Gwendolyn Toth

Gwendolyn Toth is the director of the New York City-based early music ensemble, ARTEK, and a soloist on early keyboards (organ, harpsichord, fortepiano). She is married to harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, and they have three children.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Concert in Serra San Quirico

Italy, after all the other countries, felt like another world. Pasta! and more pasta! And...a fabulous 1676 organ beautifully restored by Andrea Pinchi.

We are staying at a church house (spartan, but clean and comfortable) and eating at the one Serra San Quirico restaurant (this is a SMALL town) compliments of Don Michele, the local pastor. We arrive late on Saturday, and my concert was Sunday at 6 pm, so we spent some time on Sunday taking a stroll to the top of the hill - this is a typical Italian medieval hilltop village - and the rest of the time I prepared for my concert. Attendance was not high, and my daughter Samantha sat in the back thinking she might sell some CDs...but instead she fielded questions about what was going on (it's a concert, "e un concerto di organo") to the many people who wandered in, walked around, then sat for a bit...then left...maybe coming back again a while later...I don't think an organ concert is a frequent happening in this village! (Pity.) Andrea Pinchi and his daughter joined us for the concert. He got to pull on the Voce humana stop for me, which required super-human two-hands strength. No singer, so I adapted the program to just include two small bits of the Merula mass, and instead played some more soloistic pieces by Gabrieli, Cavazzoni, and Luzzaschi.

After the concert, we drove with Andrea and his daughter about 2 hours back to his home near Foligno, where we spent the night. Dinner: OK, the best wine is in Montefalco, so we MUST go there.

Hm, Andrea's favorite Montefalco restaurant is too busy that night, so (after a brief and surprising pause to view scantily-clad Brazilian dancers on the Montefalco town Square!) we head back to the car (passing a half dozen perfectly adequate looking restaurants) to proceed to another favorite restaurant in yet another town. Too bad! Just closing (it's 10:30 pm at this point)...There are 4 other restaurants right nearby, many with people whom Andrea greeted a friends, but we could not eat there. "I cannot be sure that they are good!" Andrea explained. Okay.

Here in Europe people take eating MUCH more seriously than home, where we'd head to the nearest Chipotle at any sign of incipient hunger. So, next we went to yet another town where Andrea's favorite pizzeria was located (now 11 pm). Success! After more or less begging the owner, since she was about to close down, she agreed to serve us. ("Only pizzas!" she said severely.) NO PROBLEM! We had a great meal and returned to Andrea's home, where he showed us pictures of his art (exhibited at Venice Biennale) made from recycled bits of organs left over from restorations.

Here, a short clip from the concert.

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