Swiftly in Segovia

Brent and I swept through Spain much too quickly. Salamanca and Segovia became casualties of Brent’s need to leave the Schengen Area and both left wonderful impressions on me – perhaps due in part to the brevity of our sojourn there. We didn’t stay beyond the honeymoon phase. We spent two hours all told in Salamanca so I don’t have much to say about it except to note its American student infestation and the very pretty cathedral door. Segovia might be a perfect place except for the dryness. Gorgeous views everywhere. Rock climbing surrounding the town. The aqueduct. Well, we did encounter some awful, ignorant youth who bugged us about being rich and knowing kungfu.

I dallied on this post as I hoped our hostel friends might write a guest post for me. Though the owners of the hostel and thus not our hosts, they felt very much like hosts and friends – thereby becoming my favourite hostel experience ever. Sadly they don’t have enough guests, so if ever you go to Segovia (or Spain, for that matter), make sure to stop at Duermevela Hostel. Es muy majo. As soon as I checked in, they invited me to jam with them in their lovely, sheltered little patio. An accordion and two guitars – playing music freely, with no traces of ego. I let my violin acclimatize to the low humidity for half an hour before I joined them for an hour, laying the foundation in that short time of what we’d play the next day. Simple jazz and i-don’t-know-the-genre-european-folk-sounding tunes with cascading mathematical melodies for the most part. Simon & Garfunkel. Songs from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie, Take 5. When Brent and I returned from a night on the town (food crawling down 4 different restaurants) we played again for hours and hours, passing the guitar around and singing in English, Spanish, and other random languages. They taught me the typical Andalusian cadence (apparently Phrygian), and even the typical Flamenco rhythm: uno DOS uno dos TRES cuatro cinco SEIS siete OCHO nueve DIEZ

All leading, of course, to a feeling that I absolutely needed to busk while in Segovia. So despite the heat and the dryness I trotted off with them the next day with guitar and violin and banjo and accordion and kazoo in tow, to the main pedestrian drag of town. We went at a particularly bad (hot, low traffic) time, but didn’t really care. When we saw a pair of Spaniards singing Down by the Riverside all wrong in our predetermined spot just past the aqueduct, we asked to join them and they acquiesced. (A note: do Spaniards have a love affair with American folk music? Many I’ve met seem to know them far better than I do; our hostel friends and theses other buskers being no exception, with an entire repertoire of Americana played… strangely.)

I allowed my violin some more time to acclimatize again, with the humidity down to 40%. My friends joined in a bit awkwardly but when I finally felt my violin was ready and began to play, we amassed an enormous crowd. Around forty people stood around us as we haltingly swapped solos. Many Chinese. Who stared at me. Confused. Who took out their cameras. Took videos. Didn’t tip. Ok, one small tip. Even when I played Horse Racing for them (as the original pair packed up). It didn’t matter, though, really. All the non Asians tipped very generously. We didn’t take any of this money though, and let the Americana pair claim it all.

A very interesting pitch for just the trio of myself, banjo and accordion (with occasional voice). This pitch underscored the value of preparedness, togetherness, prior practice. Our reception (both monetary and otherwise) varied directly with our comfort with the song. Our cute repetitive tunes didn’t do terribly well. Anything I followed on fell largely flat. Things I led went better. Songs we all felt comfortable with went brilliantly. We managed to draw a new crowd for Excuses and an even bigger one for our very energetic Country Roads after I switched to guitar.

Busking with guitar again felt comfortable and familiar. I feel so much safer singing with guitar. Guitar is such a normal thing – people have heard bad guitar and voice often enough that any amount of superior quality already arrests positive attention. Vaguely in tune? Great job! You can play more than 2 power chords? You’re so good at guitar! Violin, on the other hand, feels terrifying each time. One false note, one squeak, any tiny mistake and people judge right away. Violin is so exposed. Most people have only heard excellent violin players.

The whole pitch exuded positivity. Even my worry about my violin’s health couldn’t keep me down. Here are the notable tippers:

An old man who listened for a while, came around the corner to tip, then went back to listen again.
One pair of businessmen asked my hostel friends what song we’d just played. Surprised when I responded Tres Notas Para Decir Te Quiero
Explaining to some people that “Estamos calentando” cracked me up.
Songs played too quickly, but perhaps more fun that way.
La Cucaracha
Two of my own sngs
Ending with Trapeze Swinger

Earnings: 13,14€, 1.5 hours

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