Nearly ten years ago while on tour with the Paul Winter Consort we met and collaborated with an amazing group of musicians from Galicia, Spain who played celtic music indigenous to this region. The group’s name is Milladoiro, and I instantly fell in love with their music. For several years after that, I had begun writing some of my music with the idea of future collaboration with them in mind, should the opportunity ever present itself.

 

Milladoiro consists of eight musicians: Moncho on percussion; Anton on keyboards, accordion, and guitar; Pep� on pipes and oboe; Xos� on flute; Nando on pipes and whistles; and new members Man� on Guitar and Bouzouki; Roi on harp, and Harry on violin. These are superb musicians who play their music with flair and vivacity, borrowing from the ancient celtic music of their region and transforming it into modern renditions while maintaining the original authenticity. They are a pioneering group responsible for bringing celtic music of the Galicia region back into the current culture some 25 years ago, and they remain the premiere group in the region today.

The long-awaited idea of another collaboration with them began January 2005, when I was asked by the group if I would record with them on their upcoming CD. Of course the answer was an easy yes, and thanks to modern technology I received a CD mixdown of two pieces they wanted me to play flutes on. They didn’t say anything about what they were specifically looking for from me on these tracks, so I had the freedom to invent whatever flute lines I thought added to the music. I recorded all this in my studio here in Michigan straight into my computer, and then sent them my finished tracks on a CD for them to “fly in” to their larger mix and do as they pleased with them.

 

Months went by and Milladoiro’s manager Quique—a beautiful soul who speaks at least four languages fluently— contacted me again to ask if I would perform with them in Spain for the release of this new recording, entitled “Milladoiro: 25” (25th anniversary recording). Another easy yes, we would finally get to re-unite in person after all these years! In June, 2005, I flew to Santiago de Compostela, Spain and we had a great reunion both personally and musically. Strengthening of previous relationships and happy new friendships with Roi, Harry, and Man� ensued.

 

The concert was held in an exquisite old theater (seats approx. 3000) in Vigo. Three more soloists besides myself joined Milladoiro in this concert, as they also had done for the recording: the wonderful celtic fiddle player Eileen Ivers (violinist from the original Riverdance show), Italian singer Claudia Ferronato, and Galician piper Susana Seivane. All-women soloists joined with an all-male group— perfect chemistry for everyone!

Besides the tunes that we each recorded with Milladoiro, we all performed en masse at the finale which brought the house down. It was like one vast community celebration, with music as the feast we all shared. In addition to the great music, Milladoiro puts on a stellar visual show with state-of-the-art lighting. This concert was so much fun that during the reception, we four soloists were asked if we would like to return again at the end of July to play two more shows with Milladoiro.

In July, we had the good fortune of playing outdoors, which is definitely one of my favorite venues due to being so much part of the natural world while making music from the depths of your soul. The first concert was held in La Coruna in an ancient plaza walled-in by luxurious apartment buildings on three sides, and an ancient, ornate government Hall directly behind the newly-raised stage. For this production, they had a six-camera shoot for a future DVD release, and two large video screens for the audience to enjoy close-ups of the band during performance. It was another magical evening, ensconced in music of pure beauty, and looking up from the plaza walls while playing and seeing the sparkling stars in the night sky. The finale ‘en masse’ collaboration ended with fireworks, true to Milladoiro’s flair for the spectacular.

After this show, we all went out and experienced a little night life in Santiago, getting to bed around 5 a.m.! I am told that this is the typical hour of “turning in” from the night life in Spain�.thank goodness we had the next day off!

Our second show was in Moana, also an outdoor concert with an ocean bay directly behind the stage, so the audience faced the water while facing the stage. They had tents set up for the band “green room” right next to the stage. Quique humorously said, “step into my office, please”, as we entered the tents to see an enormous spread of fresh seafood and tortillas. This night was very different than the La Coruna show, as the weather had turned unseasonably cold. And I do mean cold. Unfortunately, I had only brought hot-weather clothing, so I nearly froze except when I was on stage under the hot lights.

The Moana concert was different in that Eileen Ivers’ group of four, Immigrant Soul, opened for Milladoiro. Eileen is one of the most talented musicians I know, iconoclastic just as a great musician ought to be. Their show started at 10 p.m., and the Milladoiro show began at midnight. Typical Spanish hours, but definitely not easy if you aren’t used to it. It was great getting to hang out with all of these folks in the tent chatting about music, touring, life, instruments, etc. We were one large group of people with completely kindred spirits, getting to know one another in English (the Americans), Spanish and Galician (Milladoiro group, though both Roi and Harry speak English very well), and also Italian, which worked well if you couldn’t remember the Spanish words (thanks to my husband Lee’s fluent Italian). I spoke a short bit of Spanish to the audiences on both of these shows, but on this show the members of Milladoiro taught me how to say what I wanted to say in Galician instead of Spanish. The only thing I got wrong was the name of the town, as I forgot where we were, so I just made something up�with an “Americana” accent like mine, they probably didn’t know the difference.

After this show we went to a pub nearby where many fans were waiting with their instruments for a jam session with Eileen and her group. This was priceless, people playing music they were hearing for the first time, including Eileen. No one there wanted to leave despite repeated pleadings from the establishment (it was about 3 a.m. already), until finally the owners turned out the outside lights (where we all were seated), and we were forced to say good-bye to one another: a great day, fantastic music, wonderful friends, and a memorable mini-tour.

After leaving Spain, Lee and I returned to Italy where I performed a solo concert a few days later, and was treated to an entirely different cultural experience in Casperia, Italy. This was also an outdoor concert in a piazza in front of a church, which began at 10 p.m. It was a beautiful, memorable time hearing the flute echo off the stone buildings, and basking in the sultry temperature and moon-lit night. I don’t speak Italian very well, but I say what I can in Italian, and then switch to English and Lee translates for the audience. After one of my more involved and metaphorical stories that went on for a bit, it occurred to me as I was speaking that the significance of my words might be difficult to translate. When it was finally Lee’s turn to translate, he simply responded, “oh, Dio!” (oh, God!). After a hearty round of laughter, we just left it at that, letting the music work its magic of speaking universally as it pleased to each individual soul, while participating together as one body.

I can’t think of anything finer than to live this traveling-minstrel music life, visiting other cultures and meeting new family members, as it were, all over the world. A day never goes by that I don’t thank God for the privilege of what I get to do!

 

—Rhonda
January 2006