Sardinian Extravaganza part 2 – London

Written by | Festivals, London Calling, News, Reviews

Remember I told you I attended the Theatralia Jazz Festival in Alghero (Sardinia – Italy), at the end of September, a part 1 of 2 of a new cultural and musical exchange between two islands: Sardinia and the UK.

Well, here I am reporting back on part 2 of this incredible festival, a true Sardinian Extravaganza organized majestically since 2013 by Sardinian born, vocalist, composer and producer, Filomena Campus.

The London tranche of the Festival spread over two nights in the middle of what I would definitely call a very mild November, held at Pizza Express Jazz in Soho, it was a full house on both nights. One of the tables was taken by VIPs attending from Alghero, like, for example, the Mayor, Mr Mario Bruno, whom together with Filomena Campus and Ross Dines (Manager of Pizza Express in Soho) took to the stage to open up the show with a brief introduction. On the second night, it was Gabriella Esposito, Deputy Mayor of Alghero who appeared on stage with Filomena Campus, whom, translating for Esposito, on what was the main message of this incredible enterprise: a cultural and musical exchange, vital to our countries, our people and our growth.

The first night at Pizza Express saw the two Alghero musicians, Salvatore Maltana (on double-bass) and Marcello Peghin (on guitar) arrive at the jazz club directly from the airport for sound-check. A smooth session, always professional and down-to-earth, the duo performed a few tracks together with guest vocalist Marta Capponi and Cleveland Watkiss MBE, vocalist, composer and now also Professor of Voice Studies at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in Greenwich, one of the most beautiful places to study and teach in London!

Time to rehearse came and went, the crowd gathered fast and the show started. It was rewarding to see how many people had come to see the Sardinian Extravaganza “in the flesh”. An evening of absolute magic: Italian singer, now based in London, Marta Capponi, raised the bar to a point where every single note she sang sent shivers down my spine, hers was the power to move or get the audience smiling. With a varied play list, traditional songs like “Ave Maria” or “Tarantella per Ralph” (M. Peghin) were performed with a passion which, at times, is hard to describe post-gig. When, for example, the traditional piece “No potho reposare” was sung, Capponi made sure the air stood still in the room, every single eye was on her, no distractions, a total sense of fluidity and joy at the same time. This is the power of her beautiful voice.

When the second set started, Cleveland Watkiss took to stage with his VoiceLive Touch: working mainly with this voice, multi-layering and improvising, he got the audience to follow him throughout. With reverbs, loops and echoes, one of the messages that came through loud and clear was one of bewilderment on what and how music is taught… His rendition of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” was strong, unique and piercing.

Capponi and Watkiss ended the show by performing a moving version of the famous anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao”. I actually have vivid memories of learning this particular piece at school when I was growing up in Italy. The choice to perform this track was, to me, a very brave and important one. We live in dividing times right now, we need to fight to protect our rights and those of our cultures and music, so singing “Bella Ciao” impressed and intrigued many on the night, including myself. I was in awe of such beautiful singing, not just from a technical point of view, but mostly from a heartfelt one.

Day 1 of 2 was over too soon. Next one would be an even more energy and passion-fuelled one.
Filomena Campus and her Quartet were on stage promptly and immersed the sold-out venue of Pizza Express in Soho in musical colours and Sardinian flair.

A super excited Campus told the audience that “we are here tonight to tell the story of Alghero with jazz music”. With her smile always ready to shine throughout the gig, Campus and her band opened the show with what I believe is one of their best pieces “Monk’s Dance”. More compositions followed, depicting, for example, the recent travel that the vocalist undertook in Shanghai, the use of her voice on this track was phenomenal.  Talented vibraphonist Jackie Walduck was also on stage as a special guest of the Quartet, featuring on tracks like “Girotondo” (written by Italian drummer Ettore Fioravanti).

Every time I have watched a show by Filomena Campus, whether performing on her own or with her band, I have always witnessed her true passion towards her origins and her land.  For her Sardinian Extravaganza this year, she chose pieces that are, by now, classics in her repertoire and, in so doing, she succeeded in enticing the crowd to also enjoy compositions by writers like Stefano Benni and Raimondo Piras to name a few.

The second set was an amalgam of pieces inspired by the theatre, like an extrack from “Romeo and Juliet” featuring again the amazing Jackie Walduck on vibes. “Queen of the clowns” was also on the play list, opening as a poem read in the Italian language first.

As I have written before, Campus et al are the perfect example of how to create music and make it accessible to everyone. The 2018 Sardinian Extravaganza was an amazing project brought to fruition again by Campus in primis and thanks to the support of many people (corporate and non).

The key point to remember here is that whether in Alghero or in London, we all dived into the world of jazz, improvised or traditional. We all learnt how beautiful it is to create, play and listen to music in a perfect landscape whether that be in the magical Sardinian town of Alghero or the bewitchingly diverse London town!

We need more people like Filomena Campus!

Gig 1 line-up: Salvatore Maltana (double-bass); Marcello Peghin (guitar); Marta Capponi (vocals); Cleveland Watkiss (vocals)
Gig 2 line-up: Filomena Campus (vocals); Steve Lodder (piano); David Mantovani (double-bass); Rod Youngs (drums); Jackie Walduck (Vibes)

Senior writer: Erminia Yardley

Read part 1 – JAZZ – from the Coral Riviera of Alghero, Sardinia to the West End of London.

Photo credits: Carl Hyde Photography

Last modified: December 7, 2018