In June 2010, I got the lay of a new land, a tiny town in Poland with lots of consonants. I was having dinner with six Italians a few weeks before (now that was a silent meal)(not really) and they asked where I was off to next. I said, “Some little town in Poland whose name I can’t remember but I think it’s famous for having a Black Madonna.” And in unison they all chimed, “Częstochowa!” How on earth? “We’re Catholic, of course we know where the Black Madonna is!” True story.
So off to Częstochowa (chest-o-ko-vah) I went. And saw. And marvelled. And played a really nice concert. Strangely, it’s not so easy to fly direct from London (Katowice airport, in case you’re ready to book) so we arrived at the hotel at 1 AM. Luckily for me, I was chatting in the bus with the one Pole in the group and he invited me along with a small group the next day to go to the monastery to see Ms. B. Madonna herself.
It was raining and cold but that didn’t seem to stop the seventy billion priests of Poland from making their pilgrimage.
Or the Masses (hee) of pilgrims waiting to pay homage to Poland’s most valued national treasure.
There were also nuns, taking a coffee break.
The sanctuary itself was really stunning, a beautiful example of cohesive Baroque style.
Outside, more priests were preparing for the public Mass to celebrate Poland’s Liberation day on 3 May. Separation of Church and State? Why do you ask?
The concert was a great success, although it was held in a bathtubby modern church which was part of a seminary. (The Seminar Church.) This had the small disadvantage of being the home of Seminarians — the church balcony was filled with whispering, pointing, giggling 19-yr old men. The only difference between them and a rowdy crowd of football supporters was the cassocks.
It was an early concert so afterwards we went out to a traditional Polish restaurant. Unfortunately, the wires got a bit crossed and 14 of us sat down to a meal prepared for 27. 27 giants, apparently, for the spread was incredible. We all did our best, but didn’t really make a dent. We took some of the leftovers back to the partypoopers at the hotel and hoped that the rest of the leftovers made their way home with the waitstaff.
And lest anyone think that a musician’s life is glamorous, let me just mention in passing the rest of the schedule. My alarm went off at 3.30 AM for a 4 AM bus departure, 6.20 AM flight, 9.40 AM train. I arrived home at 3 PM, 11 hours after I left the hotel. And went straight to bed. Fun it is. Glamorous it is not.