Any mention of the Greek islands conjures up unforgettable images of clear blue skies, deep Mediterranean waters, and sunbathing on the sandy beaches. That was my memory of Mykonos, Naxos, and Corfu when I first ventured here as a college student.
Half a lifetime later, I return to Greece once again, no longer alone but with a Dutch guitarist, an American photographer, and an American film maker to the largest of all Greek islands: Crete. Joining us from Belgium is a Norwegian artist, also curious and brave enough to create something in the one week we have together for a possible exhibition in a museum in Brugges early next year.
Months ago when we as a duo first decided to participate in the Levka Ori project, we had sought in vain to find a venue with a piano in the ancient village of Paleochora, sometimes spelled Paleohora. Without it, any concert (if at all) would be solo guitar. And so I left my music behind in Utrecht but brought my laptop to record this journey and enjoy the last days of summer with the 2,000 inhabitants of this peninsular paradise.
On Saturday 22 August 2009, Fernand, the founder of the Levka Ori project in its 14th continuous year, introduced us to several high altitude areas in this southwestern part of Crete. We scaled various mountain tops to embrace the breathtaking panoramic views and test the acoustics only to be blown away by the strong and deafening Cretan wind. [For current conditions of temperature, wind direction and speed, check the real-time updates.]
The theme of this year’s project is WIND. What can you do with an acoustic classical guitar without amplification? We brainstormed numerous ideas: concert for guitar and wind, mosaic of guitar with wind, the wind playing the guitar, and fantasia for guitar with wind. While the other participants walked around the “Magnesia” site formulating their plans for the rest of the week, the guitarist walked from stone to stone, peak to peak, experimenting with his guitar and that fierce and unpredictable entity called the Cretan wind.
By late afternoon, we conceded that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to compete against the wind. We drove downhill and stopped at a lone Cretan church for a rest.
While inhaling the 360-degree view from this plateau, I heard the beautiful sound of solo guitar floating from the church. I posed for a memory and joined the others in the small white-washed building.
The romantic sound of nylon strings plucked against wood free from the wind welcomed us into that small space. Natural light acted as spot lights on the old mosaic floor. The guitarist stopped. He was only experimenting with chords and harmonics.
“Please play something I like,” I requested.
Outside the wind continued its roar. But inside the clean space of the Cretan church, I enjoyed a private concert of solo guitar.