What is the answer to the question — what is an Okanagan Kitchen Party?
Well, there are few old-style farm houses in the Valley anymore and there are even fewer big farm kitchens. So one needs to look elsewhere. And tonight I found it, almost accidentally. A daughter of my best friend had invited me to a “house concert” and tonight was the night of this event. I knew the neighbourhood and I knew there were not any houses that were big enough to have an amphitheatre contained within. Nevertheless, because I trust this person’s musical talent and therefore the ability to discern when a musical ensemble might be worth hearing, I followed directions and went to the house.
As I approached, there seemed to be exuberant conversational sounds coming from the backyard so there’s where I went. Through a tonne of bushes and flowers and the like, on a path hardly discernible, eventually I discovered a back deck almost full of people (as you know doubt have figured out by now — I have a bit of a problem getting to events with time to spare). I found a seat at the back and almost immediately the featured couple came forward and the emcee (the aforementioned friend’s daughter) welcomed us and explained the evening. The couple, as a musical ensemble, is named “Sweet Santa Fe” — he from Cuba, she from Canada.
For the next two and a half hours (including a short intermission) we were treated to an amalgam of Cuban, Canadian, Latin and many original pieces. The harmonies were exquisite. The guitar playing often took me back to my trip a few years ago to Cuba. The Spanish songs inspired many in attendance to at least hum along (those with a modicum of the language actually would join in on the more familiar lyrics). There was love in the air; hope often extolled over pessimism; energy over lethargy… Just a great mix of wonderful music. In fact, the second half took me from Cuba to PEI as the emcee (a niece of Anne Murray actually) sang a duet with the woman from Sweet Santa Fe an original song she had composed about the Westray Mine disaster. This particular musical moment was as good as any Kitchen Party I’d been at on PEI and it reminded me of why “family musical evenings” were always special.
The overall evening moment was special. Had brought some wine which melded nicely with the cheese, crackers and fruit that the host provided. It was a mellow time, but with a bit of a bite; the Cuban has experienced a fair degree of culture shock in coming to Canada (as has his wife & partner when she went to Cuba to live for a while). But by the time the music was over, the sun had set and the sky was darkening. I was at peace, yet somewhat re-energized… it could have been the soundtrack for my own version of “the bridges of madison county” — as the Cuban said, always think about where your “Santa Fe” is (it is his little fishing village on the edge of Havana — where he and his wife first lived together)!!
I’m thankful I went this evening. It had been a long day — driving back from Vancouver after another BC Lions loss and into the smoke lingering in the Coquihalla and then seeing it really intensify by Merritt and over the Thompson Plateau (the Highway 97C connector). As I have said on many occasions, music really is restorative. In fact, as I write this, once again I have the music of Roddy McKuen playing…and I feel at ease with the world…
By the way, there have been a couple of other interesting moments over the past few days…but I’ll leave them for another letter… for now, put on some music and ask yourself: “Where’s my Santa Fe — that spot/space that is special — restorative and reflective?”