Letter 7

Well, I’ve just got back from a short tour of Italy with the Chieftains and it was, as expected, great fun. We started off in Rome playing in the open air in a park next to a lake. Sadly, we never seem to have enough time to really see much of the great places we get to and this was no exception as we were off first thing to Naples. This was wonderful, we were again playing outside in the evening and the view from the stage was of the Bay of Naples and as the evening went on the lights around the city and the bay grew in strength and it was quite lovely. Before the gig we went to a local restaurant where we sat outside and I was lucky enough to have a direct view of Vesuvius. During the soundcheck there was a potential disaster when out of the corner of my eye I saw something large crash to the ground falling just behind the stage, in fact, just behind Kevin. It turned out to be a huge bough of a tree that had just detached itself; it would have been fatal for anyone beneath!

Next day we drove up into the Dolomites to play near a place called Canazei- it felt very alpine and not what I would generally first think of as Italy. It was like something out of a Grimms’ fairytale book, fir trees marching up the steep shoulders of mountains with huge expanses of bare rock rearing out at the top with the villages lying in the soft valley floors. Some of the views when we wound our way up to the gig the next morning were immense; with the village we had come from dwarfed into a child’s toy at the base of the valley. We arrived at the place we were to play at to find with some surprise that it was quite ‘au naturel’ with no stage but just an awning over the grass where we were to set up. There was a huge battery to power the speakers etc and Paul the sound man was a little anxious as to how long it would last, but it managed a good two hours so all was well. It is difficult to describe the beauty of this place as it was so vast and unspoilt. On three sides were huge bare mountains rising up with waterfalls silently cascading from them hundreds of metres up in the sky. In the grass around us was a striking range of beautiful wild flowers that put England’s stewardship of it’s countryside to shame. This is how the countryside should be: cherished.

That afternoon after we finished the concert in the alps we retraced our path back down on our way to Bologna airport past ancient walled villages and castles beside mountain rivers that were the colour of eau 
de nil – I have never seen anything that colour before! We flew to Catania in Sicily the next morning and found we were playing in a wonderful castle that is being restored to it’s former glory. We were lucky enough to watch the sunset from the battlements and towers that overlooked the countryside to the sea. The trees in the gardens were obviously incredibly old and I don’t know the name of them, but they were massive with roots that were like folded buttresses spreading metres from the trunk of the tree. I took a small pod from one of the trees to try to grow it, but sadly I know it won’t like it here in Devon!

My journey home was long because I had to fly via Rome and Brussels to London and also at times it was very frightening… The last leg leaving from Brussels was delayed for a few hours because of turbulence and a lot of the air traffic around London was halted for some time. However, after a violent rainstorm, we taxi-ed to the runway where the pilot said they would have a look and see whether it would be ok to take off! They obviously felt it was cos off we went, gathering speed but being thrown from side to side down the runway – I was imagining the pilot hanging on to the controls somehow trying to keep the plane straight without much success when we took off, only to drop out of the sky and be buffeted so close to the ground that it was really alarming hoping that there was enough air beneath us; people were frightened and someone screamed very loudly, which is not a sound that is restful at any time, but in an aircraft is ghastly! However, we all arrived safely although with possibly a few more grey hairs but with great relief. And now, to working on the next TWO albums…

– Caroline Lavelle

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