The other day, Nigel Redden, Spoleto USA’s General Director, talked about how Spoleto envelops and transforms the Holy City. He mentioned that Gian Carlo Menotti, founder of the Italian Spoleto festival, had envisioned an experience where you might run into festival artists anywhere — “you would see performers in the cafe.”
It’s a charming notion, this fortunate encounter idea. It actually happened to me.
But not in a cafe. It was in a side street near the Galliard as I was heading back to my car from the Virgínia Rodrigues concert. And the artist in question wasn’t sequestered with a frothy cappuccino. She was riding her bicycle.
I’d heard a sweet voice behind me, singing in Spanish. Just a block or two away from Calhoun, the street was quiet enough to let a breeze carry that voice in my direction. I had to stop and ask the singer who she was, what she was singing.
“An old Spanish folk song,” she said. It was Susana Behar and her husband making their way to a post-show nosh over on King Street. They were a charming couple. And willing to chat.
We compared notes on the Virgínia Rodrigues show, talked a little about Behar’s Cuban roots, her gigs in and around Miami, about how tango is a world-wide phenomenon. She told me a story about a young Japanese musician whom she’d met during a concert tour of that country. Behar had been bowled over by this girl’s talent with a traditional tango instrument — Astor Piazzola’s baby — the bandoneon. It’s a difficult instrument to play. The Japanese musician had wanted to further her bandoneon studies and eventually, she made her way to Miami, to study with a master bandoneonista in Behar’s hometown. “Full circle,” Behar noted.
I love that Spoleto encounters like these are not just charming notions but real possibilities.
I’d joked to Behar that hearing her sing her way down the street and meeting her in this way were things that only happen to me. “And me!” she laughed.
Perhaps it’s happened to you, too, as you’ve bopped around these Spoleto-filled streets. Got a story about a chance meeting? Share it in the comments.
And be sure to check in with Ms. Behar and flamenco guitarist Jose Luis Rodriguez playing tonight at City Gallery at Waterfront Park. Based on my street encounter preview, it’s going to be a great show.
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.