It was around 8 o’clock when our bus turned into the road to Salamis ruins where cars had already parked right from the beginning and masses of people on the road forced the cars wanting to go further to reduce speed to nearly zero. The concert was to start at 9 pm only and we wondered how far the bus would get. The first concert of the 2009 International Art and Culture Festival organised by Famagusta Municipality was opening with Celtic Music Queen Loreena McKennitt. It had been announced very late this year and nobody knew where to get the tickets. According to an interview she gave to Cyprus Today, she was approached by a Greek Cypriot official source to shy her off from coming to this side of the island for her concert. But, she said, if we touring music people would shy off every time we get a warning, there would be no touring at all in the world. Furthermore, she said, I live in a free country, in multinational and -cultural Canada, where everybody is respected. Good of her and her group to pass on this message.
We came in time to find good seats in the side blocks and also those filled up in no time. I have never seen the amphitheatre so full for any concert here. In the end people settled down in the sandy area in front of the stage. It was getting dark, only some coloured stage spot lights raced over the audience, and people were having more difficulties watching their steps. A humming noise like heat waves caused by I would guess 5000 souls floated up to the still starless sky, rising to a crescendo whenever a dark figure crept up the steps to the stage. Photographers and TV people crowded around the stage, others were not allowed there. No use taking photos from up where we were.
Around us bottles of wine were uncorked, finger food offered around, cameras flashed. Then finally a big spotlight…No, not the Celtic Queen yet but the Mayor of Famagusta, Oktay Kayalp, was opening the Festival 2009.
Then a big golden movement of bushy hair on top of a petite person accompanied by a bright spotlight and there she was, Loreena McKennitt, the idol of many in the arena, telling us in over two hours the saga of Celtic migration through half the world. Celtic music, Irish music, legends, their legendary people wandering endlessly under the stars on horseback, on foot, living the life of nomads, arousing some wonderful pain in our breasts. I was not surprised when I read that once she was part of the Irish group The Chieftains; it is just the same kind of music. She is a “thoroughbred” musician, with a crystal clear voice, jumping from plucking the harp, the guitar, the accordion, to mastering the piano and the keyboards.
I would never have thought that the Cypriots would be so enthusiastic and so well informed, they knew all the titles and their bodies moved in tune with the songs, especially when Loreena sang some Turkish influenced songs. She has worked some time in Turkey, I was told.
I will not repeat her life story here, you can easily look it up in the announcement of the concert under my “cultural events”, under the date of appearance, a whole page for you to study.
We all loved the evening, it was somehow magic. If you have seen the film series “The Lord of the Rings”… Loreena with her voice and appearance could have stepped out of this scenery, being one of the elf people. The musicians of her team were the best, especially to be mentioned are Caroline Lavalle on the cello and Hugh Marsh on the fiddle – and he did fiddle away -, they had voices of their own, much appreciated by the audience. Out of fairness I should mention the other excellent musicians who were Brian Hughes on the guitar, Ben Grossman on the oud and bouzouki, Clive Dreamer on drums, bassist Simon Edwards and Stratis Psaradellis on the lyra.
But I must confess and although I am a dreamer myself and love to be taken through fairyland and old music, the tunes were all so much alike, and just at one level of voice – how much I enjoyed three songs which were performed just by herself on the piano in a lower tune. Fans may throw stones at me! No doubt, she has a most fantastic voice!
What an evening! An event to announce the hot summer season, the right place to celebrate it with a soft breeze from the sea and the eternal Salamis stars; they must have witnessed similar events in the same arena under the old Roman regime and I am sure there were no man-eating lions to enjoy the masses.
24 happy festival guests went to look for their bus, yavaz, yavaz, not like so many who had left ten minutes before the concert had ended – they have missed a most welcomed encore – and the slow tuning down of noises, the slow movement, sort of backward movement of a vivid mass of bodies, and then having for a moment the arena just for yourself.
The moon was up, half moon, when we had settled in our seats, happy and satisfied, having another glass of wine to affirm the fact that we were driven home, and Irene Raab Marancos from Kaleidoskop Turizm said quite rightly: We must do it again! And our neighbours Alan and Sylvie said: we would never have gone under our own steam.
And while many of the guests were dreaming or sleeping I found an historian sitting in my neighbor row and we talked about God and the world.