Nights In The Square.

The first week of our holiday was really enhanced by three great nights of music in Carvoeiro's square.

Tuesday evening; we'd just had a really nice meal at Colombo's restaurant. After coffee we felt in need of exercise so decided on a refreshing walk along the beach. Just before nine o'clock we went to sit on sea wall close to the stage. There were three people setting up microphones, backing sound equipment, keyboard and set of drums. A stocky white-haired bearded man was practising guitar and woman of similar age was practising on bongo drum. I was intrigued by this until the other man announced that we were in for a night of Gospel singing. A murmur went around and I saw that people were starting to move away probably thinking (as indeed I was) that they were in for a night of preaching!

How wrong can you be? As soon as Greg Ekland, pastor of Carvoeiro Clube church, began to sing and strum his guitar I knew we were in for a musical treat. Some truly great stuff with popular songs from the 50's through to the 60's/70's. Everybody started to join in the singing, some got to their feet and danced. We all sang and clapped to the inviting rhythms of guitar, drum and keyboard, expertly played by a couple who so obviously loved entertaining! It was a wonderful night. We had a couple of interludes where Greg did terrific drum solos. During one of these, he didn't use a drum but a large leather suitcase, telling folk that this was a good substitute if you couldn't afford a drum! Great stuff. When they finally finished at midnight we went up to thank them for giving us a delightful three hours; then reluctantly made our way home. We had such a lovely evening it was a shame to go to bed!

On the Thursday evening we had dinner at our apartment but it was a lovely warm night so we decided on a walk down to the square first stopping at Colombo's for a few drinks. Wandering over to the square afterwards we were pleased to see that once again the stage was being prepared for more entertainment. A young Portuguese girl, probably in her early twenties was testing the mike, playing keyboard and humming a few tunes. An older man (could have been her father) dressed in T-shirt, shorts and baseball cap, was running around making sure everything was in order and working. Then, as she started to play he sat close by on the edge of stage as if to give her some reassurance. But as soon as she started to sing we were spellbound. She had a beautiful voice and her keyboard accompaniment was faultless. The backing tracks were just right and never swamped her lovely singing. She sang melodies in English and some in Spanish but what I enjoyed most of all was her rendition of Portuguese Fado. It was what I'd longed to hear and it really made my evening. When she sang some lively songs, the man with her jumped to his feet and started to dance across the square. He did this quite alone but he was so good that people clapped and then others started to join in and before long quite a few couples were dancing round the square. The lovely music and the mans enthusiasm was so infectious that soon nearly everyone there was either singing, dancing, clapping or doing all three!

She finished her act at about midnight and once again we'd had three great hours of entertainment.

Before we left the square, I went to the stage to thank her and say how much we enjoyed the evening. She seemed surprised and rather shy at this. I asked her name. She told me, then handed me her card which read "Filomena Batista" with a charming photo of her beneath and on the other side "Organista & Vocalista". She was certainly that!

I asked her when she would be back. She replied "Not this year, maybe next".

Well, we certainly hope so Filomena! I told her of and that I would write about her performance here. So I hope you get to read this Filomena and that we see you in the square next summer!

It was Friday night and after a nice steak meal and a bottle of wine we went for a stroll round the town ending up once more in the square. Sound equipment was being set up on stage and around 9.15 a young Portuguese fella took up his guitar and started to play and sing in Portuguese, Spanish and English; songs that we all knew and loved from over the years. It was another wonderful night and there was even more dancing than previous nights till the whole square seemed packed and alive with couples of all ages swaying to his music. I say all ages, but surveying the scene I noticed it was mostly elderly Portuguese couples that dominated and I admired their stamina and proficiency and most of all, their obvious enjoyment.

One little lady danced all by herself but she didn't care! She was lost in the pleasure and sheer indulgence of "doing her own thing", until suddenly, "the man" who'd danced alone on a previous night, appeared among the dancers; still in shorts and baseball cap, but this time turned back to front! He danced up to her, bowed then taking her in his arms they swept off together in perfect timing to the music. At the finish they received some well-deserved applause!

Then we heard a Scottish voice call out from the cafe near the stage and a tall gingery grey-haired man jumped to his feet came onto the square and started to "break-dance". He was no youngster, probably 40ish but he put on a good show and though he tumbled slightly at the end, he too was loudly clapped by the onlookers, whereon he made a deep bow and returned to his seat. It was a great night and each time the young musician said goodnight they called out for more! Which he did and it was almost 12.30 before the show ended and we all finally wandered home.

Each night we would watch the young artist in the square sketching people who sat for him. It was clever how he brought animation to their features making each one so individual and nobody seemed to go away disappointed. One particular night as we watched, some movements caught my eye beyond where he sat. I noticed a young woman and a teenage boy setting out articles on the ground near the wall by the square's entrance. I went to have a look and saw that they were making name bracelets from a vast array of coloured silks. The boy wrote down the name; then you chose the colours and within 10-15 minutes your bracelet was complete.

I sat by the lady on the stone seating. She spoke some English and she told me they were from Ecuador, in north west South America. They (her husband was there some nights) had three children; teenage boy, a girl of about eight and a little girl who was around three years old. This night she just had the boy and the smallest child with her. The boy helped make the bracelets but the child ran freely and wildly around the square, at times disappearing completely from sight. This worried me slightly as the square was very busy and I also worried that she might wander into the sea!

But suddenly, she appeared and was standing in front of me holding out her hands, offering me paper and a pack of coloured pencils. I took them and as I did so she jumped up onto the bench next to me. She sat up close, her head resting against my arm as she urged me to draw something. I proceeded to trace outlines of large funny faces making her giggle out loud. Then she snatched the paper and started to colour the faces with her pencils. All the time she chatted away in her high-pitched childish tones in Spanish, a language I don't understand.

She didn't comprehend my English either, yet somehow we "communicated"! This went on for about three quarters of an hour and I found myself enjoying it just as much as the little one! Her mother looked up now and then, nodding to me as she carried on making her bracelets. When they finally packed up to go home, she came over to where we sat and as we talked, she thanked me for "minding" her daughter and I hoped she understood when I said it had been a real pleasure. As we looked down at the toddle her head was starting nod as she half lay on my lap with droopy eyes that were starting to close in sleep; not surprising really, after all it was almost midnight! The mother then tenderly scooped her up in her arms and as we said "Buenas noches" to each other, carried her gently to the waiting van.