One successful Sunday of busking in Napoli had lifted our spirits, renewed our hope, and raised our expectations. After so many failures, Sean and I had been prepared to throw in the towel and move on, but everything changed, now that we’d found the perfect place to play. It was tempting to return to our new-found busking haven at the top of the hill the very next day, but we managed to restrain ourselves. We were exhausted from our four plus hours of playing the day before and we wanted to save our energy for the more busk-able days later in the week. Besides, we couldn’t wait to visit Pompei!
We spent Monday and Tuesday playing tourist, first admiring the many paintings, mosaics, and artifacts that are now housed at the archeological museum in Napoli, and then wandering around the ancient ruins of Pompei, in complete awe of everything we encountered. On Wednesday, we checked the weather, and were disappointed to see cold, rainy, storms predicted for the forcastable future. No matter, we thought. We’ll be on the ball, ready to play at a moment’s notice. Any time there’s a break in the rain, we’ll seize the opportunity. Unfortunately, the forecast was annoyingly accurate. We made a few trips up to the top of the hill in the funicolare , venturing out in moments of sunshine, but the rain always set in as soon as we stepped out of the station at the top of the hill.
By Saturday morning we still hadn’t been able to play, so when the rain cleared up after breakfast, we rushed to get dressed and get out there. For some reason, however, (perhaps having more faith in the weather than we should have) we chose to check out the seaside before heading up the hill. Unfortunately, the seaside was completely abandoned. Perhaps Napolitans were more aware of the fickle weather than we were and weren’t willing to commit to a day by the sea that might be ruined by a storm at any minute. Realizing our mistake, we hurried to the funicolare, hoping that our fave street wasn’t already filled with other buskers. At the top of the hill, we heard the sound of a band grow louder as we approached the street, but were happy to find that it was our friend Jimmy and the Napolitan musicians we had played with the week before. They were excited to see us, and asked if we would sit in and play with them for just one song, as they had a drummer and mandolin player with them this time who were eager to play with us too. Of course, just as we started to get ready to play….. it started raining again. Jimmy immediately launched into a pleading rendition of “I Can See Clearly now, the Rain is Gone,” but to no avail. The rain was there to stay. We hung out with them for awhile under a nearby awning, exchanging busking stories and advice, until it was clear that the weather wasn’t going to improve. We returned to our hostel to spend the rest of the afternoon working on arrangements for some of our original songs, a satisfying way to spend a rainy Saturday.
It wasn’t until Sunday evening that the weather behaved well enough that we could play again. We had a wonderful set, kept a crowd for a few hours, and made some new friends, with only minimal painful freezing involved. As we packed up our instruments that night, we realized that might have been our last day of busking for quite awhile, as the forecast was rain, rain, and more rain for the next several days.
These circumstances, completely out of our control, caused us to change our plans. We like to be efficient with the way we spend our time in energy. For example, we almost never play on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, using those days for sightseeing, rehearsing, writing, etc. but when the prime busking time on the weekend comes, we play as much as we can, taking advantage of the large crowds of people who are happy to slow down and enjoy their recreational time. Applying this stratagem to a larger period of time, i.e. the seasons, namely WINTER, we have arrived at the decision that, barring a freakishly sunny and warm day, we should save our busking energies until we can get to a warmer place, and find other, more efficient ways to spend our time for now.
While it isn’t very fun to put on every article of clothing you own in attempt to make yourself warm enough to play for the crowds of people that are too cold to stop and listen to you anyway, it’s amazingly fun to spend cold rainy days holed up inside, working on new original music. Up until now, Sean and I have spent most of our musical energy together crafting perfect arrangements of other people’s songs. We find the right key for our voices and instruments, spend hours composing the most satisfying vocal harmonies, choose the best chord voicings, and craft violin lines that weave through it all, even going as far as adding fiddle tunes, composing riffs, or even occasionally tweaking the melody. We’re very compatible musical partners in that we both want every detail, every note, of every song we perform to be just right – the best arrangement we can make. This has resulted in hours and hours of rehearsals devoted to giving our tender loving care to songs that we didn’t write- raising someone else’s babies. Since we’re both song writers, each with many original songs sitting around waiting for our attention, it might seem strange that we’ve put so much energy into creating such particular arrangements of cover songs, but that year of arranging experience was neccesary in figuring out who we are as a duo—and what types of things we look for in a song. And now that we finally have the time, we can apply everything we’ve learned to our own music. During the rainy day rehearsals of the past few weeks we’ve completed arrangements of a few original songs, and started many more. The process of playing new songs together has been so fun and inspiring that it’s motivated both of us to finish songs that have been laying around, waiting for that final bit of effort.
So it goes. If we can’t play, we’ll spend our time dreaming about it, and planning for the time when that summer weather finally comes again.
Or we could just find a warmer continent.