I will then be glad to sell you tickets.” As it happened, he did and we were sold tickets – in fact the only two. We had an exclusive performance that became an intimate cultural conversation.

During the tuning up we took an opportunity to enjoy the view outside as well as in, and a close up of storks’ nests above the arch. There was even a stork flying in, no doubt with the morning’s haul of fish.

There was an introductory film, in three parts separately shown for the three sections. The first was strictly historical, so we learned how the guitar – more like a lute – came into Portugal with the Moors. Joao then played us some traditional music. With just two in the audience it seemed better to tell him how much we were enjoying it than to applaud.

Coming to the Coimbran guitar, which differs from Lisbon in the shape of its head, we heard that fado there is a product of the university rather than the slums and it is not in order to applaud: proper appreciation is shown by a kind of grunt. Joao played so well we really had to grunt.

His final section consisted of recent music, including an exquisitely played tribute to a master of the previous generation. There was nothing for this but generous applause, insofar as two people could offer it. At least the tiled walls of the chapel enhanced the sound. We were able to discuss the music with him, not to mention the variations in his audiences. With profound thanks we went off to lunch at Faz Gostos in the walled city, a very fine meal with the savour of fado and another definition of the mysterious word, “Saudade” – soul indeed.

On our way from the restaurant we met Joao again, under the arch, and he was very pleased to tell the audience at 3 pm was a full house. At a mere 5 euros each, free for children, and a visit to the museum it is excellent value.


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