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Kat’s Postcard from Calvi’s Music Festivals

This is a guest post by Kathryn Burrington.

I fell in love with Corsica, justifiable known as the island of beauty, many years ago and have been back a number of times, wherever possible, timing my visit to coincide with one of its colourful music festivals.

Earlier this year I stayed in Calvi, a wonderful seaside town, with a 500 year old citadel proudly overlooking the luxury yacht filled marina and delightful cobbled streets with numerous great restaurants nestled around the citadels base. To the north of the town centre, crystal clear turquoise waters gently lap a bay of white sand with a backdrop of pine trees and the mountains beyond – a wonderful holiday location and the perfect setting for three of Corsica's main music festivals.

Calvi Jazz Festival

Jazz Artist Orland PoleoOne of the most popular events of the year is the Calvi Jazz Festival in June. Each evening there is a ticketed concert at the foot of the citadel plus there are plenty of free concerts some held by the marina, others in the citadel and yet more in the harbour side bars carrying on into the early hours of the morning, so there's plenty going on even if you are on a tight budget. The international line-up doesn't just cover jazz. I've seen Corsican choirs, a fantastic guitar duo from Cuba (Alma and Niurka) and this year a fabulous Salsa band with Orlando Poleo whose outstanding solo stopped the dancing in it tracks as the audience stood still, transfixed by his drumming.

Calvi on the Rocks

Calvi Beach, CorsicaThe Jazz festival is closely followed in July by Calvi on the Rocks, an open-air event like no other, with an eclectic line-up aimed at a young audience. There are free parties on the beach where you can dance all afternoon in the sea, rock bands in the evening by the citadel, followed by a rave until the sunrise. An elegant yet lively music festival, it comes with a higher price tag then most but is sheer paradise for any beach loving, sun worshipping, indie and electro music fan!

Rencontres de Chanys Polyphoniques de Calvi

Later in the year Calvi’s citadel itself is the stunning setting for Rencontres de Chants Polyphoniques de Calvi held each September, which I went to for the first time this year whilst on holiday with Corsican Places. The festival is hosted by A Filleta, experts in acapella, polyphonic singing, a Corsican tradition originating in sacred music but now deeply rooted in its struggle for independence from France. It is both powerful and mysterious, serenely beautiful, joyous and gut-wrenchingly sad.

Throughout the week A Filleta were joined by various artists from around the world for concerts in the citadel's oratoire and cathedral. With tickets costing up to 25 euros I could only go to a couple of concerts, however, it was the free event on the Saturday afternoon that turned out to be the start of a truly unforgettable day.

Following the Flutist

Flutist on the island of CorsicaOn a hot sunny afternoon, on the last day of an already memorable holiday, we climbed the steps of the citadel to Place d’Armes and found a number of craft stalls but no sign of any music.

Following the flow of people from the square down a side alley we came to the 14th century oratoire and settled into our seats eagerly anticipating over 3 hours of live music by artists from Italy, Mali and Corsica. After a wonderful performance by the Italian singer, Francesca Breschi everyone got up and left!

While wondering where the next performance might be, we heard the not so distant sound of a violin and accordion. The duo was playing in the street outside. A flutist then led us through the ancient alleyways to a small square, for the Sidikiba Coulibaly Trio from Mali. The crowds soon filled up all the rows of chairs and overflowed onto walls and steps overlooking the little stage. A superb concert followed which delighted the enthusiastic audience.

As the final notes dissipated into the ancient walls, nearby singing reached our ears. Down another alley and up some steps we found a violinist and singer who led us up the street, down passed the cathedral, through the Place d’Armes and back to the Oratoire where they continued their performance. As they finished they welcomed on to the stage Daniele di Bonaventura with his bandoneon.

What a wonderful concept! A magical afternoon as one musical delight led into another and took us on a tour around the citadel and the festival wasn’t over yet… another free concert that evening – PVC Napoli Quartet’s Neapolitan folk music. With a stunning backdrop of the mountains across the marina they played tarantellas as the sun went down. We danced and clapped along.

The Festival Grand Finale

Le Trio JoubranAnd still the day wasn’t over as we had tickets for the grand finale of the festival and as we waited to go in, a spontaneous and beautiful interlude of polyphonic singing started in the bar opposite.

The first half of the concert was a real treat as many of the groups that had performed throughout the festival each did two or three numbers. The polyphonic Ensemble Imeri from Georgia was particularly outstanding.

And to finish… Le Trio Jourban, the Palestinian oud trio. The three brothers and their outstanding percussionist Yousef Hbeisch took my breath away especially when guest vocalist Dhafer Youssef joined them on stage, his haunting vocals perfectly complimenting their beautiful melodies.

The concert ended well after midnight but outside wine and food were being served and the singing continued into the early hours – a wonderful end to the most amazing day!

Have you been to Corsica? Did you attend the Calvi Music Festival?

This was a guest post by Kathryn Burrington. If you are interested in writing a guest post why not write for us.