VODKA AND VENERATION

Report by Sara Indrio in relation to Martin Hall’s performance at The Podlasie Opera in Białystok, Poland (June 2012)

 

Sara Indrio is a Danish-Italian actor, singer, songwriter and percussionist. Her solo works feature several critically acclaimed album releases. During the years she has worked with Martin Hall on several occasions, so although she doesn’t work as a session musician anymore, she agreed to be part of his ensemble at his live performance at the Polish opera house The Podlasie Opera in Białystok in June 2012. This is her report from the tour.

” In Białystok, Poland, there is a new festival called Halfway presenting songwriters of all kinds and all nationalities. In the midst of the serious task of playing Martin Hall’s avantgarde music, I found the great discovery of the attributes of plain bison grass vodka, the genuine veneration for the non-conform and the reminder that there are other currencies than money and some values that cannot be bought. “

 

I don’t really do session gigs any more. But legendary Martin Hall called and I knew from the ten years I have played with him on and off, that in his vicinity nothing is ever conform. And what are the chances of visiting Białystok in Poland … few in my case. So I joyfully accepted and didn’t regret it for a moment.
 
The preparations

Every time I come back into a rehearsal room it’s as if time has stood still. It is a mixed feeling of boredom, excitement and natural affinity. But working for Martin puts things in perspective for me as a bandleader and reminds me of things I can do better in my role as such. But then and there I was wonderfully free of responsibility, and I must say, ego. There was no other part for me to play but to fulfil the role as a sideman. Alas had my “chops” only been like in the old days! Martin decided to choose a set containing mostly of fluent, ethereal landscapes that underlined the lyrics instead of being musical structures like we are used to in pop-music. I liked his choice and found it bold. He is a non-conformer which was reflected on the trip.
 
The trip

Martin is absurdly meticulous. Everything is planned down to the smallest detail and in a radius of 360 degrees. Itinerary, flights, luggage, gear, where to play a bell stroke, set list, lyrics, food and of course his own performance, that I have never seen falter. Naturally, this can cause a certain nervousness since so much has a chance of not turning out exactly as planned. It did, though. And to Martin’s great astonishment we arrived safe and sound to Warsaw, with all the luggage and equipment in place, to the warm but nervous welcome of Rafal, one of Martin Hall’s most devoted fans. We drove for three hours until we reached our destination. The short stretch of road gave the image of a country with poverty and struggle but on the other hand the authenticity of the unspoiled. A romantic vision perhaps …
 
The fan

Let me tell you, that music may not pay well in money but it pays in other currents. The warmth and hospitable feeling Rafal radiated was touching and unforgettable. For two years he had been working to get Martin Hall to Białystok. And if that is not already sounding absurd, my dear reader, let me elaborate:
 
The place

Surrounded by farmland and beautiful national parks, Białystok is a town in Poland near the border of Belarus and Lithuania. With its app. 160.000 inhabitants it belongs to the category of many small central eastern European cities that are easily overlooked. Never the less Białystok has traditionally been one of the leading centres of academic, cultural, and artistic life in the Podlasie region in which it is placed. Did you know it among others bred L. L. Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto, and Albert Sabin, the co-developer of the polio vaccine?
 
The festival

So Rafal comes from this town and loves intellectual music with an affinity for darkness and passion and in particularly that of Martin Hall. What are the odds of bringing him to Białystok? Here, on Sundays people queue for mass and the jukebox displays the usual and absurd mix of Beyoncé and Local Heavy Rock. So maybe in a weird fashion not so strange after all, come to think of it. But in any case, Białystok lives up to its reputation of being a city with a cultural streak. Volunteers have made a festival called Halfway that present local and international songwriters in the Podlasie Opera House. Rafal saw a window of opportunity and infatuated everyone behind the festival with his love for Martin Hall. As it turns out, Rafal too, is a non-conformer … So we came. We played. And Rafal was in tears.
 
The afterparty

One more good thing to say about the place was the Vodka. In case you haven’t had been drunk on Zubrowka you have something in store. Don’t know of it’s the bison grass in there that does the trick … I spoke fluently French with the Sebastien Schuller band, although I can’t, and hosted the two m2 dance floor for hours. And the best part? I was not hung over!
 
The return

So I returned to Copenhagen with this trip to add to my bag of fond memories: Such warmth of heart from these people struggling, with no pay but much gain, to bring the world to their little town. A bandleader who delivered an outstanding performance after hours of conversing and keeping track of everything, (not mention the lack of sleep and long travelling hours) and a great musical experience with an almost all girls band. I will try and book a concert for my own band next spring at the Halfway. For you that may not have a chance of coming, seek a chance to hear Alina Orlova and remember that incredible things do happen. I will.

Rehearsal photo taken by Johnny Stage. Concert performance captured by Dominik Kukliński and supplied by kind permission of The Podlasie Opera (Opera i Filharmonia Podlaska – Europejskie Centrum Sztuki). Travel photo featuring Johnny Stage and Sara Indrio (with Hall in the background) taken by Ida Bach Jensen.