The Red Priest


I would like to think that there are very few people out there who have never heard of Antonio Vivaldi. OK, I’m sure if you asked certain deprived Chinese peasants or nomadic Bedouins or Andean sharecroppers who Vivaldi was, you might not get the right answer (“Does he play for Inter Milan?”), but in more-or-less sophisticated Westernish societies from Tokyo to Toronto, most people would be able to place him. And 90% of those would mention the Four Seasons.


Poor Vivaldi would hate such reductionism. The man wrote over 500 concerti, dammit, plus dozens of sonatas, symphonies and operas, as well as a whole load of religious works. Are “The Four Seasons” his greatest works? Well, the Zaragoza Twins don’t think so. It’s almost embarrassing when I say I like Vivaldi. People say “Oh right the Four Seasons” and I have to say “Well, no, actually, I mean the concerto for two trumpets and strings in C major and the Dixit Dominus.”


The Four Seasons would be fine if I didn’t hear snatches of it every so often, whether it’s in a commercial for an insurance company or played by well-meaning buskers or used as background music for corny documentaries about saving the planet (yaaaawn…)


Vivaldi is one of the few great classical composers who actually had a nickname. The guy was known as The Red Priest, and I’m not making this up. Just as David Howell Evans decided that Dave Evans was far too boring a name and that if he called himself “The Edge” he could go a lot further, so our friend Antonio chucked in his real name and adopted the moniker “Il Prete Rosso”. He was really a priest, in fact, ordained in 1704 at the age of 26. Where the “red” comes in is not so clear, however. Biographers have come up with several theories (the colour of his hat, would you believe, is the most popular one) but it wasn’t until I actually spoke to him the other day that I finally got the real answer.


I was browsing through the “World Music” section in the FNAC the other day when a gentleman politely tapped me on the shoulder and said (in curious English) “Excuse me, do you know where I could physically locate some sound recording in contemporary format by a Caledonian musical consort who go by the name of Camera Obscura?”


Now, there aren’t exactly hordes of Zaragozans who are Camera Obscura fans, so I was delighted to help this chap out. We went over to the Indie Pop section and soon enough I picked out “Underachievers Please Try Harder”, their second album, which I handed to my new friend.


“Oh gratefully thank you so much. I will seek to put this on my gramophone immediately,” he beamed.


“You will enjoy it immensely,” I assured him.


“You have heard of this orchestra, then?” he enquired.


“Oh yes.”


“That is good. I would not enjoy enjoying it in solitude”.


“No. Well, yes, you’re right. But don’t worry, they have a burgeoning fan base.”


“I cannot claim to admit to understanding what a burgeoning fan base is. Is that a kind of wind instrument of the 21st century?”


And at that moment, o reader, I knew I was talking to somebody special. I whisked him off to the check out (where I paid for his CD because a. I wanted him to owe me something and b. He had no money on him except for some peculiar golden coins.)


“Maybe you’d like a drink or something?” I offered. I have used this chat up line on 34 girls so far, with a success rate of 21%, but I had never used it on a male before, but I was desperate.


“Eh? Ah, a drink. Ah, yes! A tipple, a wee dram, a pint of bitter, yes, that’s right, I remember…”


“Excuse me?”


“I would be greatly and gratefully chuffed to express my thanks for accepting your kind invitation.”


We went into the nearest bar and I ordered a couple of Ambar. And that’s how I met Antonio Vivaldi.


His story was at once amazing and straightforward. He had built a time machine and had zoomed forward 300 years to 2009. He’d wandered round Europe for the last few days and eventually wound up in Zaragoza, on his way from Barcelona to Madrid.


“And when I was in Barcelona, I spoke to a minstrel who had great words for Traceyanne Campbell, choir mistress for this orchestra that bears the title Camera Obscura”.


“Well, he was right. She’s a got a great voice,” I agreed.


“I intend to make her mine,” he announced.


I spluttered into my beer. “You what?”


“I have lived my celibacy to the full. I need a woman with the voice of an angel and have the unbreakable certainty that this Traceyanne Campobello will fully comply with the melodious requirements as dictated to my heart by the universal pentagram of eros”, was his reply.


“But hang on, Antonio…”


“Call me Toni.”


“Ok, Tony.”


“No, it’s Toni, with an “i””

“How did you know I’d spelt it with a “Y”?”


“Just a guess.”


“But, hang on, I mean, have you ever heard her sing? Have you ever seen her?”


“No, I haven’t. And that answer is equally valid for both of your questions.”


We finished our beer and I took Toni back to my place. Vivaldi earnestly watched me put the CD on. It was obvious he’d never seen this process being performed before.


“Put your feet up, Toni. Make yourself at home. You are going to love this.”

 Camera Obscura

The first track was “Suspended From Class”. I could see my guest screw his face up in disgust at first, then his features relaxed a bit, with one eyebrow raised as if mystified.


“What do you think?” I asked.


“It is scarcely angelical. So unlike the anticipated musicality.” He was trying to be diplomatic.


“You mean you don’t like it.”


“It’s not that… It proves challenging to my inner aesthetics, the parameters of which are firmly anchored in the baroque, as you ought to realise”.




“And correct me if I’m wrong: this lady sings “I should be suspended from class, I can’t tell my elbow from my arse”. Is that right?


I agreed that was what Traceyanne was saying.


“The metaphor escapes me yet. No doubt the English language has evolved fancifully since I tried to learn it.” He sighed. “No matter. She will be mine.”


I suggested we look for a biography of Traceyanne Campbell before he proposed to her. We had a quick Google and there she was.


“Ah ha! She is not married!” announced Vivaldi, happily.


“Er… well, it doesn’t say if she is or not…”


“See? She is a virgin. Ready to be whisked away to marital sublimity by her elder and better.”


He was full of himself. He demanded to hear more of her voice. I played “Books Written For Girls”.


I detected a change in Vivaldi’s demeanour as soon as the lyrics got through to him. He sank into his armchair, eyes wide open, staring down. He also seemed to be blushing.


He began muttering in Italian. I couldn’t follow him.


The song came to an end.


“She hates me,” he said simply.




“That song… it reveals exactly how I fear she will perceive me. Ah, how subtle… she transmits this rebuttal through her singing voice…”


“You mean, she sees through your perfect smile?” I asked, referring to the words of the song.


“There’s more to it than that, but yes, sort of. She sings “In the darkest of places he gets his thrills.” She detects my furtive intentions. I cannot wed her now.”


“But, Toni, it’s just a song. She isn’t referring to you. She could me referring to anybody,” I protested.


Antonio Vivaldi looked up at me, his face crimson with shame. “I have travelled through time and space for nothing.”


I felt very sorry for him. Then I had a brainwave. “Hey, have you ever heard of Amy Macdonald?”

Amy macdonald


Three days later I saw Toni off at the airport, bound for Glasgow. He was rather drunk, and all his hand luggage consisted of was a bunch of flowers. “This is the life!”, he cried as he went through customs.





5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Michael on May 22, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    OK, a few comments here: First, this post is way too long. Second, it’s childish. Third, Vivaldi is dead and has never returned to life. Fourth, Amy Macdonald is pathetic. I think that’s all. Thank you for your time.


  2. Posted by Guerzy 98 on May 22, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    I just wanted to say that I found your post extremely difficult to read. If you Zaragozo twins want to blog in English you shoud learn to write properly.


  3. By the way, Camera Obscura will start their next tour in Zaragoza LOL


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: